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When it comes to search, mobile trumps desktop PCs: Ask.com

Ask.com Mobile launches voice-activated direction

Mobile users can now speak their search queries using Ask.com's Click to Speak application

Smartphone users are increasingly expecting more of their mobile devices than they do of their desktops, including timely feedback on local businesses and immediate access to information about places of interest, according to a mobile consumer study released by Ask.com and Harris Interactive.

Ask.com commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct the study, which was conducted between Oct. 6–17 among a nationwide cross section of 1,538 mobile phone users. The release of the study follows the launch of the new Ask.com mobile application, Ask for iPhone, the first mobile Q&A application to combine search with a live community of real people.

 “When people are on their desktop, they are in research mode, whereas when they are on their mobile device, they just want to ask one thing and get an answer,” said Jason Rupp, director of mobile product management at Ask.com, Oakland. “They are not trying to decide which big-screen TV to get, they want to find a good restaurant nearby right now.

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“When you are on your mobile device you really just want to get answers quickly, and that use case includes looking for traffic and weather information,” he said. “Mobile search is working at some level right now, but there is a lot of opportunity, because mobile search from all of the mobile players is just Web search optimized for mobile devices.

“We want to take that desktop experience and focus on what works well on mobile devices—what hasn’t been done really well is the primary use case of ‘I have a question and I need an answer.’”

The Ask.com network of sites, an operating business of IAC, has 90 million domestic unique monthly search users, according to October 2010 comScore data.

Released in November, Ask for iPhone has surpassed a quarter of a million downloads.

Questions and answers on the go
In addition to demonstrating that mobile users expect immediate answers from their mobile devices, the survey results suggest that people desire more than just listings and standard reviews while on the go.

Once untethered, mobile users are also interested in answers to subjective, time-sensitive questions around businesses and places of interest, such as “How long is the wait for a table?”

Findings of the study include the fact that immediacy is critical.

By a landslide, smartphone users indicated that when looking for information on their mobile device, they need it immediately—81 percent overall.

The 18-24 age group is especially impatient, reporting that they need immediate information from their mobile device 100 percent of the time.

Mobile users have more questions
Harris Interactive found that 66 percent of mobile users said they are more likely to ask timely questions when they are not in front of their computer.

More than one-quarter—30 percent—of smartphone users leverage their mobile phones to access the Web more than they use their computer to access the same information.

Mobile applications that deliver specific information and services are on the rise, with 69 percent of smartphone users having downloaded at least one application on their phone.

Local info should be fresh
The study indicates that timeliness is important for a significant percentage of mobile users when it comes to reviews of local businesses—they must have been posted recently.

Forty percent of smartphone users indicated that they are more influenced by users’ opinions given within the last day than users’ opinions that were given a month or so ago.

This number significantly increases in the immediate gratification 18-24 age bracket, jumping from 40 percent overall to 67 percent.

People are also interested in information beyond what is available in a static review—moving from historical information to real time activity when choosing a their destination on the go.

While 55 percent reported interest in searching for local reviews on a mobile device, 68 percent reported a desire to know whether a restaurant is busy at that moment.

Population density impacted this concern, with people in the Northeast being much more likely to assign importance to the size of the crowd—76 percent—than those in the Midwest—61 percent.

Sixty-three percent reported that the current tone of the crowd was important when choosing their destination.

Hands-free
With hands-free driving laws becoming ubiquitous across the nation, the study underscores the importance of users being able to retrieve information while still keeping their hands at ten-and-two.

More than one-third—38 percent—of smartphone users need local information more often while they are driving in their cars versus other places, indicating a distinct need for mobile services that are hands free.

Connect and inform
Be it curiosity, voyeurism or an emergency, mobile users want to know more about what is happening in their immediate surroundings.

Forty percent of smartphone users wished they could have found out more about what was happening when they saw a crowd.

Combine this statistic with the fact mobile users want immediate, real-time information while on the go, and the research indicates an opportunity for mobile services that deliver up-to-the-minute local information reported by other mobile users nearby.

“That critical need for urgency gets higher as consumers skew younger—immediacy is absolutely critical, especially for younger consumers,” said Valerie Combs, vice president of corporate communications at Ask.com, Oakland. “People have an appetitive to get information quicker and easier and consume it on a mobile device.

“People are more likely to ask questions and need immediate answers when they are not at a computer,” she said. “Increasingly we’re seeing users demand the same if not more from the tiny devices they can fit into their pockets compared to desktop PCs.

“Mobile is inherently local, and mobile search offers unique opportunities for local businesses and advertisers.”

Final Take
Hall of Fame baseball player Dave Winfield

 
Related content: Search, Ask.com, Harris Interactive, Ask.com for iPhone, Apple, App Store, iTunes, mobile search, Valerie Combs, Jason Rupp, mobile marketing, mobile

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