Humanising Search

Flossie Draper, Senior Programmes Executive at the IAB UK introduces us to IAB Search Week 2016.

Flossie Draper

As the IAB looks forward to its 2016 search conference this Thursday, ‘Humanising Search’, we are reminded just how embedded and instinctive a part of human behaviour search has become in, effectively, just two short decades (quite a feat when one considers that, invented in 1876, the telephone was still considered a luxury in the home even halfway into the 20th century).

Of course, search has always been the biggest indicator of human intent, and it’s no surprise then that according to IAB / PwC 2015 Full Year Adspend figures, search still dominates: advertisers spent £4.3bn on paid search programmes during 2015, accounting for 51% of total digital adspend. In fact, taken in isolation, search would even be worthy of a medium in its own right, representing 24% of total UK 2015 adspend across all media according to WARC figures, second only to TV (25%). 

But with the rise of our ever-present, beloved smartphones (more than half of searches are now on mobile ), and the ‘intelligence’ of machines, we are moving beyond a simple keyword, text-in-results-out medium, and beyond targeting based on demographics alone, to a world where enriched context and data points hand us the closest indicator of a person’s wishes and desires in precisely the moments and places at which they strike. And with advances in natural language and data processing, today’s machines can both better understand the queries themselves and add further layers of context to return results tailored to the individual and not just a one-time search query.

And this is important – in our Mobile Ads Unite research, from June this year, 67% of respondents favoured ads that bore relevance for them. Brands now need to be appearing not only to the right person at the right time, but in the right place, on the right device, and with the right message.

And when we talk about a move away from simple keywords, we’re not just talking about written text either: in this shift towards moulding to real human behaviour, machines themselves are on their way to becoming more human too. We’re already seeing a surge in voice and audio search: the next evolution of search will be to be able to process and index images as we currently process text, and who knows, perhaps smells and textures too. 

In the run up to our Thursday conference then, IAB members have been reflecting on these emerging trends in search, on the value they bring to the user and the vast new opportunities they offer to the advertiser. 

And so, each day of this week, what we at the IAB are calling “Search Week”, we will be bringing you a different perspective from across the industry – from a brand, Domino’s Pizza Group, an agency, Mediavest and two search engines, Google and Bing. They all have their own unique insights on this shifting landscape, but one message they all have in common: search marketing is evolving and the understanding of real human behaviour growing; the prize for advertisers will, in turn, be the forging of much more human relationships with their customers. And most relevant is most favoured.

We can look forward to fresh insights and data from Google on understanding audience signals, the latest from Microsoft on their fascinating ventures into image search, and a round-up guide to all the key emerging trends (from keyword-less targeting to attribution modelling and automation) from agency Mediavest.

But our first piece, today, stresses again how important it is for brands to be there at those vital human moments; Domino’s Pizza Group goes so far as to suggest that we should totally rethink the way we view search, not as an activity that customers should have to pursue proactively, but one where brands and advertisers anticipate our needs in advance. ‘Human behaviour favours the path of least resistance,’ they tell us, and so any brand wanting to respond to this most human of calls for convenience should be moving to a more proactive strategy rather than a responsive one.

Happy Search Week everyone!

The full Search 2016 : Emerging Trends report, featuring all the pieces publihsed during the week will be available at our search conference and online on Thursday 11 August. 

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