Mobile Search

OK, we’re coming back from lunch at SMX Toronto for Mobile Search.


Sionne Roberts, General Manager, Visability (A division of IT World Canada) (@SionneRoberts)

Sionne Roberts
Sionne Roberts


Sionne: “We’re going to be discussing a tsunami of information. That’s from the session description. I don’t know what it is, but it sounds like a good thing.”

Warren’s up first.

“There’s a lot of confusion in the market. Which is good for us, because we’re consultants.”

Mobile Penetration

There are more mobile devices than TVs and computers combined.

Warren Raisch
Warren Raisch

270 million US cell phones currently subscribed, almost all SMS capable.

Over a trillion SMSs sent in the US last year.

Over 95% of phones sold today have browsers. Over 70 million US consumers use them regularly.

Massive amount of texting, e-mails, and pictures. Also people talk on phones.

Over 20% of US households are Wireless Only. No land line. We have a land line just for 911, emergency services, on a minimal plan.

Mobile is Social

If you could have a car or a cellphone? 80% of kids said phone. The digital need to be connected is more important than physical mobility to kids today.

Perpetually connected

Part of our identity. Ring tones, answer tones, skins.

Tool for info, entertainment, music, & photos

When you leave your house you take your keys, your wallet, and your cellphone. If you forgot it, you’ll often go back.

Over 80% of 18-29 year olds use text messaging regularly.

38% say mobile is more important than wallet. The wallet may become redundant one day.

Mobile is Social

Apple & Google

I look at these 2 companies and Amazon to see what’s happening.

Over 3 billion apps downloaded from Apple’s App Store in first 18 months.

Eric Schmidt told CNBC that Google believes mobile ad revenue will surpass traditional search advertising

Chinese market growing much faster than US.

Android usage is small, but usage is impressive. Highly engaged, geeky, tech-savvy audience.

Mobile consumer: Hunter, not a browser. Functional, utilitarian oriented.

What can you do?

  • Text 2 Win
  • Text 2 Give
  • Loyalty Link
  • BlueTooth
  • 2D Barcodes

Because of a time crunch, they shift into a panel discussion.

Marcus Anderson
Marcus Anderson

Marcus says that what you need to consider for the mobile device, the person is looking for information that he knows he needs to find. It’s not entertainment or discovery. Need to deliver targeted, specific info for an action.

Warren agrees. Says if you deliver value in a fast, timely, useful way, the loyalty gained must be great.

Chris asks how many people live in Downtown Toronto. There are a few. If you took a telescope and looked around you’d see people like me on my couch watching TV. In the past you’d see a laptop on my lap. Now there’s a shift towards iPhones.

Sionne asks WAP vs App. Consensus answer is that it depends on your audience and your budget. Don’t make decisions based on a tech-savvy crowd if that’s not your market. Start by figuring out what Outcomes you’re looking for, and then figure out how to get there most efficiently.

Sionne says the product manager from Google made a compelling case that hte Web Browser is the app. Unless you’re trying to do work completely offline, off the grid, there may not be a need for apps.

Chris says you can really get Apps made very inefficiently right now. For search, it’s unlikely that you’ll find the economics working for creating an app.

Sionne says that as a consumer, he needs a really compelling reason to download an App. Offline browsing, for example. Fish where the fish are. Where is your market?

Chris asks where you see the real opportunities in mobile. Warren says for commerce. Gifting, loyalty cards, couponns. It takes impulse buying to a new level. Location based is hot. This is the closest we’ve ever come to the dream of one-on-one marketing.

Marcus says it’s traffic with the ability to turn it into an action.

Chris is excited about the ability for codes and scanning.

A guy that works for Rogers Media was just asked to quickly join the panel. The best examples so far are a generic radio app that lets you stream their radio stations. The more exciting one is the 680 News App.  News, traffic, and other. Translates very well to a mobile device. See traffic cameras on my route, and local news. And he’s gone.

Questioner says “I’m listening to you while I’m following Tiger Woods on my mobile app. How do you see push vs pull?”

Warren says that the empowerment of the handheld is changing things. There will be a lot more pull. They’re doing stuff with JCPenney to let you scan items with your phones, and 3rd parties will also give you competitors’ info on that.

Chris says that the mental model of people in Canada is “I do something to them, they respond.” For pull mentality to take over there’s going to have to be thought leadership to think more that way. My mental model is that the public is an amorphous social blob, they’ve takec control over their attention, and we’ve become very good at ignoring Push messages. It’s going to have to go to Pull.

Chris says that in a perfect rational world business decisions would be made based on facts and evidence. Right now Mobile is like a checkbox of something you should do, like the internet back in 1993. We didn’t know what we were doing or why. It took time to figure it out.

Sionne mentions that so far we’ve had 2 answers to every question:

  1. It depends
  2. Focus on outcomes, begin with the end in mind

Yankee Group forecasts an explosion in apps in 2014, up to 11 billion. The panelists laugh at how analysts like making predictions 3 years out, when everybody will forget the prediction. Other predictions have this coming much sooner.

Do you guys see an alternative to Google in the future?

Warren says he doesn’t think it’s ever good to have one dominant player. Microsoft / Yahoo will be a relevant number 2, and then number 3 may be a combination of all these other things we’re seeing. It might be an Amazon or something else you wouldn’t expect, or somebody new.

Chris says he doesn’t think Google can change their algorithms without incurring the wrath of the SEC, and of their largest clients. There will be innovation that comes from the outside. He doesn’t see people putting text into a box as the long term solution. He likes Aardvark (social Q&A site which Google recently bought). There was a time that we thought that Microsoft would own the universe forever and suddenly it didn’t.

Sionne says he remember in the pre-Google days looking through Ask and Yahoo and then Google came out and changed the game. It’s going to happen, innovation is inevitable. There will be some quantum leap forward.

Sionne leads with quote from City Search exec that Mobile is going to be the new yellow pages. Marcus says it’s a great analogy, but it’s bigger. It’s also the White Pages, and other colors. Yellow Pages are ad based. Mobile will be a much broader information portal.

Warren says that his family just moved, so they don’t know where anything is, but they don’t use the Yellow Pages.

Sionne says that when Google Buzz added location information that’s what made him start using it.

Chris: We have something we call “The strength of weak ties” in social theory. There’s not a lot of communication between the search and social people. Our tax dollars go for university research. In the US they’re much better at turning these into commercial use. In Toronto we have more patents, but we don’t get them commercialized enough.

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