An (Almost) Fruitless Mobile Search

As you may be aware by now, I spend a lot of time on the road. I’ve been able to make up for less-productive times induced by traveling thanks to widespread adoption of Wi-Fi (define) lounges in airports and train stations.

Beyond the airport lounge, however, I suffer from another level of downtime: on the tarmac. There’s plenty of time spent just waiting for the control tower to say we can go now.

Yesterday, a plane burst two tires when it landed in London. We sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes, waiting for clearance. As I was sitting there, daydreaming, something dawned on me. It was my friend’s birthday and I’d forgotten to send a card and gift. The ultimate answer to tarmac downtime sprang into mind: my Blackberry!

A quick Google search for a U.K. flower delivery company and problem solved, or so I thought. Sure enough, within seconds I was searching on Google. My list of results came up and….

Click after click, I discovered none of the e-commerce sites at the top of the pile were properly optimized for mobile search. My poor Blackberry strained to download huge graphics and navigation menus that went on forever. It became a tedious, frustrating task to click promising links, only to be thwarted by badly designed sites or technology mismatches.

A while back, I’d quickly checked the major search engines and learned they’re all mobile-friendly. This is great news for me, over 6 million other Blackberry users, and who knows how many Treo and cell phone users. The dissonance comes when you get to a merchant site and actually try to do something.

I’m involved in the SEM (define) industry, so I know there are WAP (define) portals and speciality mobile sites. The average user in my situation may not know that. He just wants to go to a major search engine, search, and order some stuff.

Opportunities are being missed.

How many people are sitting on the tarmac trying to order a bunch of flowers right now? I have no idea. But six or seven e-tailors missed a sale yesterday because I couldn’t do business with them. Not only that, the top results from some Google searches I did were sponsored listings. They still weren’t ready for someone trying to make that impulse purchase. Sorry for clicking through and wasting your marketing bucks, guys.

Early industry research suggests the mobile market is predominantly a youth market. Using my gut as a measure, I’d say the average Blackberry user is a professional adult, perhaps at the executive level or working in emergency services.

I know for sure my company is very much aware of the mobile marketplace and anticipates growth.

Ironically, the site I eventually found that was optimized and ready for me was a smaller, regional company, not one of the U.K. majors in flower and gift delivery. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually do flowers; it specializes in fruit baskets, chocolates, and Champagne. So, I sent my friend a basket of fruit via a Blackberry. Priceless!

Traveling in Troubled Times

This shifts a bit from my normal search focus, but I’d like to share my thoughts with other marketing industry travelers.

I was in Madrid, Spain, for a couple of days recently, and last week back in London where I conducted a workshop at the Oracle building. As I was closing the session, a voice suddenly filled the room with a stern, emergency evacuation announcement.

I quickly made my way down the stairwell with the attendees from my session and hundreds of other people. There was a sense of emergency, but also a calm, orderly exit.

It turns out someone had entered the bank housed in the lower part of the building and left an unopened package.

My wife worries about my constant traveling and the potential threat, particularly in London right now. I’m happy to report in both Madrid and London, it all seems very much business as usual.

Let’s keep it that way.

Meet Mike at Search Engine Strategies August 8-11 in San Jose, CA.

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