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The Emerging Mobile Search Market

Survival of the fastest and the fittest

With wireless carriers like Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Cingular now vying for each other's business in a highly competitive market, while consumers play wireless carriers off one another to get the best rate plans and features, survival in the wireless world requires wireless carriers to continually improve the quality and service of their voice offerings, while looking at mobile data services to differentiate their brand, win new customers, retain existing ones, and drive new revenue.

Many carriers have succeeded in recognizing new revenue by selling mobile data subscription services and mobile products, such as ring tones, images and games. A typical subscription service may contain news, weather and sports along with the above commerce items. This is a great situation for content providers - they'll increase their revenue with every wireless carrier partner as content providers will continue to partner with as many carriers as possible. However, the content will no longer be a big differentiator and smart carriers see this coming, so they are looking for other tools to improve the user experience, create brand recognition and maximize the revenue opportunity from every interaction. Mobile search is just such a tool.

Mobile search is the vehicle by which consumers navigate and search for content - such as Web sites, ring tones, and images - on their mobile phones, and is the most profitable way for wireless carriers to bolster the user experience and optimize their investment in other mobile data content and services.

Here are the top five parameters in a mobile search solution:

1.  Personalization Engine
A good mobile search solution intelligently creates a user profile based on explicit information delivered by the user, such as address and sex, as well as implicit information gathered from analyzing query history and patterns. Taking into consideration the importance of privacy and security components, a user profile can be used to tailor search results accordingly - in effect delivering a custom search experience for each user.

At the simplest level, a personal profile ensures the user is only delivered content relevant to the handset he or she uses. From there, the use of a personal profile will further refine the search results to take into consideration the interest, location, time of day and past purchase behavior when providing the most relevant results possible. By delivering highly personalized results, consumers are more likely to find what they want, which translates into a higher volume of ring tone purchases, image downloads, traffic and customer satisfaction.

Consider this example: Jenny Smith is searching for a new ring tone. Jenny's wireless carrier knows that she is a female college student who often purchases pop music ring tones. In addition, the carrier knows that last month, Jenny downloaded the newest Britney Spears image on her phone. With this valuable information and a good mobile search solution, Jenny's carrier is able to respond to her ring tone search with a list of the most popular music ring tones, including some Britney Spears songs. Now let's say Jenny purchases a Britney ring tone. One month later, Jenny does another Britney search. This time, Jenny's carrier will again return the most popular music ring tones, with the exception of any Britney Spears ring tone she already has. Considering the limited space available on mobile phone screens, the delivery of highly relevant search results should be a priority for all carriers.

Carriers should look for a mobile search solution with a personalization engine that analyzes the preferences and historical activity of each customer, and refines search results accordingly.

More Stories By Ali Riaz

Ali I. Riaz is Chief Operating Officer of Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), a leading developer of enterprise search and real-time alerting technologies.

More Stories By Michael P. Brady

Michael P. Brady is Senior Director, Mobile Solutions of Fast Search & Transfer (FAST)

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