The Year Mobile Search Took Off

Way back in April 2009, I wrote a column suggesting that this year could finally be the year of mobile search. And now that we are almost at year’s end, I believe I can now say that the prediction has more or less come to fruition. But perhaps, instead of calling it “the year of mobile,” we should instead consider it “the year that mobile truly and finally took off.” Mobile search now plays an inherent role in our lives as digital consumers, and is becoming a no-brainer as an element of our media mix. That said, our use of the mobile channel will no doubt continue to grow and proliferate over time — it will by no means be a one year phenomenon.

So, if you don’t already have a mobile search campaign underway, you might want to start thinking about it. Here are the top four reasons why:

  1. Increased adoption of search-friendly devices: Faster mobile networks and easy-to-use browser interfaces facilitate the use of mobile search.

    According to a recent comScore press release, the use of touch screen mobile smartphones like the iPhone rose over 150 percent in 2009 alone. And with this continual adoption of easy-to-surf mobile phones, we will inevitably see an increase in mobile search adoption. As LeAnn Hoksch from puts it, “This increase in touchscreen and smartphone users with unlimited access to the mobile Web has certainly had an effect on local mobile search.”

  2. Increased usage of local mobile search: Mobile users are increasingly employing search applications, particularly for local queries.

    In fact, a study conducted by Hoksch’s company, TMP Directional Marketing, found that “of mobile searchers with Internet-ready devices, 60 percent of smartphone owners search on Internet browsers or via downloaded applications.” Their study also found that the number of users employing a mobile device to search for local information increased by 127 percent from June 2008 to June 2009.

  3. Stronger marketing investment in mobile search: Advertisers are moving more of their marketing dollars into search, and allocating a larger slice of the pie to search.

    According to a study conducted by eMarketer in September, mobile advertising spending in 2009 is tracking to an increase of 30 percent over 2008 levels, with investments estimated to almost triple existing levels by 2013.

    And interestingly, “of all mobile ad formats, eMarketer believes search will see the steepest growth through 2013.”

  4. Release of phones with sophisticated search functionality: Perhaps the most recent signal that this is indeed the year of mobile search is the recent launch of the Motorola Droid phone, and the fact that the unique selling proposition centers on the phone’s advanced search capabilities. In fact, it was after seeing the Verizon spot on TV, “Droid Does,” which showcases the sophisticated search functionality of the device, that I decided to write this article.

The Google functionality on the Droid phone let’s you search in a number of ways that you couldn’t before. As per Google’s promotional page on the device, the phone offers the following features:

  • Search by voice — Simply speak into your phone what you’re looking for and Google will search for it.
  • Quick search box — Search everything on your phone (contacts, music, etc.) and the Web from one box, which customizes the outputs based on your behavior.
  • Speak and find your way — Get GPS on the go to your spoken destination while in transit.

With all this new functionality available for both the Google Droid phone and through the Google mobile app, there is likely to be increased adoption of mobile search in the coming months.

And if 2009 was the year that mobile took off, look for 2010 and beyond to be the years that mobile search reaches its pinnacle. It’s pretty safe to assume in these coming years that we’ll see mobile search volume overtake desktop search. Here’s to the future of mobile search!

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