The Search for a Superstar

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American Idol: Article

The Emerging Mobile Search Market

Survival of the fastest and the fittest

2.  Flexibility
To stay competitive, and meet consumers' growing demand for new material, carriers need to be able to change and update their content frequently. Today's search focus on ring tones, images, and games will grow to include full length audio, video, blogging, directory assistance, and location-based services. The search solution needs to have the flexibility to support the different business models being employed. For example, a user searching on movies should get theater information, movie times, ticket availability, and the opportunity to purchase as a first priority. A good search result will also provide access to movie reviews, driving directions, a mapping service or nearby restaurants. Last, this is a perfect time to introduce any ring tones, images or games related to the movie, or as an alternative an SMS can be sent with the this information after the movie concludes.

This requires a search engine with the flexibility to index content from a variety of sources and deliver it to meet a content need, a local search need, or a commerce need.

3.  Real-Time Alerting
Consumers are increasingly relying on their mobile phones as a primary source of information. To accommodate this, carriers need a mobile search solution that enables real-time alerting. Consumers are programming their mobile phones to provide alerts for information such as changes in sports scores, or when a given stock goes above a certain price. Carriers need a search solution that can monitor for changes in their content index and automatically send alerts. In addition, real-time alerting capabilities are a great way to increase customer retention - the more customized alerts a customer has programmed into his phone, the less likely he is to switch providers and re-program all of his customized alerts.

The future of alerting has yet to be defined, but analysts predict that it will grow rapidly in the coming months. It's important that carriers select a scalable mobile search solution that can accommodate this anticipated growth. In the future, consumers will opt-in to receive alerts when traffic congestion is bad, a movie theater releases a new movie, or if a neighborhood restaurant is offering drink specials for the next few hours. To this end, carriers should select a mobile search solution that can support advanced capabilities such as location-based services, personalization, mCommerce, and multimedia search. In summary, carriers need to procure a search solution today that will meet consumers' demands in the future.

4.  Blended Content
Today, mobile content is delivered in silos. Subscribers click on separate categories such as "Images," "Ring tones," or "Web" to find what they're looking for. Instead, carriers should look for a search solution that blends content from multiple sources, including the Web, while giving carriers the controls to prioritize their own content to meet the business models they have established. Breaking down the silos of information and providing users with a holistic view of all the content available to them will not only improve usability for the people looking for content, but also decrease the pressure on business managers to create a navigation scheme to fit the diverse interests of their entire user population.

For example, if a subscriber searches for "American Idol," some search solutions only return Web links, but a good search solution will include the carrier's own branded content in the search results. So a subscriber would see a list of the carrier's own American Idol ring tones and images, along with links to related Web sites. Carriers can even "boost" particular results to prioritize their own content first, which will ultimately increase sales. Carriers need a mobile search solution that lets them control the user experience at this granular level.

5.  Similar Goals/Objectives
With powerful search providers like Google and Yahoo! moving to the mobile phone, carriers can simply add the Web search functionality to their offerings. Subscribers will click on "Google" and then conduct a search for Web content. Similar to the experience on the fixed line Internet, users becoming accustomed to the Google experience are likely to bypass the carrier's portal altogether and go directly to Google.

With other mobile search offerings, such as Fast Search & Transfer's mSearch, carriers can brand the search functions as their own. In this case, subscribers will type in a search term and results will be personalized to the user's interest, prioritized based on the business rules of the carrier. This is best for carriers who want to promote and differentiate their own brand. In the future, search solutions like FAST mSearch will also enable carriers to recognize a greater percentage of revenue from emerging mobile commerce and advertising business models.

Search is critical for improving the mobile data experience and carriers are recognizing the importance of search as the glue between all content and users. In the coming months, carriers will look to enhance the way they deliver content and will recognize the power of search to optimize the user experience, while boosting revenue and brand identity.

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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