Search: The Shapeless Future

Retailers become marketplaces like Amazon. Search becomes shapeless. And messaging and voice interfaces push the engines out of the way. Michael Wolf, cofounder and manager director at Activate, spoke with Search Marketing Daily to share his thoughts on the future of search and how it plays into the changing digital economy based on analysis compiled in the recent report "Activate Tech & Media Outlook 2018."

Activate's data shows that people do fewer searches per session today. It's not a revelation, but rather an evolution on a changing technology as the challenge becomes a shrinking screen or no screen at all. If there is a screen, the device must have room to serve and display paid and contextual links, or at least have the intelligence to make the connection on its own in the case of voice search.



New interfaces, messaging and voice services, push the search engine out of the way. If you are searching through Alexa, the technology will choose the path to the information through engines like Google and Bing.

There is also the concern from advertisers that their search ads don't get seen by those who really want to see them.

In the future, the experience on search become much more "shapeless." Although search advertising must remain contextual and related to the search, the ad unit will change. Search will look much more like an instant-play video or enhanced banner. Search will become more prevalent in a variety of apps that had not offered an engine in the past. Search also might not look like anything at all, but rather may sound like Google Voice or Amazon Alexa, according to Wolf.

Forrester Research estimates that the number of smart home devices will grow from 42 million units in 2017 to 244 million units within five years.

And finally, retailers will become marketplaces. Not just Amazon, which started as a book retailer, but also Walmart, Sam's Club, Macy's, Nordstrom's, and others. These retailers carry items that are not available in stores and can only be bought online. They also are connected through parent companies, such as Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

I agree with Wolf that others will follow Amazon. He expects that Walmart and Sam's Club will expand in a way that is similar to Amazon -- and that marketers will learn how to use Walmart and others as a marketplace rather than just a retailer.

Join us at the Search Insider Summit in Deer Valley, Utah, December 6 through 9, to talk about how marketers are thinking about using retailers as marketplaces, which represent some of the world's largest search engines.

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