Decoding The Changing Trends Of The Search In A Digital First World

for consumer behaviour and interaction, the data has been the driving force for new-age digital engagement for brands in understanding how consumers were leveraging the modern search avenues to make informed buying decisions, writes Yatnesh Pandey

The ancient phrase, ‘seek and you shall find’ has taken over an entirely new meaning in today’s digital-first world. When the phrase was first coined in ancient times, it pointed towards the need for a seeker to put in effort and work towards what they wanted. Today, however, all one needs is access to a smartphone and all the knowledge of the world becomes accessible merely by asking a question and clicking on the ‘search’ tab!

About a decade ago, ‘search engines’ made ‘instant access’ to information available to anyone with a computer and internet connection. As technology advanced, and a more ‘data first’ approach began taking shape, search engines began pulling up millions of records in a fraction of a minute, thanks to the apt ‘keywords’ being punched in. From long-form questions to voice queries, ‘searching’ in the virtual world has come a long way. It started with the dominance of search engines but is now a part of social media, e-commerce, as well as connected devices using IoT!

Here is a brief account of the transition and how this has shaped modern information consumption and consumer behaviour patterns over the years:

What are you looking for?

What started with curious questions ranging from ‘Where is Alaska’ or ‘What is the weather forecast for tomorrow’, has now become a dependable, almost inseparable part of a digitally connected world. And everyone, from school students to senior citizens taking on the internet to stay connected with children or to learn a new hobby, is ‘searching’ and ‘finding’ everything on the World Wide Web! And it has gone way beyond just words!

· Long tail keywords – Search with exact specifications to ensure accurate results. For eg., traditional Italian pasta recipes by grandma in English can be further refined under the videos tab with language preferences so the Italian audio is translated. The same can also be looked at under a web page for written content.

· Geo-local and hyperlocal searches – Search limited to specific geographical locations, including countries, cities, towns, and even neighbourhoods. For eg. Searching for a guitar shop near me via their current location using the search engine.

· Search using Pictures – This is one of the fastest and easiest ways that searches have been developed, especially in the case of people and places. The special ‘visual search’ tab allows anyone to select a picture and search similar ones across the web to pull out the best results. For eg. Searching homestays in the mountains with postcard-perfect views and finding out more about it in the search context.

· Voice search – With the advent of emerging tech like Generative AI and virtual assistance, voice is growing as a search medium, allowing people to just ‘speak’ to the internet and have answers! This is especially true with not only traditional search engines and social media but also true for content searches on IoT and connected devices, making the world a finely intertwined network of real and virtual!

Who is watching?

One of the biggest driving forces for information overload and easier and prompt searches has been the Big Data revolution and the invention of the Cloud for data storage and access, which has completely blurred the boundaries of time, geography, and even language. In terms of consumer behaviour and interaction, this data has been the driving force for new-age digital engagement for brands, especially in understanding how consumers were leveraging the modern search avenues to make informed buying decisions. Social media and other brand engagement platforms also went into overdrive, tracking, collecting information, understanding, and mirroring consumer preferences, thereby driving sales.

However, while the above has been favourable in a lot of ways, it has also brought up questions about Data privacy and making the web a safer place for those who choose not to share or are unaware and vulnerable to the implications of data mining and other frauds. As a result, the new data prevention and cookie-less policies are once again disrupting the way information is gathered, stored, shared, and accessed across the world wide web! These are also, in turn, raising new

challenges to the digital advertising and branding ecosystem, prohibiting access to consumer behaviour patterns and user-level measurement of digital advertising effects.

Under such circumstances, Content and Not only a Data-driven approach needs to be taken. Here are the key areas where marketers need to focus now.

- Putting efforts into organic and genuine consumer engagement is now only through relevant content. Building a good content base on Functional knowledge of the product/ service, in comparison with similar products, is going to be more important than ever to create an environment for proactive choice-based purchase decisions.

- Regularly updating and publishing brand and product information including the latest product images is also vital to ensure accurate information is available to consumers.

- Prompt communication and engagement with customers, including post-sale customer service, to drive customer delight, will shape how consumers feel seen and appreciated by a brand.

- Paying important attention to product and brand reviews, in the form of maintaining an Online reputation, is also vital, and lastly,

- Building a credible and relevant social persona of the brand in terms of responsibility towards society and environment, commitment to diversity, etc., is also important when it comes to engaging with Gen-Z and millennial consumers.

In line with the above, as the access to data for observing user behaviour across websites and apps decreases, digital and social media marketers who depended on search advertisement targeting, now need to experiment with on-site outcomes and also content marketing. Engaging with these major themes when it comes to information sharing and consumer engagement across platforms, brands can create favourable profiles for consumers to make informed buying choices.

(Yatnesh Pandey is the Vice President in Marketing at GreenPly Industries Ltd.)

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