When the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change,” he might as well have been talking about the ever-evolving world of search.
Trends like new user interaction (NUI) scenarios, the ongoing maturation of the Internet of Things (IoT), the growing role of automation, as well as the increasing sophistication of predictive analytics and cognitive computing, are all impacting both the way search works and the way end-users interact with it.
And all of the above advancements are creating a ripple effect on the digital marketing tools that brands should use to engage consumers online.
As search evolves, marketers have a significant opportunity to reevaluate the approaches they use to connect with online audiences and differentiate themselves from their competition.
Below are four key trends redefining search in 2015 and changing the way marketers design and execute digital marketing campaigns.
1. Automated Anticipation Of Consumer Needs
Search as an intelligent fabric connecting first- and third-party devices and services can unlock new consumer value. Digital personal assistants like Siri and Cortana are putting artificial intelligence (AI) into the pockets of consumers, and automation is increasingly prevalent both at home and in the workplace.
These developments are leading to a shift in the way we use personal technologies, where interactions are proactively initiated by the anticipation of our needs, rather than reactively as a result of user-generated commands.
Search engines, such as Bing, play a pivotal role in this process, taking raw data inputs across modalities and providing the intelligence required to decipher the true consumer intent behind each individual request.
Using this data, search engines will generate personalized, contextual experiences for the user. As search evolves to become more than just typing a query into a search box, the success of campaigns will depend entirely on advertisers’ ability to deliver true contextual value to the digital consumer.
New strategies will need to provide seamless integration with new AI-enabled consumer experiences.
2. Cutting Through Information Overload
The amount of data readily available to consumers has expanded beyond anything we might have imagined even a few short years ago.
In the early days of the internet, this was considered a good thing, and led to search engines becoming one of the web’s first innovations. Yet, as the amount of online data continues to grow exponentially, it’s clear that more is becoming less — consumers are paralyzed by information overload.
And while search engines have the ability to connect users with the information they need, much of the time users are also overwhelmed by the many choices in front of them.
This paralysis leads to indecision — either consumers pick something randomly, or they click on the first result they see. Most will not spend time sifting through results to determine whether they’re selecting the most appropriate option.
In 2015 and beyond, search must evolve and make good on its responsibility to help users make informed decisions, not just provide results. While traditional search engines are good at providing content, they’re less reliable when it comes to understanding the complex and unique relationships between users and the digital and physical world.
By pulling in more sources, search engines can get users to the right place — not just the easiest place — in the least amount of time.
3. The Mobile Search Shift
Data show a clear shift in the devices used today for online searches. According to the latest figures from eMarketer, the number of U.S. internet searches made via mobile devices will surpass those originating from PCs for the first time this year.
Due to my unique job, I can confirm that across Bing Ads mobile searches — as a percentage of overall queries — have more than doubled year-on-year and are on a trajectory to reach 50 percent of total searches.
For marketers, this means that successful search advertising strategies must increasingly take into account the differences in behavior seen in mobile users versus those using a desktop or laptop.
For instance, the location of a user, combined with their speed (are they traveling by foot, car or train?) and direction can be used as signals in delivering the best result with the highest potential relevancy.
This user context becomes an incredibly powerful predictor of the user’s true search intent – allowing smart marketers to have far greater control over how content is interpreted by audiences.
As search ad platforms evolve to provide more sophisticated targeting capabilities, brands will need to continue to find ways of building mobile insights into all of their marketing initiatives and engaging users across all screens if they are to remain effective – all while carefully protecting user privacy.
4. Ad Platforms Get Smarter
As the search ecosystem continues to become more complex and dynamic, search ad platforms continue to evolve toward simplification for the advertiser. Search providers understand that with complexity comes inefficiency and confusion, creating barriers to adoption.
As a result, these providers are making big investments to simplify and automate the campaign process – but to do this effectively, they need more than just good UI; they need demand.
In order for search ad marketplaces to be efficient, search providers need demand density in the marketplace – the more density, the smarter the system is able to become quickly. This intelligence can be utilized to build more robust forecasting tools, automate campaign optimization, deliver better ad matching and, ultimately, allow the machine to do more of the heavy lifting for the advertiser.
Those platforms managing the largest amounts of demand today are best positioned to lead the way in scaled automation that not only outperforms competition but does so through an experience allowing advertisers at scale to participate. In a not too distant future, advertisers will be able to simply set their goal and budget, and the platform does the rest – allowing the advertisers to focus on running the business, not driving complex, demand generation.
To get there is an iterative process, and ad platforms must gain the trust of advertisers – they want to feel secure that the platform is working in their best interest and not in the best interest of the publisher. Ultimately, an efficient marketplace with low barriers to entry creates an environment that can be beneficial to both advertisers and publishers.