Friday, October 16, 2009




Mobi or Web:

Who Wins the Mobile Search War?

Mobile search is being touted as the next major, digital battleground with both the powerhouse players in communications (Verizon, ATT, etc.) pitted against the titans of Silicon Valley and points west such as Google and Yahoo!

The winner stands to reap billions in mobile search ad revenues, and if you run an online business or a brick-and-mortar, some of those revenues are going to come out of your bottom line. However, you’ll also see a nice revenue boost in your commercial establishment in the mall.

The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn

He who controls mobile search controls the world.

Okay, that’s not true but whoever wins this battle for mobile search supremacy is going to make some big bucks. Why? Because a user can search for the closest shoe repair place and even see a map providing directions on how to get there.

No big deal, right? You can do that when you download Google Earth with maps showing how to get from here to there. Mapquest and other similar sites offer the same service. Enter whatever it is you’re looking for – an address or the name of a commercial establishment – and GPS and some digital gymnastics does the rest.

The technology to direct buyers to retailers exists on both sides of the trenches. Telecom offers the advantage of an in-place infrastructure. Cell towers are now being placed in church steeples to hide them from the public eye. (Thankfully.)

On the other hand, the web has the power of knowledge with literally billions of web pages indexed in Google, Yahoo, Inktomi and 4,000 other online search engines. So, telecom has the means to deliver the information where needed. The web giants have the information that users are going to want – like where to get a pizza in the next 10 minutes.

One Giant Leap

With cells functioning as sales devices literally pointing buyers in the direction of paying advertisers, mobile search is the most dynamic interface since the appearance of the touchtone key pad back sometime before most of us were born. This ability to deliver, on demand, advertising in the form of street directions changes everything. The cell phone is no longer simply a communications device. Or a device that can capture pix and video or play downloads – all user-driven activities.

The cell phone becomes an extremely effective outlet for advertisers and that means ker-ching for whichever side wins this war of wheres.

Revenue Rivers

Forget revenue streams. This new technology is going to generate revenue rivers of ad dollars for the companies delivering the information. And where’s this cash flood coming from? Click to call on the web side; pay per call on the telecom side.

With improved localization of search engine results, how far are we from an online ad for John’s Best Pizza that connects you VoIP to John’s to place your order. Dominoes already offers online ordering. The tsunami is coming.

On the telecom side of “no man’s land” is pay per call (PPC). Using GPS technology, cell phones become maps and with a click, you can call John’s Best Pizza and have it piping hot when you arrive.

The numbers are enough to make any e-commerce professional sit up and take notice.

By 2010 there will be close to one billion mobile search users around the world. That’s up from 300 million today – a 300%+ increase in people looking for your business via their souped up cells.

More numbers? Ad revenues in five years will exceed $2.4 billion dollars for mobile search. Right now, that number is a little over $7 million dollars.

In the U.S. alone, the ad revenues will go from the current 2.1 million to over $700 million in the next few years. And you’re going to want that access to new customers. You know what else, you’ll be willing to pay for it. Why?

Mobile searchers are NOT browsers. They’re buyers. They’re looking for a place to buy a dinner or a new couch right now, whether researching the local web or using their cells to find the closest furniture outlet. These buyers are needs-driven and those are the best buyers you can have. They need what you’re selling.

So, How Will This Play Out?

You’ll be surprised to know that for such a major shift in communications, not many experts can answer that question though a couple of points are obvious.

1. The telecom industry will become more desperate for content in the years ahead. That’s good for writers, syndicators, news outlets (CNN, e.g.) the town newspaper and other content sources. Telecom will pay for the content (they already are) to keep up with the flood of web content that hits the W3 every day.

And on the web side of things? Well, how does a Googlephone sound? Or a Yahoo phone or an AOL phone. Portals and search engines will be moving in the other direction, looking for ways to get that massive mass of content out to cell users. Don’t be surprised if you see the Gphone from Google in the next few years. It’s virtually inevitable, and one of the major cash highways still open to Google.

And Finally, There’s You

The little guy trying to get a little recognition on the cell, the web or in the yellow pages of the telephone book. (Wonder if they’ll still have those in 10 years…).

That means that your advertising budget will increase, but so will your business. It will mean that you’ll have to allocate online/telecom advertising dollars based on your own research (a simple A-B test).

And it’s going to lead to a new advertising design industry – one that leaves behind the archaic advertising dinosaurs like buyer loyalty and building trust. If you’re driving in your Hummer and you’ve got a hankerin’ for a tofu salad, you can toss customer loyalty right out the window. You’re going to the closest tofu place that shows up on your cell or your installed GPS.

This is a major shift. It can’t be stopped, it never sleeps and it has one mission (kinda like The Terminator huh?). And that is to win the mobile search war by offering business owners (you) more services for less dollars.

That’s the fun side of competition and this is going to be a competition like nothing we’ve seen to date. We’re still at the baby step stage but in a few years, it’s iron man time.

Be ready.

Got your own Blackberry app, or just want to hawk your goods or services via cells and PDAs? call me. Don't limit yourself to folks @ computers. Go mobi, babe.