Why the Search Battles are Just Starting

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on June 16, 2009

It’s funny how we sometimes stop thinking about a marketplace.  It’s easy to say “Google won” and move on.  But, recently, I had an opportunity to look closely at Bing and more importantly, think about search for a few days.  It made me realize how much change is ahead for the search industry.

Here’s why the search battles are really just beginning.

#1 – We are not really satisfied today – only 1 in 4 searches leads to a successful search, yet most of us feel we are “satisfied” when asked.  Why?  Because we don’t know any better.  We were satisfied with black and white TV before color.  We thought AOL was the killer community before Facebook.  The reality is that it makes little sense for us to go to a destination site (today’s search engine) and start from scratch each time we have a question.

In the future, search will come to us and will become fully integrated in our online communities.  It will actually be a more subtle, secondary consideration, since it will be part of all we do, not a site we HAVE to visit to get started.

#2 – Power browsing will emerge – I don’t  want to do more work than I have to when searching.  If I put in “laptop”, I want my experience to include knowledge of my past search habits and immediately help me power browse by locating the right reviews for me.  I want my search experience to improve with each query and continue to build when I come back tomorrow.  I want search to know me.

In the future, power browsing will become more like a friendly partner to help me shop.

#3 – My peers will be my real peers when I make a decision – today, we say that 3 out of 4 people look to their peers when making a decision online.  This is true, but are they really my peers?  What if I could see only what my friends think about a product rather than the entire world?  My peeps are my real peers.

In the future, my personal network will guide me in how I make decisions.

#4 – E-Commerce will become “kayaked” – it will be far easier to shop online because what we see in the travel industry with kayak.com and bing and others will become mainstream for any product sold online.  I want farecaster for any product I buy that has pricing sensitivity, not just hotels or airfares.  Why am I told that an airfare will decrease over the next 7 days, but not a refrigerator or a car?

In the future, we will have an e-commerce radar screen that tells us when to buy.   Everything I’m interested in will be on that radar screen.  I won’t have to search individually each and every time.

#5 – Customer service will be handled online first — Bing did an amazing thing.  They have added customer service numbers on the first screen when you search.  Literally a “bingo”.  How obvious has that been?  My guess is less than 10% of an average company’s customers call them each year.  Most search or talk to friends when they have a problem.  Now, all of your options are in front of you.

In the future, a great customer experience will be defined by who you reach via search and the online experience.

#6 – Perspective will improve the power of ratings and reviews – what if I could see which attributes of a product matter the most and why? I don’t care about every comment and every review. I want to know what attribute matters the most when I buy a TV. Tell me, please.

In the future, you’ll know what matters, it’s score and what your friends think, all at once.

#7 – Small business will lead local search innovation — local search has grown 41% from March, 08 to March, 09 (Comscore).  Small businesses will figure out how this can help their customers.   Just relax and let entrepreneurs redefine how this works.  Trust me, they will do it well.

In the future, a great search experience will be increasingly local.

#8 – The brand experience will come to your doorstep – smart motion thumbnails are cool to browse over, but we really need to be able to search for a topic and see photos, videos, audio, slides and more, all in one place.   I want everything a brand has to offer to me available when I want it.  I don’t have time to search for photos, videos, data, reviews and more individually.

In the future, one search will lead to all a brand can offer at our fingertips.

#9 – Decision-making support will improveWolfram Alpha may have something for us to learn from.  When approximately two-thirds of people are using search more frequently to make decisions, then we know users need help.

In the future, complex task and decision making will be easier via search.

The list could go on, but the point is made.  We’re really just getting started when it comes to search.

Tomorrow’s leader will show us the way.

All the best,

Bob Pearson

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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3 Responses

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  1. Tim said

    I like this post. It raises some good questions and reminds us that this technology is still fairly new. My issue lies with #s 2 and 6. Essentially you’re saying you want the search engine to be smarter, to learn from your experience and outside world. While on paper that sounds great and for simple searches is fine, I’ve never come across technology that knows me like me. I don’t want a search engine thinking all I care about when I’m looking for a tv is screen size because last time I bought a huge tv and my good friend just bought a huge tv. Maybe this time I’m looking for a smaller tv for a different room. But the search engine wouldn’t know that – it only can operate based on past data, not future. And I think we can all agree that past performance is no guarantee of future performance.
    So while I agree with the spirit of those points, I hesitate to demand my search engine be that much smarter. Instead I want it to deliver the most up to date, credible sources of information.

  2. Tim, you raise an excellent point. I have to say I agree with you, since I also don’t like annoying reminders of what I might like based on what I did in the past. What I’m hoping for is more along the lines of real-time contextual search. In other words, if I’m writing about a 50″ LCD TV from Sony, I see related reviews on the side of my screen and I can decide to pursue them or close it out. Something like that geared to what I’m truly searching for. On #6, my point on ratings and reviews is that if I’m buying a TV, how do I know which attribute is truly most important vs. other TV’s? I’d like to have that be more clear either via vs. what people most often search for or what people have simply voted on, which would not be search-related. Thanks for comments. All the best, Bob

  3. Tom Schable said

    Great insight on many levels, and it excited my “inner kid”! The potential, evolution, process, and trials…“In the future, you’ll know what matters, its score, and what your friends think all at once.” I look forward to this. I’m pleased that Google won for the moment and I still look for their next tool, almost expecting that it will arrive there in the pages soon, and find myself wondering more often ‘ok so what’s next’?!. Or what’s the next iteration of the “Fan of” feature on Facebook? The lag from online innovation to actualization can be frustrating. I anxiously await farecaster for my potential new TV, and I also want to know if said TV is teetering on being obsolete- because peace of mind is important.
    One of my more eccentric professors extolled the “importance of reliability and validity. If you learn anything from this class remember reliability and validity.” I look forward to reliability and validity in my online experience.
    Thanks for this–and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts. I’ll go look more closely at Bing, too.

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