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Ingenio Data Attempts to Crack the Code on Mobile Usage

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Pay-per-call provider Ingenio and market research firm Harris Interactive released results of a survey today that shows interesting data around consumer preferences for mobile devices and advertising.

Like any up and coming area, knowledge or consumer preferences is important to lead product development; and nowhere is this more relevant than in mobile search, where there is a great deal of experimentation and speculation and no clear cut models for content or ad delivery.

Though mobile search and advertising are different than the PC environment, Ingenio chief marketing officer Marc Barach contends that there are similar opportunities to build ad models, although there is also a need to adapt content delivery methods and ad formats to the specific needs of mobile users.

A few data points from the survey are:

-- 63 percent of respondents claim their cell phone is very personal to them while 49 percent indicate that they use their phones for more than just calls including sending and receiving text messages (36 percent), and taking, sending and receiving photos (24 percent).

-- 74 percent of those 18-34 meanwhile use their cell phones for more than just making phone calls. This is compared with 20 percent of those ages 55 and up.

-- Over the next three years 57 percent of respondents anticipate using their phones for more than just making and receiving phone calls. Among those 18-34 the numbers are greater (75 percent) compared with ages 55 and up (33 percent).

-- 85 percent of adults own a mobile phone compared to 71 percent who have a land line. Among those aged 18-34, 89 percent own a mobile phone, while only 57 percent have a land line.

-- Among mobile ad formats, 26 percent of respondents favored sponsored text links that appear as a result of searches (ads relevant to a search query). 21 percent favor audio ads that play instead of ringing while waiting for a call to answer, followed by 20 percent that find text message ads acceptable.

-- In each category, younger generations found ads more acceptable than their older counterparts (i.e. 28 percent of mobile phone users ages 18-34 find text messages from companies to be at least somewhat acceptable, compared to only 14 percent of those ages 45 and up).

-- Among those who have ever called 411 from their mobile phones, commercial (74 percent) and restaurant (72 percent) phone and address listings are the most frequently sought after types of information.

So what does all of this mean?

A sizable opportunity exists with mobile advertising in standard and universal formats such as voice and SMS (more robust search on smartphones and WAP browsers meanwhile have lower -adoption, although this could be accelerated by some mobile usage trends and the market penetration of the iPhone).

Users' need to find local information and act on it is presumed to be greater with the mobile use case, than with online search, given mobility and in some cases immediacy. This also lets advertisers reach users at vital decision points when intent to buy is at more desirable levels.

Targeting advertising effectively, in a way that satisfies user preferences shown in this and in other studies, is where the strategy will lie on a tactical level. There are lots of implications in the demographic segmentation of these findings, and the stated threshold for enduring different formats of mobile advertising. Multi-modal search and ad serving technologies being developed by Tellme and others show a great deal of promise in having the user-centric qualities that these data highlight.

Push-to-talk functionality further this utility; and the pay per call ad models that can sit behind this functionality could have a great deal of appeal to advertisers that wish to get in front of mobile users at the right times. This is even more so than online pay-per-click models where, by comparison, there is physical (and, arguably mental) disconnect between the PC and phone. But when you're dealing with mobile technologies, "It is, after all, a phone," says Barach.

High Consideration Mobile Search

It's also interesting to note that these findings are in line with previous Ingenio data that show impulse local searches (i.e. restaurants, entertainment, hotels, etc.) represent two-thirds of mobile pay-per-call volume. The remaining amount is comprised of more considered purchase categories such as real estate and debt management.

So what this these new data tell us, according to Barach, is that combined with the steady growth in financial and real estate categories that he is seeing, mobile users' intent to use their phones for more than just calls will equate to an increasing portion of searches in these more considered purchase categories.

Lastly, In addition to the ad serving strategies that these data can help model, they have also been valuable, according to Barach, to step back and see the overall opportunity that exists, due simply to the lack of a clear and prevailing ad model in the local environment.

"What we didn't realize was how open the model is from a monetization perspective," he says. "What hit us on the side of the head here was that only 30 percent of users could recall seeing an ad on their phone. People view their cell phones as a communication device that strengthens their personal relationships that they use all the time, yet the ad model has yet to find itself in this environment if so few people can ever recall seeing an ad."


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