Mobile search is clearly a hot topic, which is why I attended the session: Mobile Local Search: Finding the Way. The first panelist, Tom Limongello with Crisp Wireless, outlined the various ways consumers can engage in mobile local search applications. One of the first options is SMS text messaging triggered by proximity. GPS functionality offers even greater power to target messages. Another option includes Web-enabled desktop to mobile interaction. Examples include cars.com, flight updates, etc. The next level is social networking (desktop to mobile) like SociaLight, WHML and Dodgeball. Challenges with mobile include: confined real estate on phones (simple, minimal, etc). The next speaker, Ryan Sarver with Skyhook Wireless, outlined their latest technology that utilizes wi-fi (instead of GPS) for targeting. Manhattan has 2M wi-fi hot spots/access points. Compared to GPS and cellular, wi-fi targeting is accurate within 20 meters (vs. 1 meter and 5,000 meters respectively). Skyhook powers the iPhone “locate me” technology to help place the 4M subscribers on a map for location based services. Next up, Collin Holmes of V-Enable discussed voice-activated local search applications. He discussed the growth of the 411 directory assistance market (including Google 411, Microsoft Tellme and 800Free411). According to Holmes, the US DA market is $9.4 billion, with IPY, wireless & local search at $3.4B (in 2006). 411 DA has a similar consumer profile as Starbucks buyers: impulse buy based on need or convenience, not cost. Currently, very few people are using 411 DA regularly, which is really a big opportunity in disguise. Current market profile: employed females between 25 and 44 that pay their own bill. Kevin E. Mazzatta at ChaCha Search discussed the perfect storm confluence of networks, devices and mobile Web applications. Smart phones are only 10 percent of market, vs. the 208M “dumb” phones. The general concept is to leverage the strengths of mobile and minimize the weaknesses. ChaCha developed a solution that provides text, local search, directions, directory, shopping, weather, stocks, travel information, vital statistics and more. The three phase adoption process for mobile apps includes cool, practical and addictive phases, which is similar to Starbuck’s business model. The three basic steps to monetizing the “mobile answers” frontier include: evangelize, crystallize and monetize. While the mobile local search session was informative in terms of the latest technology, I found it difficult to apply the insights in day-to-day search engine marketing activities at Anvil. I think this session was most valuable to technology companies looking to buy and build applications for the mobile platform. The rest of us can wait for opportunities to test paid ad models and understand how to optimize for organic mobile local search results.
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