The market was not ready for wireless even five years ago, but that has definitely changed. When Levi's launched its latest 501s marketing campaign earlier this year, a wireless site was a central part of its digital strategy. Now there are nearly 30,000 public wireless "hot spots" in the United States. Advertisers believe that now that wireless has finally become a medium with which consumers are comfortable, the next stage is its exploitation by brands. Many feel that the wireless sites will increasingly become a part of marketing campaigns.
The semi-technical arena is seeing the rise of numerous new search engines, especially since ones such as Google have become so successful. Increasing numbers of Web surfers are going to alternative search engines that specialize in finding certain kinds of information or offering additional capabilities to well-known search sites (Kharif). AOL launched a test version of its new travel search site, PinpointTravel.com. Nextaris.com allows customers to search for and share online files. Yang and Yun introduced their new shopping search site, Become.com, this April. Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban invested in search engine IceRocket.com last year. FactBites.com, an Australian company still in testing mode, helps students and researchers find articles from scholarly sources. Another new search engine, BlogStreet.com, looks for blogs. Many of these search startups discover that they can make ends meet by simply relying on advertisements from ad networks like Google's AdSense and Yahoo.
Are highly specialized search engines the trend for the future, such as searching the whole Internet for just one news clip from the day before? Michael Yang and Yeogirl Yun, who founded Become.com, created a specialty worm or crawler mechanism that is tuned to the element of product shopping (Clandenning). Using both page-ranking concepts and proprietary methodologies, the site attempts to isolate product news, reviews and sales elements. The developers say that the crawler could be adjusted for other forms of specialty searches. It can be tailored for results that are more targeted than what is obtained from a general purpose search engine such as Google, which does not work in that manner unless the person does a highly complex search query.
Become.com is only a beginning for what is needed, which are specialty search engines based on categories of knowledge as might be categorized by a librarian. Over the past decade the librarians of the world have been trained in modern information retrieval theory and should be leading the next generations of search technologies.
Specialization is not lost on Google, either. In fact Google has a number of specialty engines including its news.google.com engine that reads all the newspapers of the world and creates a machine-generated front page. It also has specialized searches for the U.S. Government, Microsoft, Apple, and Linux (Clandenning).
Search engines are also impacting the way consumers use the traditional media, according to recent studies. Fully 70% of American households now rely on the Web to find local merchants and services, which is equal to the percentage that go to newspapers, according to a survey conducted by market research firms Constat Inc. And the Kelsey Group. A similar poll conducted in October 2003 found that 60% of U.S. households used the Internet for local shopping information, while 73% used newspapers. Assuming the current trend continues as expected, the Internet will surpass newspapers by 2006.
What are the trends coming for Web design, considering all this new technology is either here or soon arriving? It is understood that Websites need to be continually updated, but not just for the sake of it. The site should be providing something extra to the users. There are new technologies that many sites will not feel are worth pursuing. However, the Website a company launched a few years ago is probably nothing like the site managed today. In just a few years, Web technology has changed significantly time and time again. What is possible now is far beyond what was possible just a several brief years ago. Redesigns help incorporate new technologies that consumers expect to see. While much of the design changes occur behind the scenes, it is often coupled with a redesign as more organizational sites attempt to separate content, design, usability to gain better site management capabilities
Lastly, what are the trends for e-commerce? A recent issue of E-Commerce News lists the following;
1) Multichannel Retailing Arrives. Shoppers are switching back and forth among catalogs, retail stores and Internet sites. Many brick-and-mortar chains have not taken the Web by storm expected. Walmart.com and Sears.com are examples of e-commerce efforts that have done relatively well, but certainly not what they would have liked.
Toys "R" Us much earlier realized it did not have the skills to be an e-commerce leader and partnered with Amazon to meet its needs.
2) More satisfied Web users. University of Michigan researchers who quarterly track online customer satisfaction found that e-commerce companies made consumers happier than offline retailers during last year's fourth quarter. Online shoppers came back despite some horrible customer service experiences, particularly during the 1999 holiday season, when Toysrus.com and others left shoppers in the lurch just days before Christmas. Most gave the Web a second try and now feel a lot more positive about the whole online experience.
3) Consumers Do Their Own Thing. For retailers and their marketing departments, the Web held special promise. It permitted them to know where users came from and went online, what prompted them to buy, and what encouraged them abandon a shopping cart and leave the store. However, despite all this data, consumers are still almost impossible to predict and even harder to change, the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania has found. Consumer behavior itself is amazingly static, and the Web has not altered that. The rush by online retailers to collect consumer data for its own sake may be slowing, as offline retailers such as L.L. Bean and Lands' End, which took a more measured approach, begin to show success on the Web.
4) Death of the Mid-Size E-Tailer. While the number of large e-commerce companies shrinks rapidly through consolidation and shakeouts, there is a growing number of niche firms operating on shoestring budgets. Top sites like eBay and Amazon continue to take a disproportionate share of the income, yet there is still room for specialists and very small specialized companies.
5: More Profits. The number of profitable e-commerce companies continues to grow and has almost, but not quite, reached the point at which a profitable dot-com is no longer a major news story. Recently, Amazon attained profitability, joining a group of companies that includes auction giant eBay; job board Monster.com; travel sites Priceline.com, Travelocity and Expedia; online brokers; and specialty sites like FTD.com and 1-800-Flowers.com. A year ago, Giga surveyed the e-commerce landscape and found that about one-third of the top 40 sites in terms of sales volume were profitable.
There are a variety of trends forming that can affect industries for the short-term and into the new millennium. Giving consideration to these trends will have a significant impact on the future success of businesses.
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