How Search Is Coming To Mobile Apps

Most of our digital day is spent on mobile. More than desktop browsing, and nearly as much as watching TV. And when we are on our mobile devices, apps are where users spend most of their time and live their digital lives.

Today, if you search for ‘napa’ on your iPhone, you’ll get lots of blue Google search results (as on the left in the image below).  Essentially this is information that Google has indexed. Apple’s imminent release of iOS is about to completely re-write this search model. Instead or Google links, the user will see content from mobile apps, form an index created by Apple (as on the right). It’s a very big deal for marketers.

 

Search Transformed

All this is achieved through a powerful set of new Search APIs that Apple introduced at WWDC last week last week. Essentially these Search APIs let the developer tell iOS about the all the content that resides in the app, and how to access it. When the user makes a search, either from Safari or Spotlight, app results are presented. Deep-links take the user directly to the content inside the app. Google has been bypassed completely.

Continuing with the Napa example below. The Airbnb app shown below has been configured to tell iOS9 device about its content, keywords and deep-links to that content. iOS9 then indexes this content for any subsequent search by the user. The user has previously booked a stay in Napa through Airbnb - so all this content is available to the device search index. 

A subsequent search for napa using iOS9 will now return the users Airbnb reservation, as well as all communications with the host. With just a tap the user is deep-linked to their reservation page.  With another they call their host. It delivers a much more relevant search experience, and all through the app.

App Discovery

Apple’s second search API boosts app and content discovery. Developers can tag app content as public and make it available to Apples new Cloud Index. So even if an app is not installed on the users device, search results for that app content will appear in their search.  For example, if a user searches ‘Northern Nights’ (a music festival), iOS9 will present the EventBrite booking page for the festival. 

Apple rank the top results based on what that other users found most useful. There is no paid search marketing to climb to the top of the results page.

Given mobile’s importance, and iOS’s dominance, this change has profound implications the marketer, putting their app front and center of their customer engagement strategy.

It also cements the growing dominance of the app in terms of the mobile user experience. As search opens up app discovery in new ways, it will be ever more important to deliver outstanding experience and apps that audiences love – these being the ways in which, ultimately, app searches of these types will be ranked