Mobile Search in Action: Creating a Recipe for Success

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Article ImageBy now, most of us know the basic ingredients for a good website: robust content comprising multimedia experiences from traditional text to the newest video applications. Add in a splash of all the bells and whistles that make a website dynamic and engaging and fold in a solid search technology that makes all of that content findable and usable, and you've got a winner.

The mobile experience, though, is still a relatively new concept compared to the traditional web-so figuring out how to provide the best mobile search interface remains a work in progress. Yet organizations are wasting no time working with the technology to expand their traditional web search capabilities into the mobile space. The immediate goal is to learn just what the tools need to offer through search interfaces in order to provide an equally satisfying and effective search solution for mobile site visitors.

It's a goal the companies know they can't waste time working to achieve. People are increasingly turning to their mobile devices as web searching tools. They are beginning to rely heavily on mobile search to quickly find the information they need to make decisions about anything from treatment of a health condition to what kind of car they want to buy. These searchers don't have time to waste. They want to enter just one or two keywords and receive their answer within the first batch of search results.

"From the customers' point of view, they want to have the most up to date, accurate information, no matter what they're doing," says Katrina Gosek, media and publishing market lead for the ebusiness team at Endeca Technologies, a search application provider. "The consumer wants the same information across all channels."

Mobile Customers in Context

To meet the demands of search users within the mobile channel, companies need to truly understand the context in which mobile users will search their content. Only then can they provide a search interface and tools that provide results that target those users' specific queries. "Search results have to have some sort of context of what is the searcher doing, and what goals the searcher has," says Sarah Glass, a researcher with Forrester Research, Inc. "Their goals, because they're moving around and about in the world, are very different. They're very immediate in nature."

In this environment, quick results are more important than ever. "It's trying to deliver an immediate solution that's relevant to that context," adds Glass. "It's very different from online to mobile. Online, people are going to research for hours and hours. On their mobile phone, they're going to find the answer and act on it, typically within an hour of doing that search query."

David Kopp, senior vice president of network and advertising services at Healthline Networks, Inc., says the healthcare information company discovered that in the healthcare space, mobile devices are used in very specific ways. Healthline Networks has noticed that the search terms people use with mobile devices are different from search terms they use on PC sites. "We categorize them as topics. They are things, for whatever reason, people are not totally comfortable searching from their PC about," explains Kopp. "They close the door and search from their mobile device."

Healthline Networks mobile users also search for physicians (name and address) from their mobile devices, which isn't surprising since they are typically traveling to an appointment when they search for such information. But, says Kopp, the searches can also intensify once users get to the physician's office. At that point, they are in the waiting room and want to do some research so they can ask better questions during their appointment, Kopp says. They also use mobile search after the visit to conduct research related to news the physician provided.

Auto Trader, a U.K.-based automotive website, uses Endeca Technologies' search solutions to power its search platform across different types of media. According to Jody Goodall, head of research and development for Trader Media at Auto Trader, the searches mobile users conduct are similar to those conducted by users of other channels. Users typically search for a particular make, model, and body style of a vehicle. They also use the search to conduct comparison shopping in order to determine what price they should pay for a vehicle and what price they should expect for a trade-in.

Mobile users often are searching for this information when they are in a car dealership and are very close to making a vehicle purchase.

("3D illustration of the GPS" courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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