Germany Drives Search a Step Further

Think of Germany and you probably think, “German engineering.” The inclusive term can be applied to countless products, from the Geiger counter and electron microscopes to rockets and zeppelins, all of which were developed by German inventors.

Most of all, though, it applies to cars. The country continues to produce some of the most advanced and powerful vehicles running, with technological features that astound consumers and the competition. Leave it to the Germans, then, to reach the epitome of modern technology — the Internet — with its products. The result? In-car local search.

In August, German automaker BMW became the first to offer local search through its in-dash navigation systems. In its ongoing partnership with Google, it’s produced such services as “Send to Car,” which delivers Google Maps information to drivers. Now BMW has created the ability to search the Web and have relevant information transferred to your vehicle based on your current location.

So far, the new feature is only offered to drivers in Germany. But rival Mercedes-Benz has taken a similar approach in the U.S., partnering with both Google and Yahoo to send directions from the Web to Mercedes vehicles. For the moment, however, the Search & Send feature is limited to searching Google and Yahoo Maps, meaning we’re still shackled to our BlackBerries and iPhones if we want to surf the Web while away from our desktops.

Currently in North America, many consumers have access to progressive GPS technology in their cars, both built-in and portable after-market units. Each unit includes millions of points of interests, like restaurants, hotels, stores, and area attractions. But all these must live on an internal drive, CD, or DVD, which is forever at risk of becoming outdated.

Not so when that information is sourced directly from the Web and delivered based on your proximity to each destination.

This development could have major implications for interactive planners and media buyers. Much the same way fast-food chains target their banners by daypart in an attempt to lure in a hungry crowd at lunch time, local search advertisers will soon be able to get truly instant results from showcasing their offerings online.

Instead of piquing interest with a well-timed ad, merchants could draw in customers with a specific lunch special or an online coupon — because those customers could be right around the corner and headed their way, right now. All the benefits of local search advertising, like extreme relevance and the chance to build affinity with a loyal local neighborhood customer base, apply to in-car search. And because the consumer is actively moving toward his target destination when he sees your ad, there’s virtually no delay to generating a return on investment.

When in-car local search comes to North America, advertisers will likely have to rely entirely on search ads to promote their goods. But that’s just the beginning of the potential in-vehicle Internet holds. Imagine driving past a retail store and uploading its fall inventory list to your navigation system. Or perusing the menu of the sushi place coming up on your right, without even having to leave the comfort of your car.

Soon, brand marketers won’t only be developing mobile Web sites for use with mobile technology like Web-enabled phones. They may also be investing in custom sites to be displayed on in-car navigation tools. And they’ll do so with enthusiasm, eager to connect with the most active consumers imaginable.

Because mobile marketing is about to take on a whole new meaning.

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