Local Mobile Search Advisory
Historically, consumers have been resistant if not outright hostile towards mobile advertising. However, there are growing indications that consumer attitudes are changing as users gain actual experience of mobile ads. And, as mobile offers become more specific, there are significantly higher levels of interest and enthusiasm from consumers.
Featured Research is available to registered users only.
For more information on becoming an I2G client, please contact Pete Headrick (email@example.com).
In something of a strategy shift, Jingle Networks is introducing what it's calling JingleConnect. It's an effort to build an ad network, beyond in-bound 800-Free-411 calls, incorporating "call centers, information lines, or any high volume call environment where their consumers are on hold." While Jingle has historically been the leader in free 411 services, partly because it's the incumbent, over the long term it's potentially vulnerable to competitors (e.g., Goog411) and the "mobile Internet" more generally.
Ad-supported, free 411 services are appealing to consumers and potentially to advertisers because of the massive potential reach these services have. They're totally device independent. Yet nobody is doing any consumer marketing to build awareness, which our research shows is generally low among the US population.
Some analyst firms have made big bets on free 411 as a driver of mobile ad revenues. Initially we had agreed that free 411 services would potentially be a broad consumer entry point for mobile search and a strong advertising opportunity. However, that does not seem to be the trajectory of the market of late. We still believe that free 411 services have a role to play and will generate meaningful call volumes over time, depending on awareness. But they won't be as significant a way, as once predicted, that people get information on the go.
The JingleConnect effort is logical. But there's a question about the quality of "leads" generated in these other environments (e.g., consumers on hold in call centers). It would seem to me that JingleConnect (depending on the distribution) is probably most valuable as an awareness vehicle rather than a direct response medium, which is primarily how free 411 is positioned.
Jingle claims 130,000 advertisers today. Some of those are direct but many of those are delivered via third parties (e.g., Superpages, ServiceMagic, Ingenio/YellowPages.com).
There are a range of companies seeking to bring mobile marketing to the masses of US small businesses. But, in a way, it's as if the mobile publishers and platforms have to re-learn the difficult lessons of conventional Internet marketing: it's expensive, frustrating and difficult to acquire small business advertisers -- especially with a self-service platform.
NearU is seeking to do just that with a new self-service SMS marketing program it calls Qpons. In our as yet unpublished research on small business online marketing we found the following regarding attitudes toward mobile marketing:
Source: Opus Research/AllBusiness.com (8/08); caution: preliminary result
The large majority of brands aren't doing anything with mobile marketing. However, market research firm Dynamic Logic has found that mobile advertising raised brand recall, across a range of product categories, by an average of almost 24% for those exposed to mobile ads vs. the control group. The bump also translated into higher purchase intent and "favorability" ratings:
Source: Dynamic Logic (2008)
As Dynamic Logic itself suggests, part of this effect is the result of the novelty of the medium and its ability to grab users' attention. There's much less clutter and "noise" in mobile right now.
In a related vein, Nielsen previously found that mobile extends the reach of websites 13% over the desktop alone:
Separately Dynamic Logic found that 26% of users had accessed the Internet from their phones. Our recent study found a slightly higher number (29%, n=789).
Microsoft's Windows Mobile has been around much longer than the iPhone. But since the iPhone's launch, it has struggled to convince people that it will be a dominant player in the smartphone market going forward. First, there are a range of usability challenges that must be addressed -- Windows Mobile 7 is supposed to address them (or many of them).
But the trio of iPhone, BlackBerry and the forthcoming Android threaten to obscure Windows Mobile in another way -- at least in the US market -- by offering a range of compelling software applications for their respective smartphones. Apple has already demonstrated the importance of this, and BlackBerry is playing catch up on the software front. Android showed the first winners of its developer competition and formally announced its own marketplace for software.
Waking up to the importance of building a marketplace for mobile software, Microsoft is reportedly planning its own Apps Store-like experience ("Skymarket"), according to these job postings. Skymarket will apparently consolidate distribution of Windows Mobile apps for consumers and business users to make the OS more appealing to consumers and competitive from a software standpoint.
My family and I recently took a trip to visit friends who live on Lopez Island, north of Seattle. We also spent a couple of nights in Seattle at the Sheraton downtown. There I got my first hands-on look at Microsoft's Surface.
There were three Surface tables in the lobby of the hotel. Most of the time they were in use; people were clearly intrigued by the technology and experience. While the experience is novel and "cool," the content is thin at the moment, and mostly a promotion for Sheraton. The local search capabilities are limited. (It made me wonder if the listings were ad placements.) But that's not the point; the content will improve over time.
I've always been intrigued by the notion of Internet kiosks distributed throughout town, which can offer some version of Internet access. Surface provides a compelling model for that potential experience. The question is: Where would such Kiosks be placed? Public transportation stops (e.g., subway stations in New York) is a logical choice. Then there are Starbucks of course. I also suggested to one Internet company in the past that ATM machines be used, although that would create longer wait times.
In 2006 UK directory publisher Yell, as part of an ad campaign, offered touch screen, local search kiosks in 20 locations in the UK. Yahoo before that set up a few interactive kiosks in New York and San Francisco to promote its then novel interactive mapping site.
The fundamental reason kiosks are interesting to me is because they offer the potential for a richer Internet experience on the go. Even the iPhone, for all its impressiveness, is still small and less desirable than a larger screen. And the majority of people aren't going to carry around their laptops.
I've also long been fascinated by the potential development of portable Internet devices that are neither conventional laptops nor cellphones. I think they're inevitable (the Kindle points the way). Yet, not even the new so-called "netbooks" really fit the bill (they're for business users and students). That's why TechCrunch's audacious bid to build a cheap tablet computer is so intriguing. I hope they're able to succeed.
Initiatives such as Sprint's XOHM and others that will follow in its wake are likely to create near ubiquitous connectivity in several years in major US metropolitan areas. Europe will equally be blanketed with coverage. This permits the emergence of a new generation of touch-screen devices that offer larger screens -- to provide more complete Internet experiences -- but that are smaller than a laptop (or netbook).
The Obama campaign created a stir and made headlines by announcing running mate Joe Biden earlier this week by SMS. Although Biden's name had been leaked shortly before by the press, the SMS announcement was a first.
Last night after the Obama nomination acceptance speech, this map of text messages lit up:
In addition, Tim Cohn, a reader of my Screenwerk blog pointed out that Microsoft had changed the homepage of Live Search:
The SMS announcement is consistent with Obama's image as a next-generation candidate and with his appeal to youth.
Google announced the winners of its Android Developer Challenge contest. There were two categories: $275K and $100K winners. And 50 finalists were competing for the prizes. Twenty developers are dividing the cash awarded.
Among the 10 companies awarded $275K, six have location as a core or significant element. Only one of the $100K winners falls into that category. Among the other announced finalists, 14 out of 30 feature location or have location as a core element. When the iPhone Apps Store initially launched in late July, we surveyed the location-based applications (.pdf file).
Among the more intriguing location-based Anrdoid applications are two that allow users to scan product barcodes in local stores and do price comparisons, as well as determine other stores that may have the product nearby. GoCart and Compare Everywhere offer these capabilities.
Here's the description of GoCart:
GoCart informs the shopper. It bridges the gap that exists between shopping online and shopping at the store. GoCart is your shopping cart on-the-go. Users can scan the barcode of any product using their phone’s built-in camera. Once scanned, it will search for all the best prices on the internet and through the inventories of nearby, local stores.
Slifter offers local story inventory information in mobile (WAP, apps), as does TheFind's application for the iPhone. In addition, there have been camera-phone-based search tools before, but nobody has elegantly put it all together in the way suggested by these new Android apps.
Among all the forthcoming iPhone clones with apps stores, etc., software applications will be a critical success factor in the market. For example, without much software to accompany it, Sprint's Instinct looks like a pale imitation of the iPhone.
Given that Android phones still aren't commercially available yet we can tell how these apps will actually perform. But they certainly look and sound good. And if the actual hardware works as promised, Google/Android will have a probable hit on its hands.
Apparently the HTC "Dream" (Android) from T-Mobile is coming quite soon. Engadget has images.
Peggy Salz is reporting, based on several mobile search vendor interviews (in this case JumpTap), that average search numbers per month have increased -- at least in the case of one of JumpTap's customers -- from 7.3 per month in January of 2007 to 11 per month in May of 2008.
The numbers in terms of search volumes, however, are all over the map. Nielsen Mobile previously reported an average of 9 searches per month for Google mobile users and 6.7 for users of Yahoo oneSearch.
We've just pulled consumer data from the market that shows surprisingly frequent mobile search behavior (from a subset of a larger sample, not necessarily representative of the mobile market as a whole). In our survey the average number of searchers among mobile search engine users -- a subset of overall mobile subscribers -- was 11 per week (per week)! I'm cautious about generalizing, but it's likely a leading indicator of where the market is headed in the near term regarding frequency and volumes.
Voice search companies such as ChaCha and Tellme (Microsoft) are seeing higher than industry average search volumes as well based on their voice interfaces and the reduction in "friction" in those contexts. Tellme told me the other day that 70% of its search queries are via the voice interface vs. its text box. V-Enable has varying numbers comparing voice query volumes to keyboard entry, based on phone type.
One of the leading mobile portals told me informally months ago that among some power users the company was seeing as many as 9 searchers per day. And ChaCha reports more than 30 per month on average. So there are a range of variables and experiences here that make generalizing difficult.
But what these various numbers indicate is that mobile search -- which comprises a range of utilities and applications (411, SMS, WAP, apps) -- are growing perhaps faster than expected.
Google/Android quickly adopted the Apple Apps Store concept as a way to showcase and distribute content and applications developed for the Android platform. However Google is taking pains to distinguish its distribution efforts from Apple's iTunes Apps Store:
Developers will be able to make their content available on an open service hosted by Google that features a feedback and rating system similar to YouTube. We chose the term "market" rather than "store" because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available. Similar to YouTube, content can debut in the marketplace after only three simple steps: register as a merchant, upload and describe your content and publish it. We also intend to provide developers with a useful dashboard and analytics to help drive their business and ultimately improve their offerings.
Google is positioning itself as a much more open (read: friendly) environment for mobile developers accordingly. It's going to trust the user community to identify the good apps and weed out the mediocre ones, in contrast to Apple's more "top-down" approach.