Tagged with " local search"
Before exploring the latest trends in local mobile engagement specifically, it’s valuable to recognize the rapid growth of mobile and other connected devices and their impact on how consumers are accessing the Internet. Within the U.S. smartphone market, Google and Apple solidified their market dominance, with Android owning 53% of the market, and Apple’s piece being 36%, totaling nearly nine out of 10 smartphones in use at the end of the year.
The most important piece of the puzzle of users who own mobile phones though, is they’re also likely to own other mobile devices, and at the end of 2012 that number was beginning to get up to around 40% share. Between all of the smart phones and other connected devices, it all adds up to multiple ways for people to access the web in varying formats. Rapid growth of mobile connected devices drastically changed how consumers accessed the Internet as PC use appears to have peaked. Growth in the number of PC users accessing the Internet flat-lined for the first time last year.
An important factor of mobile internet users to keep in mind, is their much higher than average engagement rate. If your website is mobile friendly, and locally optimized, you already have two steps forward in the right direction to increased business. Take this last Christmas shopping season, nearly 50% of all mobile owners used their devices to search locally, and that number is expected to grow over the next year again.
Local businesses should be introducing advertising strategies and mobile and tablet-friendly websites to attract consumers increasingly accessing the Web from their handheld devices. Over 60% of smartphone consumers are now accessing local content on their devices; and, while consumers prefer apps to search for local content, use of browsers is also strong. Local businesses should ensure their mobile efforts include both apps and browsers.
With the way that search is always changing and evolving, you would have to think that someone, somewhere is going to hit on that perfect search machine. One that combines social signals, with personal preferences, some local results thrown in and to top it all off, be completely unbiased. While the likely hood of that happening in the near future isn’t bound to happen, it’s not impossible.
The first thing that needs to happen for that to become a reality however, is the entire web needs to be free to be indexed. That means forums, social sites, business pages, and any other site which holds any information or service for web use. So the first step would be everyone playing nice, and getting along, instead of locking away portions of websites from the information gathering devices, whether they be spiders or some new type of bot. After it has finally been able to find it’s way around the web and build up new version of a searchable index, then context can be used to create a search process. The real problem with this step is the creation of a new type of page index. There are a half dozen different types of search services out there, and everyone seems to have their own way of doing things. Currently it isn’t any real secret that Google is the king of the castle, but despite their prominence, the potential of them losing their spot still exists.
Using the premise that a new type of index does exist, and a new search technology exists to take advantage of it, this is the point where personal preferences take over. It is this point in search where everyone is unique, and for as different as we all are we still expect a familiar experience. But as an example, with the way that the web currently works, if you perform the same search at home and then on a computer that isn’t yours, you will get similar, although different results. This disparity is what will likely be the game changer for search, if you can receive consistent results, regardless of device, is when the next search king will be crowned. The solution is likely a cloud base type, where your preferences are stored virtually as opposed to locally, as well as the browser not being a program you install on your computer, rather one you just, access. The closest a company has gotten so far to deliver a product in this way, is Google at present with their Chromebook product. And while not terribly surprising that they’re the first to venture into a wholly cloud based product, it would be exciting to see others making the same steps.
There is a new player in the mobile search world, one hoping to possibly take on the incredible domination of Google on the mobile front. Facebook has retooled one of their previous features to function as a local search technology, with a catch or two. The function which has been updated, “Previously Nearby” showed you where your friends had checked-in. With the recent update to the feather, it now shows where your friends have checked-in but more importantly, it will also show you local businesses, it has become a local search tool.
You can use the feature to search or browse the listings based on ratings, friend check-ins, as well as the amount of Likes and recommendations. The first filter your search has to pass through is your friend network, but if your friends haven’t visited any of the local businesses the the larger Facebook network will act as the first line of ordering. The idea behind the change is to likely have more people use the check-in feature, as you won’t be able to rate a business if you do not. The basic service idea would be to show you where your friends have been, and how positive, or negative, their experience was.
As a business owner, there are a few hurdles you need to overcome in order to grow, or maintain your position. First and foremost, you would need a Facebook Page to even be inducted into their search service, no Page, no listing. Some of the social media branding advice from Facebook includes:
- Update your Page to include all of your basic information, including your address, store hours, phone number, and details about your business in the About section
- Update your category to make sure you appear when people are looking for your specific type of business
- Encourage your consumers to like, check into, rate, and recommend your place
At present the feature isn’t prominently on display on mobile devices, it is buried in one of the menus effectively rendering it invisible, but that is only the temporary setting. Facebook doesn’t have the massive database of customer reviews that Yelp has, or even that Google has in their database, but with the sheer amount of mobile users that Facebook has on a monthly bases (600 million active) it won’t take long for it to grow. The only one other catch that exists within the new Nearby app, is the use is currently only on the mobile platform. It is a sensible move, as users have to have a mobile connected device to use the check-in feature as it is, but it will likely make it’s desktop debut should everything go well on the mobile front. We may be seeing the first stages of Facebook making a play into the search world with this iteration of local reviews and results pages.
This is not a tribute to Steve Jobs directly. Although in the end it may be one of his greatest legacies.
I have been in the technology field for over 30 years. I have seen a number of radical changes that became metaphors for how things were supposed to be done. Many, but certainly not all, of these metaphors were created at the hands of Steve Jobs.
QWERTY defined the keyboard. The Apple II defined a generation of PCs. Sony defined what the home video recorder should be. The Mac defined what a Window and Window based programs should behave like. The iPhone defined how touch functions on a smartphone and what a smartphone is.
These defining products and the companies that produce them don’t always win the battle in the market place for various reasons but the idea sticks. The technology becomes iconic and lays the path for others to follow. Sometimes the followers overtake the creators, sometimes the creators win. The market is a brutal overseer.
Siri, the natural language interface for the new iPhone 4s, is one such product. It may not be the product that wins the battle in the market place, it may not be the specific product feature that everybody has to have in their pockets in 2015 but if it isn’t, whatever is there will be like Siri.
Imagine a world where you say to your phone: Find me the best Asian restaurant within 25 miles. Or: Text my wife to meet me at 21. Or: Schedule an appointment for me with Joe the PR Guy and send him a text. Or: Tell my friends on Facebook that our team won!
All of the sudden the only thing that matters is the answer. Nothing else. You won’t be looking at a search box, you won’t be landing on someone’s home page, you won’t be looking at an ad…In fact you won’t be looking at anything.
You won’t need to. Not all of your interaction will be voice driven but depending on your mobile needs a large portion of it could be. You no longer need to look at your phone to enter a query in a search box. You just ask for the answer and it will just give it to you.
The answer can come from a single source or a range of sources. The brand of search engine is no longer important, the brand of phone that you are asking the question on is. Your only relationship is with the phone. Either it works or it doesn’t. Search engines and web brands could potentially fade in importance.
The winner in this next interface battle gets to pick where and who it gets the answer from. If it needs three data sources, it uses three data sources. If it needs four, it looks at four. That complexity is all hidden and the user not only doesn’t need to visit multiple websites, the user doesn’t even need a special app. Siri, or something like it, becomes the great equalizer for data sources. An OS for voice as it were. It handles the complexities. You just need to ask it.
Will it do what Apple says it will? There was a time when you couldn’t trust what Apple or any technology firm said. You had to have it proven to you. Even though this is a new Apple, one molded by the demanding perfectionism of Steve Jobs, this is one of those times when you will need to know that the natural language interface works and it works seamlessly.
If it does, it becomes THE WAY that you want to interact with the device. The new QWERTY as it were. Maybe not all all the time but certainly with mobile search and more frequently than not with mobile local search.
It also become the great disintermediator in mobile. It may be the greatest disintermediator of all time. If it works.