This is the new age of exploration. Knowledge is power and context is critical. As the times change, the high street will need to be the first to respond, by providing searchers with precise, correct, and consistent information – everywhere.
Consumers want complete and accurate information in the moment. According to Google, 76% of consumers who use their smartphones to perform a near-me search will visit a related business within 24 hours, and 28% convert into a purchase. Location search is the way forward for businesses of every size. Having correct and consistent location data online is more important than ever. As consumers discover businesses in new ways, leveraging location search is key for businesses to compete in today’s digital world.
Here’s a look at how this shift will influence the way consumers interact with technology and the high street in the year ahead. And how businesses can ensure they are not left behind.
Search is getting smarter
In the last year, Google made significant changes to search results in favor of mobile and local. It clarified that its algorithm prioritises local results primarily by relevance, distance, and prominence. Reviews, which have always affected consumer choice, now impact organic results, too.
Search is no longer governed by ten blue links on a page. Instead, we now expect intelligent and specific answers to our queries. Today’s search engines and digital personal assistants understand what users are looking for and answer those questions directly. These intelligent services interpret context, and are able to distinguish between the varieties of intent surrounding searches that ask who, what – and most frequently – where.
Technology is livening up location
Last year, intelligent location searches increased 146%. Today, 50% of all mobile searches return map results automatically. These results mark a critical shift in the way search engines – and by extension, consumers – interact with business information.
The line between online and offline continues to blur. With Snapchat geofilters and Pokemon Go, consumers have demonstrated that they are open to, and excited by, the idea of interacting with physical locations in new ways. And as e-commerce becomes increasingly integrated into the physical shopping experience, it’s clear that technology is opening up new opportunities for businesses to engage with consumers in person.
Voice search will make organic search more competitive
Digital personal assistants like Siri, Cortana, Amazon Echo, and Google Assistant are fundamentally changing the way consumers engage with search technology. People tend to phrase their queries differently when using vocal search (asking full questions, as opposed to performing keyword searches), offering much more context around their intent.
When searchers perform a vocal search, they only receive one answer in response – which means it’s no longer good enough to rank second. This will make the search landscape more competitive than ever (and increase the necessity of maintaining correct and consistent location data).
Artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles
Machine learning is going to have a profound impact on consumers, and on businesses of every size. The most anticipated form of artificial intelligence, of course, is the autonomous vehicle.
Uber, Tesla, and Google are racing to the self-driving finish line, and soon people will rely on their cars to take them from one place to the next (cars really are the ultimate mobile device). They will trust that their car knows where they are going. Without the human element on the consumer side of navigation, accurate location information will be as integral to self-driving cars as fuel.
The way consumers interact with businesses may be changing, but the high street will thrive. To successfully make the transition, businesses will have to centralise their location data, structure data appropriately, and leverage emerging technologies to engage with customers in new and unprecedented ways.
Jon Buss, Managing Director, Yext
Tel: +44 (0)203 808 3831