Internet users tend to surf the Web to find information for term papers, business competitors, and prices for flights, used cars, and mortgages. Mobile subscribers, on the other hand, look for ring tones, graphics, games, and, at times, hotels, weather, or sport scores. In the near term, we expect Internet searches to cover a broader range of searches, while mobile searches, by either design or user-demonstrated usage, will be more mobile specific.
According to the Mobile Marketing Association’s (MMA’s) “Introduction to Mobile Search” (PDF download), people consider mobile search just for entertainment. Yet mobile search can fulfill several useful roles, including helping users find a local address while traveling and checking on a flight’s departure time.
“Although it has functions similar to Internet search,” the report states, “subscribers using mobile search tend to look for an experience that offers answers and actionable results rather than links that lead to more searching.”
The report notes mobile phones have several advantages over PCs when accessing the Internet:
- Mobile phones are always on, always available, and always “connected.” Subscribers can gain access to information anywhere; at home, in the office, at a restaurant, or from the car.
- Ability to immediately connect people to phone numbers, since they already have a device in hand.
- When conducting mobile search, the users are in an atmosphere, situation and environment more likely to result in a purchase. Most of the time they are on the go and out of the home.
The report also notes mobile phones have some limitations compared to PCs:
- PCs have big screens that can show lots of detailed information and numerous search results. Mobile phones have tiny screens with limited real estate.
- PCs have large, comfortable keyboards with easy-to-use pointing tools like a mouse, trackball, or touchpad. Mobile phones have compact number pads, commonly with arrow keys to navigate up, down, left and right.
- PCs and the Internet have consistent color displays, screen sizes, browsers, and open programming standards. Mobile phones are the epitome of variety with varying input methods, display screens, browsers, operating systems, and user interfaces. Mobile devices do not conform to any standards.
The report goes on to say:
In addition to these immediate differences, future mobile search applications may be able to capitalize on user specific information. Mobile phones are joined to individuals and are representative of their owners’ personalities, with specific demographics, behavior patterns, and personal interests. This information may allow more relevant search results.
The MMA released a mobile search study earlier this week that highlights mobile search habits and awareness among American consumers. The study’s key findings include:
- Mobile search is in its early stages of adoption, but there’s significant upside potential. Thirty-one percent of respondents used mobile search for the first time in the past month. Current users conducted an average nine searches in the past month.
- Cell phone owners who aren’t aware of mobile search recognize its benefits after they’re introduced to the technology. Half of non-users were interested in trying mobile search over the next few months. Forty-eight percent of non-users expect to start using mobile search at least once per week.
- Approximately 41 percent of all respondents indicate sponsored links wouldn’t have an effect on their mobile search use.
- Current mobile search users represent several attractive market segments for advertisers. Respondents with an annual household income of $50,000-$75,000 conduct an average of almost 16 searches per month, the most of any demographic segment. Consumers age 45-54, college grads, and people with children at home all reported using search more than 11 times per month.
- Sixty-nine percent of respondents prefer advertisements related to local products and services.
- The ability to search by voice was the top-rated feature. Thirty-seven percent of current mobile search users would be “a lot more likely” to use mobile search if voice control were added.
Mobile search provides consumers anytime, anywhere access to information via the mobile Web. Awareness of mobile search continues to grow with U.S. consumers, creating new opportunities for brands and agencies to exploit the power of the mobile channel.
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