August 14, 2015

New Consumer Behavior Continues to Drive Google’s Development

An office worker holds his mobile phone over open laptop, ready to work.
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By Joseph A.
Recently, Google Product Managers discussed the company’s view of how information retrieval has changed with the rise of smartphone usage.

They call it “micro-moments,” the idea being that, as smartphone use continues to shoot up, consumers increasingly interact with their phones across search, social media, and email, as opposed to prolonged periods of time in front of a desktop.

This belief represents a shift from the traditional “sit, browse, and do” desktop mentality  of the early internet days, where discovery, research, and action were typically performed in a single sitting while connected to an internet device.

According to Google, more searches are done on mobile than on desktop in many countries nowadays, including the United States, Japan[m1]  and United Kingdom.

Google’s micro-moment perspective suggests that discovery and research are happening much quicker now  thanks to mobile devices, while action often takes place later on a larger screen such as a laptop or tablet device.

What it Means for Google

While Google is smart to adjust into this fast-paced new strategy, the shift to short moments on mobile has many potential implications for Google and their future business structure.
It is much harder to sell ads for mobile search given the reduced space available on a smaller screen and users’ low tolerance for them. 

Also, while Google understandably emphasizes mobile search in their micro-moments tools, a core  aspect of mobile moments is that  they happen  across various channels. For example,  you follow Nike’s Facebook page to find out when their new shoes are being debuted. You get a Twitter notification that the restaurant you were waiting on to finally open is now taking reservations. On mobile, Google does not retain the discovery domination it had previously enjoyed on the desktop.

Google’s Immediate Future

More than three billion searches[m2]  take place globally every single day, and that number will continue to grow. Search is still the most useful way to obtain information, and it will likely not be replaced in the near future.

Nevertheless, if you’re sitting at the head of the executive table at Google, the trend of consumer discovery diversifying across mobile channels is certainly an attention-grabber.

Some at the table will surely argue that search is complementary to these channels — you see a friend’s new pair of shoes,  ask about it, and then look up the brand on Google. While this may be true to some degree, it’s becoming easier  for consumers to remove the middle man—meaning a search engine like Google—and go straight to the source.

Google’s Thought Process

Clues about Google’s long-term thinking on these issues may lie in some of the most recent search engine updates. Search Engine Land recently reported that Google is testing new ads that allow users to book a home service professional from their search results.

In addition,  only a few weeks ago they announced “Purchases on Google,” a new feature that allows consumers to buy products directly from mobile search ads.  This move was made likely to compete with the likes of Amazon.

A snippet of three smartphones featuring the Purchases on Google feature.

They’ve also experimented with booking travel directly from their search results, which has the potential to blossom into a big business.

Could Google’s shift to mobile mean they’re set to become the world’s biggest affiliate marketer? It’s possible, and they’ll certainly have to keep dealing with the ongoing changes of consumer discovery strategies. 

Even with all of the exciting things happening on mobile, we are still in the early days of what’s to come. The more time goes on, the more concerned Google should be that discovery veers away from search and towards mobile.

The fact is, as dominant as they have been in their main search domain, they face an uphill battle in moving away from it. It’s not clear if what they have experimented with thus far will be enough as mobile continues to evolve as a platform and consumer behavior continues to shift.

What do you think about Google being the underdog in this case? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

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