During a recent keynote address at the IFA consumer electronics conference in Berlin, Google CEO Eric Schmidt spoke of the “age of augmented humanity”. Grand language aside, the core of this statement is the convergence of massive amounts of knowledge and technology smart enough to operate autonomously enough to anticipate what we want to know and deliver it when we need it.
This will probably trigger all kinds of predictions and warnings about creepy scenarios of computers dominating humans but it has a real world utility as Mr. Schmidt highlights in this example: “When you ask ‘what’s the weather like?’ what you’re really asking is do I wear a raincoat or do I water the plants.”
This kind of contextual relevance has always been a cornerstone of mobile marketing but it’s increasingly relevant as location and activity aware Smartphones earn greater market share. This is backed up by some stats Mr. Schmidt shared during the same keynote address:
- 1 in 3 queries from Smartphones are now seeking information about nearby places
- Google’s mobile search traffic grew 50 percent in first half of 2010
What these numbers indicate is that consumers are increasingly porting search activity previously confined to the desktop over to their mobile device and are adding in the layer of solving contextually relevant problems.
But let’s expand on the notion of contextual search and acknowledge that search activities occur outside of the traditional confines of the search engine. Here are a couple of search scenarios that occur within branded environments rather than traditional search engines:
- I’m looking for a place to eat. Rather than doing a Google search for restaurants, I fire up the Urban Spoon or Yelp apps.
- I want to see if there’s a Best Buy near me and if they have the case I need for my iPhone. I tap in their URL to my mobile browser, get served up their mobile optimized website and search for the product and the closest location where I can get it.
I could easily outline other scenarios but these two serve the purpose of highlighting two other mobile search behaviours:
- Activity-specific search enabled by a 3rd party content aggregation application
- Direct to brand “search” (for a mobile friendly destination) based on aligned and pre-established preferences.
These activities already exist within web behaviour. However, many organizations are not yet optimized to capitalize on this type of discovery via mobile. Not addressing these behaviours can have unfortunate effects on both brand favourability and sales.
While it’s harder to influence 3rd party apps, you can earn a lot of easy wins by having a mobile version of your website to address clicks out of apps or another 3rd party source and direct to brand searches.
However, consumers are fickle when it comes to mobile browsing. If sites fail to load quickly or it’s hard to find what they’re looking for, they will quickly navigate away and look for other solutions. I can pretty much guarantee that’s happening if your website isn’t mobile optimized (and heaven forbid you’re using flash…warning: link requires high degree of geek).
So what are the steps you can take to ensure you’re capitalizing on mobile search activity?
I’d suggest focussing on three types of outcomes: 1. Ease of discovery; 2. Customer acquisition; 3. Maximizing conversions.
This is the most important activity and should begin with the question: “what happens when someone visits my website on their mobile device?” If the answer is anything other than ‘easily finds what they’re looking for thanks to a mobile-centric design and content strategy’, there’s work to do.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be overly time- and cost-consuming work. A well thought out landing page that includes one or two of the most likely mobile actions (or relevant offers) and uses device detection to serve up the mobile version anytime a mobile browser hits the URL may be enough. In the long term, a more fully-formed site will be essential but a focus on addressing the most pressing problems a consumer visiting your site will be looking to solve is a great starting point.
The added advantage of a landing page is you can tailor it to serve as a destination for more concerted acquisition efforts. Or you can build multiple pages to serve unique purposes and campaigns given the lightweight development costs. If you invest proper time and thought in planning your landing page strategy, before you know it you’ll have the core of a robust mobile web experience.
Having a mobile optimized site will go a long way towards driving down bounce rates and provide a valuable new set of data around device-specific use and general customer mobile preferences.
At the same time you’re addressing organic discovery, focus efforts on paid discovery. Mobile search is still a tiny sliver in the overall search revenue pie, but it’s a great time to capitalize on the increasing consumer use and the novelty factor. While volume relative to wired search will be low, we’ve seen higher click-through and conversion rates on the whole.
Mobile search does require a distinct approach. Of course, there’s the post-click experience and device targeting dimensions and Google has done a great job rolling out innovative and compelling mobile-specific ad units that leverage mobile device features. But you also have to consider the relevance of your offers and copy to the mobile customer as well as how the unique contextual dimensions of mobile will impact your keyword selections. Starting with brand terms is the obvious choice, but you might find that limiting in the mid to longer term.
Most of the common customer conversion best practices from web search still hold true. The new mobile specific dimensions worth mentioning here concern paying attention to streamlining the conversion funnel and ensuring a seamless bridging between any subsequent experiences.
Anything you can do to minimize the number of steps a consumer has to go through to complete the conversion cycle will be to your advantage. This includes data entry fields, number of pages until gratification, and clear and compelling explanations of a customer-centric value exchange.
On the subject of the value exchange, you will do better the more seamlessly you can bridge customers between two (or more) on-device experiences or enable a ‘clicks to bricks’ interaction that can be facilitated or enhanced through mobile use. Some common examples would be a click to a mobile coupon, sign up for a email newsletter that’s mobile optimized, or a push to a mobile download (app, ringtone, wallpaper, etc…).
The final point to consider in extracting the most benefit out of your mobile search activities is thorough use of analytics. Google Analytics, which you are probably already using for your website and web search activities, provides a more than adequate solution for extracting participation and conversion data. It will also allow you to gather insights into customer visits and actions by device or operating systems which will provide actionable insights for future campaign optimization and mobile property development.
The key to getting started in mobile search is to frame your activity with a test and learn mentality and be thoughtful about the end to end experience to minimize friction points for consumers. This will help you develop a sustainable brand presence in the mobile channel and extract an actionable data set.
Note: this has been cross-posted on the Digital Cement blog. Lots of other good content there too, fyi
Possibly Related Posts:
- Launch and Learn – Driving Campaign Success with In-Flight Optimization
- Helping Advertisers Capitalize on Publisher Mobile Analytics
- If you can build a bridge to anywhere, why pick a dead end?