I was honored to be invited to present last week at Mediapost’s Search Insider Summit in Captiva Island, Florida. If you have not been to one of these events, I highly recommend it. The content is a little more forward thinking than the standard industry shows, and the format is designed to encourage easy networking. We have been a supporter of these conferences since their inception, and continue to value them greatly. Great people, good discussion, and some truly awful golf (at least on my part).
In the context of a conference theme of “Where Does Search Go From Here?”, I presented on Mobile Search and the rise of Apps as a preferred interface to content, a form of specialized vertical search. The topic was “Searching Through Apps: Moving From Destination to a Utility”.
Smartphone use is on the rise. According to Gartner, 172 million smartphones were sold last year, up 24 percent from ‘08. With these new devices comes an ever-increasing library of applications for consuming content, researching topics, and purchasing products. Need a good Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica? On your computer you are likely to use Google, but on an iPhone you are likely to use Urban Spoon, Yelp, Around Me, or even Four Square. Then there are specialist “answer a specific question for me” apps like Exit Strategy (NY subway app not only helps with routes but where on the platform to stand so that you get in the right car to exit at the best spot at your destination), and Flixster (movie reviews and showtimes). Need to buy a product, or just browsing at the mall? Apps such as ShopSavvy, RedLaser, and Amazon allow you to scan barcodes with your phone, compare prices, and study reviews.
In each of these cases, navigating to a specialized app is more efficient and more effective for the user than typing the query into a mobile search box.
This raises multiple questions for businesses – where are the apps sourcing core factual data (the index), how is this content enriched (social/user generated content), and how can the business itself affect prominence and preference? In what cases should a brand invest in its own app (Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts do well with apps that increase brand loyalty through utility), and how do you keep track of and manage all these different potential referral sources?
And with so many apps available (the average iPhone user has 37 apps installed), will we see the rise of what I call “Meta-Apps” – tools like Siri which provide a useful interface and source their content from 3rd party apps and APIs, meaning users only need to know Siri, not every single-function app in the AppStore.
We are trying to source video of the presentation, but in the meantime please enjoy the embedded Prezi file. If you haven’t used Prezi before, just click the right arrow button to navigate through like a slideshow. You miss out on all my jokes, but hopefully you’ll get the idea: