Pinpointing mobile search

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More than ever, consumers turn to smartphones to find information on products and services
More than ever, consumers turn to smartphones to find information on products and services

“Mobile search can be so much more time-specific or need-sensitive than a desktop search,” says Catherine Schenquerman, digital advertising manager at JetBlue. “Mobile is a highly timely and sensitive touchpoint for conducting queries and searches, and we think the opportunity lies in being accessible and relevant through mobile channels.”

Schenquerman points out that customers frequently compare product prices on their mobile devices — a tendency that affects the airline industry as well — and JetBlue has taken steps to capture the search results from these consumers.

In addition to offering apps and a mobile-enabled site, JetBlue uses paid search and mobile display advertising to drive traffic to its mobile properties. While the airline's mobile strategy is thorough, Schenquerman acknowledges an element of experimentation.

“We intend to test our way through our ideal mobile mix,” she says. “Having a presence in mobile is important to us because we know our consumers utilize this technology to interact with our brand.”

Paul Sacco, director of product management at Southwest Airlines, agrees that the immediacy of mobile makes it an attractive offering for an airline, and expects to see geolocation become an increasingly important tool for marketers using mobile search.

“If we knew someone was at an airport versus around town or home, we might be more inclined to send a message that's more targeted to experience, for example something about the loyalty program or a business-select product or some product we'd want them to know about as they were traveling,” Sacco says. “That's where a lot of work is going on, so that's exciting — that's probably the next big step.”

Sacco emphasizes that mobile is more “task oriented,” with users looking for specific, time-sensitive information rather than casually surfing as they would on a laptop or even a tablet.

With this in mind, Southwest has worked to tailor its messaging to be most appropriate to these different kinds of interactions, with more simple and practical links connected to mobile search. On desktop search, these links might emphasize more experiential marketing messages to consumers.

Keeping it simple

When Gifts.com launched its mobile site in 2010, the company's marketing team distilled the site to its most essential features. After the launch, mobile conversions increased 75%.

“To put our desktop site on a phone would be … too cluttered and hard to use,” says David McPherson, CMO at Gifts.com. “Mobile drops you right to gift items, so you can easily scroll through and see larger pictures without having to use fingers to increase or decrease screen,” McPherson says.

Products meant for specific occasions, like Father's Day or Mother's Day, McPherson adds, are simply easier to target with keywords, making them more efficient for mobile users to locate quickly.

While Gifts.com has made significant investment in search recently, McPherson acknowledges that the company lags behind desktop SEM. Desktop search yields higher conversion rates; bounce rates remain higher in mobile, he says.

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