Search Engines have experienced some tremendous changes in the last 15 years. From what used to be gigantic directories, where users had to enter very complex queries to access the most relevant documents, we're now in an era in which search engines are more suggestion engines. Based on where we are now, Google is suggesting what the most relevant assets are, supposedly.
Users as the new live queries
Search engines tend to learn more and more from us; as smartphones are always on, and interacting more and more with our homes, tech companies now own gigantic databases based on consumers' habits.
The genius of search engines is then to be able to match 2 sets of data which are not directly related, but because the algorithms regroup clusters of people through very specific affinities, the 2 sets become related. Concrete trends can then be forecast (from criminality to raw material shortages). Scenarios that are beginning to build offer a new sort of design: search engines aren't made to provide the best content when we actively look for it; instead search engines are now made to imagine potential scenarios.
Search engines are influencing and shaping new user journeys: the key battlefield is to make sure that Google understands on which stage the user actually is; is the guy really going to the airport if he's far from home and in a moving car? Shall we suggest a good free wifi café near the airport for him? Or maybe a 2h dry cleaner, if he has already looked for this kind of service during his last trip?
Consequences for brands: forgetting landing platforms
In this ecosystem, content created by brands can't be thought of as pieces of content, which will be consumed on a gorgeous landing page, with nice logos everywhere; most of the future content will be absorbed on other services. After all, when you have an Uber app on your smartphone and you're looking for an address, Google pre-suggests you to book an Uber taxi. But why not imagine a line where Pepsi will suggest that you should pick up a cold soda if you're going to walk long distance during summer? Or maybe tips and tricks for a healthy life written by Kellogg's, thereby solidifying the fact that breakfast is now becoming one of the most important moments in your life - especially when you're waking early to commute to a new job 50 miles away!
It's a fantasy to think that we'll go to a brand site in the next 10 years, except if the reward is highly valuable. In this all-in-all world, brand content should become liquid and infusible within tech services.
From consumer goods to tech social services
Yes, there will always be the best ribs in your local restaurant in DC. Yes, you will always reward an artisan who knows his job. Excellence has a price and it's paid with fantastic word-of-mouth.
But for the rest of the industry (aka: businesses that try to sell goods or services that are not the number 1 in the world, which is the case for 99,9% of what you find on the market), there's a dramatic need to flip-flop the way products and services are thought and designed.
In a traditional value chain, input (materials, genius, assets...) generates output (a phone, a chair etc.). But actually, the real output of Apple when they sell an iPhone is not really the device itself (who cares, as it's obsolete in 2 or 3 years?) but it's actually what it enables you to do.
This new Unique Selling Proposition is now generalized: what does buying a product enable me to do? There's something very emotional (maybe belonging to a community, finding a purpose in life, having fun...) and also very rational (thanks to this device, user can access a platform in which the benefits are perceived as very high).
From a Search Engine perspective, it also means that the most sought after content (or more precisely: the highest rated items) will probably be the ones that help us become more producers than consumers. 3D printers are already here; DIY culture is fairly rooted.
Here's an idea which is deeply understood by Facebook, which has just revamped Atlas. Cookies are starting to become obsolete, it's now time to get deeper and more intimate connections to the real actions of consumers.
Will privacy resist to this new world of search?