Mobile has become an automatic, subconscious extension of our digital lives, and technologies that leverage the versatility of smartphones are maturing rapidly. But the apps vs. web debate continues to rage. And where does search, which has existed since the early days of the internet, fit into the picture?
A Street Fight Summit panel featuring Chris Cunningham (head of mobile and global brand partnerships, ironSource), Naomi Makofsky (strategic product partnerships, Google), and Peter Curzon (director of business development, Yelp) shed light on developments in mobile search within apps and on the web. “Search and discovery are a huge challenge because there’s so much content being generated day in and day out,” Curzon said. “We’re interested in indexing and deep linking — bringing more content into the discoverability of a consumer’s device.” He referenced a new imaged-based search project Yelp is working on to “extract meaning and content from [users’] photos.”
Makofsky represents a company that has long been synonymous with search and is now focused on “elevating the mobile experience.” Much of her insight was focused on apps and indexing the content within them, a key Google initiative. However, she also highlighted the continued importance of the more traditional model for search.
Moderator David Card, Street Fight’s director of research, questioned the panel whether it is worthwhile for SMBs to invest in an app, especially when a small number of companies dominate the app landscape (and users are picky about the apps in which they spend the majority of their time). The consensus seemed to be that for SMBs, the mobile web should still be the priority. “We talk about apps because they’re a newer part of the mobile ecosystem,” Makofsky said, “but we can’t forget about the mobile web. It’s still a fantastic opportunity for local businesses to get discovered.”
Cunningham’s advertising background led him to direct the conversation toward behavior, specifically, how people are changing their behavior on mobile to find what they’re looking for. “At the end of the day, marketers need to understand how [people] are using mobile differently,” Cunningham observed. “What’s the behavioral shift? Is the definition of search changing? Does proximity have the same intent on mobile as it does on the web?”
When it comes to the basic need to be found online, brands and businesses distracted by the web vs. apps debate may be reassured by the fact that companies like Google, Yelp, and ironSource are working to translate desktop capabilities to mobile and bring the best elements of search to both apps and the mobile web.