Thought Leadership

AliExpress Tackling In-App Search

Mobile is a crucial element of digital advertising, and apps are an often misunderstood element of mobile strategy.  Earlier this year, we took a look at how searchers are switching to smartphones, highlighting that the mobile moment has already occurred. 

However, search behavior on smartphones goes far beyond just typing a query into a box. When it comes to mobile, not only has there been a rise in voice search, but consumers have also increasingly been looking to apps as their first stop for mobile search. TripAdvisor for Travel, Yelp for Local, and Amazon for Shopping are just a few examples of instances where search engines are losing volume to in-app searches.

A recent Nielsen Study revealed that smartphone owners have an average of twenty-nine apps on a single device, and that the time spent using apps has increased by 65% over the span of two years. The proliferation of app usage and especially in-app searches reinforces the importance of how brands need to be smarter about how they can connect with their customers outside of search engines.

One example of an advertiser proactively driving this trend is AliExpress.  AliExpress is the little brother of Alibaba and an online retail marketplace that caters to consumers who want wholesale factory prices on goods without a minimum purchase. They launched what they’re calling their “Happy Sale” this past Tuesday. The promotion offers “up to 50% off millions of products,” which is pretty compelling.

The catch? Discounted products are only available through their mobile app.

AliExpress is offering a four dollar coupon off the user’s initial purchase just to download the app, so while driving app downloads and adoption seems to be the goal, this initiative is also about AliExpress fully owning the shopping experience. Similar to the Amazon app, this has fewer distractions (refining searches and navigating to sites with OEM curated content / products). It provides app users with a selection of products (with accompanying reviews) from a variety of manufacturers, creating a straight path to increased revenue per search.

An increasing rate of app usage and in-app searches has implications on the mobile marketplace all-around. This is an opportunity for brands to rethink how they should invest in mobile and marketers will need to be more strategic with the placement of in-app ads. Mobile ad networks will also need to evolve to provide more robust offerings to both their publishers and advertisers alike. Platforms will need to answer to the natural evolution of how people are using smartphones.  Will search marketers see the AdWords UI integrate with AdMob to evolve to better support app marketing and in-app advertisements in some way? Will iAd become familiar nomenclature with the likes of AdWords, Bing Ads, and Yahoo! Gemini? We’ll have to wait to see—but in the meantime, brands should not ignore the growing impact of in-app search.