One of the data services I subscribe to highlighted a specific trend their survey research uncovered. They called this trend “the slow death of search”. To illustrate, they graphed the following data.
While the Y-axis is capped at 95% rather than 100%, and the bottom at 85% but the point remains. Search is happening less on DT/NBs. Given the global trend away from PCs to mobile devices, I assume that this time next year that chart will show the bottom to keep trending downward. The question was regarding websites visited on a PC. The specific question listed a range of websites — one of them was a search engine. Thus, the resulting graphed data is how many respondents (30,000+ globally) answered that they visit a search engine at least once per month from a PC/laptop. The question asked dated back over many years so the graph shows the answer’s evolution over time. What we see is a clear trend away from desktop search as a frequent monthly task.
Clearly, search is still important. No one will say they never search the web but the interaction model for search has changed and is still changing. The idea of pulling up Google and doing a search is the fundamental engagement model in question. The graphed data likely highlights a shift from desktop/laptop search to devices like mobile and tablets. I have access to similar data sets that highlight a similar question regarding mobile search and more than 65% of respondents said they perform a search of some kind from their mobile device every week. This point shouldn’t be surprising.
Ultimately, when we understand the constructs of search, it is helpful to view it in the lens of decision making. Helping me make a decision looked like a blank text box in the past but in the future, and thanks to mobile devices enabling device and contextual awareness and intelligence, the paradigm is poised to change.
What sits at the crux of this conversation comes back to a shift in interaction models. This could be something like Google Now, or elements of Siri, which create more predictive analytics to bring things to my attention that are relevant before I have to search for them. Smarter beacons, integrated with smarter local hardware, could be another dynamic that helps shift the search interaction model. However it manifests itself, it is clear the search interaction model is changing and evolving and will likely look very different than a blank text box in five years.
As we look out at who is in a good position to capitalize on these it is those both at the platform level, but also those who are gaining data to build a comprehensive anticipation engine. Ultimately I feel it is companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Baidu, Tencent, even perhaps Amazon and Yahoo.