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Understanding Mobile Discovery

Search and discovery market grows as users demand a more personalized mobile experience

Mobile Discovery – the User Experience
Search and discovery is changing very rapidly and it seems that it is the user who is taking charge. Users are demanding greater access to handset features, more gigabytes of music and videos, and are leaving operator portals behind in favor of discovering exactly what they want on the mobile Internet. This is despite the traditional walled gardens that operators have deployed in an attempt to encourage users to remain on portal.

Both mobile search and mobile discovery have limitations on the user experience they can deliver. As mobile search vendors grapple with these limitations, the results are new strategies. For example, Medio realized it must go beyond providing a keyword box and deliver a complete device user experience. It announced both a partnership with Surf Kitchen, an ODP (on-device portal), and its own ODP client. Yahoo! released Yahoo! Go 3.0, which also offers a rich, device-resident user experience.

Search and discovery providers seem to be designing their products to address the operators’ need to increase revenues but it is the user who is key. With the introduction of flat-rate data tariffs, users are now heading straight for the wider and fast-developing world of the mobile Internet and with the new behavioral model of users looking for what they want, when they want. Strategic changes need to be made by operators and search providers to reach and engage these users.

Mobile Discovery for Operators – Mobile Advertising, Data Services and ARPU
It is difficult to create a search and discovery technology that pleases both operators and consumers. Operators are hoping search solutions will deliver greater ARPU and increased usage of data services. The key to delivering this in today’s changing climate is simply to ensure users can find the content they want, because keeping the users happy will ultimately deliver revenue. If users can easily find what they are looking for within the walled garden, why should they venture out? If they do wish to venture out to look for something specific, why stop them? A search or discovery provider’s clear objective should be to work closely with the operators to make it easy for their customers to find what they are looking for, regardless of the operators’ net strategy.

On a positive note for operators’ pockets, mobile advertising has stormed the mobile market over the past 12 months and search and discovery is believed to be an integral part of its growth. Exposing “eyeballs” to banners and adverts on the mobile Internet has continued to be a strong focus of mobile search vendors. 

In contrast with the mobile discovery segment, advertising is fully integrated in a way that delivers a balanced user experience. This is combined with functions typically offered by ODPs, which update the ad inventory on the device, and then track, report and segment usage results.

This type of discovery tool enables operators to showcase relevant adverts and content for their subscribers, maximizing their global advertising opportunities and ensuring adverts are not repetitive and are changed depending on the user’s patterns. This creates a richer, simpler mobile web experience for the end user and encourages repeat usage and increased mobile web traffic.

The Future of Mobile Discovery
While mobile discovery has developed in leaps and bounds over the past six months, perhaps more so in Europe than North America due to the influx of 3G networks, it’s still a relatively new, unproven technology.

Awareness among consumers needs to be increased and cost issues addressed by operators by offering users “all-you-can-eat” data tariffs. When these problems have been addressed, it will inevitably lead to more data traffic, in terms of increasing the number of web sessions per user, therefore the users have a better chance of discovering a feature, service, or product of value to them.

Once users are less hesitant about getting online, the revenue attainment focus from mobile discovery needs to change. The focus is shifting away from the consumer being the only source of revenue toward realizing that the discovered service will be a bigger and faster growing part of future revenue. Rather than making money through data charges and click-throughs – adwords and content will provide the future growth in revenue stream.

From a user perspective, mobile discovery will need to become more intelligent about what it shows them. It needs to understand the behavior of the user and adapt accordingly to offer a personalized, rich and compelling user experience.

More Stories By Milos Djokovic

Milos Djokovic is the chief operating officer and chief technology officer for Zi Corporation. He is a proven software industry executive and innovator with a strong history of founding and developing technology companies and formulating the operational strategies necessary to help them grow and mature. Milos holds a bachelor's degree in computer engineering and management science from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

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