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Mobile Search Needs Improvement

  • Ad Age, Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:04 AM
Here's a good question: Why doesn't anybody use mobile search? While 80 percent of marketers say they use or are going to use search-engine marketing, less than one-third of retail marketers and one-half of CPG marketers expect to use mobile search, according to Forrester Research. Why so few? Of the 190 million cell phone subscribers in the U.S., only about 5 percent have ever used their phones for search--which is less than half of those who buy at least one ringtone each month, according to mobile research firm M:Metrics. Poor user experience is to blame, says Greg Sterling, a search analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. Mobile search should be different from Web search, he says, because the screen is smaller and a handset is very different from a keyboard. "You have to think about mobile as a separate [medium]," says Tony Philipp, CEO of UpSNAP, a mobile content-search firm. "It's not the Internet on a phone. Users don't want a million answers." Most likely, they're trying to find something specific, like food or shopping. One new company, called V-Enable, uses a voice-activated search program. Users hold down the "send" key and then request "restaurant," and a list of nearby restaurants pops up. Cool, but questions remain. How does the technology generate search results? Is it only paid listings? And how relevant are they? The company already generates 100 million impressions per month, so people are definitely using it.

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