Commentary

Ladies Like Search

"Google it on your thingie."  

Much as I would like to say that this is secret sexual code between me and my partner, it is just the way that my beloved college computer science instructor refers to mobile search.

Now that our wedding is fast approaching, we are on the road a lot meeting with DJs, photographers, going to truly nightmarish wedding fairs and expos (no, really -- scary stuff) and getting lost in more ways than we knew were possible. The mobile phones are now the search tool of choice even when we sit in front of computers. The practical functionality of finding addresses and having both the directions and the click to call connection at hand beats the old method of printing out Google Maps directions that we can barely read in the car anyway. As I think I have covered exhaustively in these columns already  -- I am old.

"Will you please use your own phone," I complain. "I got it for you to use." She pleads mobile phone ignorance, but in fact has been doing mobile searches for four years now ---through me. "Google it with your thingie."

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"It always goes away on me, and I don't know how to get it back," she complains about the iPhone going to sleep on her. Try as I do to remind her there is only one obvious button to try on the "thingie," it still disorients her. Did I mention already that she is a computer scientist?

Yes, she can program a mobile site in javascript or HTML5 in minutes. But she can't actually access them on a mobile phone. Still, her instincts to search by mobile, if poorly executed, are spot-on. According to a new Mobile Search Insights Study from Publicis' Performics agency, women are more likely than men to say that mobile search has an impact on their lives. In the sample polled earlier this year, 78% of women who use the platform say it made their lives easier, compared to 70% of men.

What is interesting about the Performics study, done with ROI Research, is how much mobile search is going on at home. The survey was done among people who access the mobile Web at least once a week. But among them, 86% of women and 75% of men are searching on handsets while at home in the evening. Clearly they are using it as a second screen, often in response to a TV prompt or brand, and instead of reaching for the larger, lusher PC experience. In fact 73% of women say they mobile search while watching TV, considerably more than the 53% of men.

Apparently once you start using the handset search box, the habit forms quickly. Over half of mobile searchers say they access it more than once a day. Retail is the biggest beneficiary, with 84% saying they either frequently or occasionally access it through search, while 71% do so for specific products. Still, the high frequency of product and brand-oriented searches only continues to make the case we heard at last month's Mobile Insider Summit: Get your brand's mobile Web strategy in place.

What is most striking about the mobile search habit is not that any one function stands out, but that all of them stand out at once. This is not a select migration of habits to mobile. People are bringing to their handsets the expectations of a Web experience. We have more than half mobile Web users checking off the top two boxes (on a four point scale) for using mobile search at least occasionally -- everywhere from at the office to while at social gatherings and running errands.  

I may be in a minority of mobile searchers, but I don't feel so weird now that I know 45% of us use our handset to search while sitting in front of the computer, if even occasionally. That 63% of platform users say mobile search has changed the way they gather information indicates how significant an impact it is already having.

That 32% of mobile searchers say they use mobile search more than they use desktop search is an even bigger deal. SEO/SEM strategies will need to adjust to another parameter: place. With room for only one or two sponsored slots on a page and the preponderance of clicks going to the first organic search result, optimization is going to become critical. Performics says it is seeing a significant increase in the share of search coming from mobile, and it expects it finally to exceed 10% in March.

Even if the marketer doesn't know precisely where users are when they enter the query, knowing they are mobile communicates a level of intent that may translate to higher rates of conversion, too. According to Performics, 32% of mobile searchers have made an entertainment purchase via their phone, and 25% have made an electronics purchase. The segments that are seeing the highest number of searches are electronics, entertainment and financial services. 

There is a lot of googling with thingies going on.

4 comments about "Ladies Like Search".
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  1. Natalie Barratt from Piehead Productions, March 22, 2011 at 4:49 p.m.

    I am sure the writer did not intend to land this way, but am I the only one that finds this entire article a wee bit sexist? Ladies? Thingie? Yes, you did mention she is a computer scientist, but still....

  2. Steve Smith from Mediapost, March 22, 2011 at 4:56 p.m.

    @Natalie. Certainly not sexist in my mind. My fiancee is among the very small minority of women computer scientists who also actively recruits more women into the field. Her aversion to gadgets is in no way tied to gender. It is idiosyncratic to her and ironic given her deep involvement in two male-dominated fields, math and comp sci.

  3. Cynthia Edwards from Razorfish, March 22, 2011 at 5:18 p.m.

    I didn't find it sexist at all. My parents are 86 and beset with numerous disabilities, worst of all, my mother's blindness. My dad and I can while away 15 minutes in a doctor's waiting room while I show him (for the tenth time) how my iPhone works, and some of things it can do. He may not call it a "thingie" but frankly he doesn't know or recall any other vocabulary for the device and its functions either.

    My blind mother, who is an inveterate researcher, constantly asks me look up stuff online, and over the years she has learned to ask specifically for Google or Wikipedia or other resources. Again - she has no real idea how it works or even looks, but she has a canny comprehension of how to get information she needs. And because I love her and have known her all my life, I can interpret any bizarre terminology she slings at me no matter how incorrect it may be. I guess you could call me "Bing" - the decision engine. :-)

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 17, 2011 at 6:17 p.m.

    Surprised you didn't figure out how to do the justice of the peace thingy and go 'round the world or save it for when you really will need it. Reminder: Assisted Living now is about $4600 per month and nursing homes about $9000 and you have to prove you can afford it for 5 years before they will accept your application. No one thinks they will need it. (I hope you never do and have your rainy day fund in order although it's none of my business.) My father, who just passed away, went through everything my parents ever saved and yes, he needed 24 hour professional care. This should be on everyone's mobile search before they push that little button that makes it easier that ever before to zoom up credit card debt.

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