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Was 2009 the year the Borg arrived? And were they your customers?

At some point in the future – maybe next year, maybe 5 years from now – I believe we’re going to all look back and say “2009 was the year the mobile web really came to life.” Seriously. And, by life, I mean almost in a borg-like way.

With more than 115 million 3G subscribers in North America (over half a billion worldwide), 57 million iPhone/iPod touch users worldwide and over 50% of those iPhone users accessing web search (52%) or social networking (58%!) every month, the mobile web is here (all numbers from Morgan Stanley’s outstanding Mobile Internet Report 2009). Admittedly, this isn’t the first time I’ve said this, but, the numbers bear me out.

Oh. And it’s still got plenty of room to grow.

When you add in extraordinary developments like Google Goggles Visual Search, which uses images taken with Android phone cameras as the search query, we’re about to see some major changes in customer behavior.

Just listen to the Google Goggles use cases that Blogoscoped reports on:

“Some supported use cases for this, according to Google, are:

  • Snapping a pic of a landmark, like the Golden Gate Bridge, and then seeing the web results for that query “Golden Gate Bridge” (like a pointer to Wikipedia’s entry on the subject)
  • Photographing the cover of a book to then preview the book at Google Books, look for its prices at Google Product Search, or check the web results for this title (e.g. its Amazon page)
  • Taking a photo of the name and address printed on a business card, to then find the contact details broken into their structural parts like email, phone number and so on, ready to be added to your address book
  • Taking a photo of an artwork to find out the name of its painter
  • Dynamically getting location places when you point the camera towards restaurants, cafes and bars on a street
  • Taking a picture of a wine label get more info about the wine
  • Taking a picture of a logo to find out more about the company behind it”

Here’s a few more: How about getting a review of the restaurant, hotel or bar you’ve just snapped a picture of before stepping inside? Or search for a better price?

A year ago, if Scott Adams had suggested we’re already cyborgs, I would have assumed he was kidding. Today, I’m not so sure.

The key point is that your customers are using these tools today. The tools exist. And your customers benefit from using them. Whether the tools help your customers answer search queries (text or visual) or aid them in discovery (via social networking and GPS), you’re now dealing with cyborgs. They’re smarter than you. They’re more connected than you. Resistance is futile. If you’re lucky, you will be assimilated.


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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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