In at least one case, they already have. In honor of World Emoji Day last Sunday, travel deals site Cheapflights added emoji search to its functionality (in select markets such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK), giving mobile users the chance to inset symbols instead of words into flight origin and destination fields. With 60% of the site’s traffic and 40% of its revenue coming from mobile, speaking in the language of the platform was a “no-brainer,” says Cheapflights' marketing director Samantha Otter.
“We brought emoji search to consumers because we want to engage them and communicate with them wherever, whenever and however they feel most comfortable,” Otter tells Search Insider. “Our purpose is to make search smart and simple, and adding emojis to our search engine delivers on that promise by making us more reachable as a brand, and as a global product.”
To use the functionality, users can enter country flags in the destination fields to retrieve fare prices. For the semaphore-challenged, however, the company also brainstormed associated imagery for 40 destinations (a koala for Australia, for instance, or sushi for Japan). The process involved some deep thought about what people might use, and what might be accurate Otter says. Because Naples invented pizza, it got the coveted food emoji rather than Rome, she says.
“We spent a long time looking at the emojis available and pairing them with appropriate destinations, also making sure not to fall into common stereotypes,” Otter says.
The use of emoji in marketing is on the rise. Appboy earlier this year reported emoji use has grown 775% from 2015. Google has begun allowing users to search using emoji, though the results tend to be either explanations of that character or images associated with the character. But it probably won’t be long before inputing a coffee emoji returns a list of nearby Starbucks. Twitter has already begun trying out such functionality on its own messaging platform.
For those looking to be on the forefront of emoji search, Otter has one simple tip (and stop us if you’ve heard it before): Know who you are and what you're offering.
“Our advice is to always relate back to your core product and brand promise,” she says. These two things will determine whether something is a nice gimmick, or useful and engaging function.”