Analysis: With Google’s market share in mobile search even higher than in desktop, its competitors need to think of creative ways to compete with it.
Bing, the web search engine owned by Microsoft, evolved from its previous search engines such as MSN Search, Windows Live Search and Live Search.
According to figures from NetMarketScore, as of November 2015, Bing is the fourth largest desktop search engine in the world with a query volume of 5.77 percent.
Google leads on 69.85 percent, with 16.98 percent going to Baidu, a player in China, which is a market that Google does not have access to. Yahoo retains 6.29 percent of the traffic, although this is powered by Bing.
In mobile, Google’s dominance is much more pronounced than this, holding 92.07 percent of the total market, while Yahoo follows with 5.36 percent and Bing comes in third with 1.92 percent.
This is not particularly surprising, considering that Google’s Android operating system held an 82.8 percent share of smartphones in Q2 2015. Google is also used in Apple’s Safari browser as the default search engine, with Oracle recently revealing that Google paid Apple $1 billion to carry its search bar on the iPhone.
In this kind of market, dominated by one player, each provider needs a firm niche to sit in. So what are Bing’s ambitions in the mobile space and how do they fit into Microsoft’s overall strategy?
Ravleen Beeston, UK Head of Sales at Bing Ads, says that Bing Ads’s strategy is simply an extension of what Microsoft is doing overall.
"Our strategy is to build best-in-class platforms and productivity services for the mobile-first and cloud-first world," she says, explaining that they want to enable customers to thrive in this world.
In the case of mobile advertising this means helping brands engage via "different platforms, screens and services" using search.
"We use search across services to make them more intelligent by welcoming a wealth of data to better our understanding of consumer behaviour online," says Beeston.
This has included a syndication partnership with Gumtree.com to help the classifieds website target the mobile and tablet space. Beeston says that the partnership will bring a new stream of clicks to Bing Ads advertisers within the UK.
With Microsoft’s portfolio to back it up, Bing can also draw on a range of other technologies to support its work. Beeston explains that brands are still only "in the infancy of tapping into" mobile advancements.
For example, Beeston says that voice assistants will be a big part of mobile search in the future, which Microsoft is well poised to exploit with the Cortana assistant.
"Digital personal assistants such as Cortana are now evolving to understand user intent and context based on previous search queries and user behaviour to anticipate the user’s needs."
This includes "for example nudging its users to leave for their next appointment by making sense of the current location and the traffic conditions to the destination."
This is an obvious area where mobile search could be superior to desktop search.
Speaking to CBR for a recent analysis piece on the smartphone microphone, Dr. Kevin Curran, senior member of the IEEE and reader of Computer Science at Ulster University, said that more attention has been paid to the mobile microphone sound quality over time "due to a primary use of a smartphone which is voice."
There is another possible area where Bing might be able to gain the upper hand on Google. Martin Garner, SVP at CCS Insight has predicted that Apple might look to replace Google with Bing as the default search partner in Safari by the end of 2017 as the competitive dynamic between Apple and Google changes.
The change, which CCS Insight thinks would affect both the desktop browser and the iOS one, would dent Google’s standing as a search provider while exemplifying Microsoft’s cross-platform service provider strategy.
Bing is already the search behind Siri’s web searches on Apple devices.
There are also other ways that Microsoft is working to increase Bing’s adoption. Bing Rewards, currently only available in the US, is a programme by Microsoft, available as an app, that rewards the user for searching with Bing.
The points earned can be spent on other services, including Amazon or Xbox Live.
Some of the major applications of Bing are only available on Windows Phone. Bing Vision, for example, allows the user to point their phone at a QR code and scan it using the Bing Vision Lens. This provides info about the code, such as a link to the website or contact information.
It also allows users to scan text and get search results about it.
Google’s market share looks intimidating, but as Ravleen Beeston argues, Bing’s "evolving proposition" for mobile has many avenues for growth.