As Web Search Goes Mobile, Competitors Chip at Google’s Lead
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
Published: April 3, 2013
Even those companies who invent or totally dominate a category are open to real competition from the desire of the consumer for simplicity and customization. Consumers as well as B to B customers want offerings tailored to their specific needs. In your idea sessions, focus on niches that meet the functional and emotive needs of your target customers and add up to something big enough to be meaningful; don’t just go after the big hit where everything is “vanilla”.
Say you need a latté. You might pull out your phone, open the Yelp app and search for a nearby cafe. If instead you want to buy an espresso machine, you will most likely tap Amazon.com.
Google remains the undisputed king of search, with about two-thirds of the market. But the nature of search is changing, especially as more people search for what they want to buy, eat or learn on their mobile devices. This has put the $22 billion search industry, perhaps the most lucrative and influential of online businesses, at its most significant crossroad since its invention.
No longer do consumers want to search the Web like the index of a book — finding links at which a particular keyword appears. They expect new kinds of customized search, like that on topical sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon, which are chipping away at Google’s hold. Google and its competitors are trying to develop the knowledge and comprehension to answer specific queries, not just point users in the right direction.
“What people want is, ‘You ask a very simple question and you get a very simple answer,’ ” said Oren Etzioni, a professor at the University of Washington who has co-founded companies for shopping and flight search. “We don’t want the 10 blue links on that small screen. We want to know the closest sushi place, make a reservation and be on our way.”
People are overwhelmed at how crowded the Internet has become — Google says there are 30 trillion Web addresses, up from 1 trillion five years ago — and users expect their computers and phones to be smarter and do more for them. Many of the new efforts are services that people do not even think of as search engines….
….On smartphones, people skip Google and go directly to apps, like Kayak or Weather Underground. Other apps send people information, like traffic or flight delays, before they even ask for it.
People use YouTube to search for things like how to tie a bow tie, Siri to search on their iPhones, online maps to find local places and Facebook to find things their friends have liked…..
….“There is a lot of pressure on search engines to deliver more customized, more relevant results,” said Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst at Forrester. “Users don’t need links to Web pages. We need answers, solutions, whatever intel we were searching for.”