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Wi-Fi and Mobile Competition Highlight the Importance of Local Search and Mobile Search

Jun 27, 2008
The ways in which consumers access products and services are changing as consumer behaviour shapes and is shaped by the Internet. Increasingly tech-savvy consumers are turning to the Internet first to find the products and services they are looking for through local search before venturing out to shop. Now mobile search - web surfing on the fly through mobile phones and handhelds - is emerging as a preferred means of finding local goods and services online.

The U.K. is witnessing an emerging struggle between mobile service providers and telecoms over how Britons on the move will access the Internet. Wi-fi networks which allow laptops to access the worldwide web via radio signals that are picked up in wi-fi "hotspots" and rebroadcast over the airwaves are competing with both mobile phone technology and relatively new laptop plug-ins called "dongles" that allow users to connect their laptop directly to the Internet via their mobile phone service.

There were approximately 12,000 wi-fi hotspots in the United Kingdom in 2007, but that number has already more than doubled to approximately 26,800 according to estimates from Jiwire.com, an online directory of wi-fi hotspots in the U.K. Meanwhile, the number of consumers who use laptops versus desktops is also rising. Jupiter Research, a leading online and Internet research company, estimates that roughly 40% of people who use the Internet now own laptops. Increasingly, free wi-fi "hotspots" that do not charge a fee to laptop users who connect to the web via their services are being used by both local councils and private businesses to attract visitors and customers.

Yet, mobile phone technology has almost 100% penetration in Great Britain's markets, and next generation handheld and mobile products like the newly released Apple 3G iPhone hold out the promise of better and easier mobile search from increasingly sophisticated mobile devices with better keypads, screens and now touchscreens. In addition to the large number of consumers directly accessing the Internet via their mobile device, computer users are now also accessing the worldwide web via mobile networks.

Studies from market research and consultancy, You Gov, indicate that already 10% of computer users (presumably from among the 40% of internet users who own laptops) regularly access the Internet using a mobile phone connection, despite "dongle" plug-ins that fit into a laptop's USB port only being readily available for the last year. The clear advantage of mobile versus wi-fi as a portal to the Internet is that all that is needed for quick and relatively cheap online access is a near-universally available mobile network and not proximity to a wi-fi hotspot, which may or may not be free of charge, no matter how ubiquitous they are becoming.

It comes as no surprise that the consumers who are tapping into the potential for local search and mobile search tend to be younger and more affluent than other demographics and are thus. Moreover, You Gov research indicates that mobile broadband usage is most popular amongst students and other highly mobile individuals who do not spend a lot of time at home where a fixed Internet connection is most often available. These are the consumers who spend their time in the community and are more apt to frequent the local businesses and establishments that are targeting this techno-savvy, techno-proficient demographic.

The increasing ability and tendency of consumers - particularly young and affluent consumers - to access products and services in their local neighbourhood or community, either directly via their mobile phone network or through the array of proliferating wi-fi networks, highlights the challenges and opportunities that small businesses, entrepreneurs and growing businesses face in keeping step with evolving technologies and consumer tastes. These increasing challenges and opportunities highlight the need for local businesses and small businesses to ensure that they have an Internet presence which will allow them to effectively tap into the markets created by evolving local search and mobile search capabilities.
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For more information on Toronto online marketing and local search marketing contact http://www.Wolf21.com
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