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Mobile Search Fortune Seekers

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Mobile search revenues promise to double year-over-year for the next three years according to market research aggregator eMarketer.

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It's easy to see why people are so excited about mobile search. There are fortunes to be made and a whole new playing field for fortune seekers. To explore how this may unfold, let's dig a bit into how the mobile environment differs. Understanding these differences will be the key to success for agencies, consultants, and mobile marketers.

Screen Real Estate

Mobile phone screens are David to laptop/desktop monitors' Goliath. Influenced by iPhone, mobile phone screens may continue to get bigger. Size, though, is relative. A top mobile commerce executive told me the average mobile device offers about four percent of the screen real estate that PC monitors do. That sounds about right. There's a wide range of different sizes for different devices from standard mobile phones to variations on the BlackBerry.

Keyboard Challenges

Keyboards evolve as screen size changes. Mobile phone manufacturers continue to experiment with keyboard size. Devices with a full QWERTY keyboard usually have a much smaller keyboard. At best, typing on a QWERTY-enabled mobile phone doesn't begin to rival the ease of using a PC keyboard. Many mobile devices don't even provide a QWERTY keyboard. In some cases, users must type on a numeric keypad.

Challenges to Surfing

Now that we've covered the obvious problems, let's talk about some of the less obvious ones:

  • Surfing to new sites is hard. There's no mouse available. This affects how people use their phones. They don't want to cruise around from place to place. In the mobile environment, the drop-off rate at each click runs from 30 percent to 60 percent.
  • Mobile phone devices bring us back to the era of low memory computing. You can't pre-fetch a bunch of data in anticipation of the user's next request.
  • This is not your PC processor; it has much less horsepower. Applications running on the mobile device need to be smaller and more compact.
  • With 15 different browser vendors, and 6 major mobile device operating system vendors, there's no such thing as a standard environment. Flexibility is king.
  • Carriers (such as Verizon and AT&T) wield a lot of influence in the marketplace.
  • The mobile environment has a significant impact on what people want when they search.

Consumers want instant information. They don't want multiple choices. Just give then the answer they want from a reputable source.

Another point of interest: consumers may prefer spoken input. Saying what you're looking for beats typing words into a search box, particularly if you're using a numeric keypad. The determining factor: quality of speech recognition software.

Mobile Search Categories Differ

How people search and what they look for on the mobile Web may surprise you. Top mobile search categories vary greatly from traditional Web search. Downloads trounce other search categories, such as portal navigation, according to a study by mobile search and advertising solutions provider Medio Systems.

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Source: Medio Systems, Inc.

Summary

Many questions need to be addressed by potential winners in the mobile search market. The trick is to find the magic mix the market needs, and then deliver that at the right time.

Big, traditional media companies failed to dominate the Internet. There's no guarantee the mobile Web will be dominated by today's big players on the traditional Web.


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