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Mobile Search Changing Online Marketing and Consumer Behaviour

Jul 2, 2008
Increasingly sophisticated consumers using mobile search queries and increasingly sophisticated mobile search technologies are changing online marketing and advertising patterns, forcing businesses to adapt to a marketplace in which local products and services are increasingly found online - a trend that will only increase as both consumer behaviours and mobile search technologies evolve.

Mobile search and local search continue to grow hand in hand, as technological advances and changing consumer trends continue to shape a marketing and advertising landscape that is changing and changes consumer behaviour.

Numbers released by media tracking firm, The Nielsen Company, showed a huge increase in mobile search numbers in 2007. According to Nielsen's estimates, 46.1 million mobile data users in the United States made some form of mobile wireless search in the third quarter of 2007. Of these, the number one search category was for local listings. Nielsen reports that 27.1 million of the 46.1 million users who conducted mobile searches were looking for local listings.

And the growth of mobile search shows no sign of abating, According to Nielsen Online (a division of the Nielsen Company), mobile searches on Google grew 35% in the first four months of 2008. Given these growth numbers it seems a mobile search-capable web page is becoming a business necessity in today's mobile marketplace.

"As more mobile users turn to their phone for the answers they need, mobile search has quickly escalated as a critical part of the mobile media and advertising landscape," said Kanishka Agarwal, VP of Mobile Media for Nielsen Mobile. "Knowing how mobile searchers find information - and what they're looking for - will help us intelligently engage with consumers through mobile search."

One thing that is clear about how mobile searchers are finding the information they are searching for online is that, overwhelmingly, the search engine that mobile searchers prefer as a portal to the Internet is Google. The world's leading search engine accounted for 61 per cent of all mobile searches in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2008, while erstwhile rival Yahoo! accounted for only 18 per cent of mobile searches and third-place AMSN accounted for 5 per cent.

This dominance by the search engine giant is likely to continue in the near future as Google!, Yahoo and MSN compete to be the default search engine setting on new smart phones rolling off manufacturers' assembly lines. Currently, Google is the default setting on Apple's new and popular iPhones, giving it a considerable leg up on its competition.

But it is clear that even Google has room to grow and improve. Only 44 per cent of Google users rated their online mobile search experience highly, while only 40 per cent of Yahoo!'s mobile users gave their experience a relatively positive rating. This will, of course, change as the search engine leaders focus increasingly on the mobile search market. Most recently, Google announced that they were rolling out their popular GOOG-411 local listing service to Canada, the first time this feature has been made available in a market outside the United States.

The GOOG-411 is a free and fully-automated business listing service that uses voice recognition software to handle mobile search queries from user's cell phones. Coming out of Google Research, the search giant's R&D division, GOOG-411 searches relevant local business listings and sends search results via text message to the user's cell phone, with an option to have Google Maps display the search results and listings, complete with map, on an Internet-enable mobile device.

What we are seeing is a convergence of evermore sophisticated mobile users using increasingly sophisticated mobile devices for mobile search and, principally, local search. The increasing abilities of consumers and search engines to obtain and provide accurate, geographically sensitive mobile search results is changing the way that consumers search for information online, as demonstrated by the Nielsen numbers. Local businesses fighting for foot traffic, will increasingly have to market themselves online and compete for the ever increasing web traffic that is being directed to businesses capable of being found online using these emerging mobile search technologies.
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