2010: Bing it on UK
- January 27, 2010
- by Duncan Fisher
In May last year Microsoft’s PR machine went into overdrive and their brand new search engine Bing was launched to much fanfare. The UK’s national press went wild for the story and covered it as the Google killer with the most potential, whilst search industry insiders looked on with excitement at some of the new features; however, there was also some scepticism that it was simply MSN Live with some make-up on.
The promised $100m advertising campaign was rolled out in the US as Bing tried to drive searches through its “decision engine”, to some avail. However, the UK never saw the same level of above-the-line activity, despite the UK Beta tag being taken in November, and as a result their impact on UK market share has been little if nothing. So what’s happened to Bing in the UK since the buzz?
Bing’s launched some great features for their search engine including their new Maps feature. After their acquisition of MultiMap Bing leveraged it superbly and developed a great offering incorporating a Silverlight interface, its own version of Street View (called Street Side), Photosynth, Twitter integration as well as an app store. Many feel they have out done Google Maps with this feature.
Their vertical features in the travel and retail sectors have also backed up their position as a “decision engine”. In the travel sector they have encroached on Expedia’s turf after their 2008 acquisition of Farecast. Consumers can now put together their own holiday packages using features including a price predictor, a rate indicator, travel deals, comparison flight & hotel search, fare alerts and original travel editorial content. They also have a similar offering in the retail sector after their acquisition of Ciao, with comparison shopping available within their Bing results for retail related terms.
Image search is another area where Microsoft have really innovated and got one over on Google’s Image Search. A nice UI on their Visual Search allows searches by categories and related images without even using your keyboard.
After important acquisitions of Ciao, Multimap and Farecat pre-rebrand Microsoft have kicked on with some important strategic partnerships post-rebrand. The most high profile of these has been the search partnership with Yahoo! which has clear benefits, particularly because of their challenger status in the US. There has also been a partnership with Wolfram Alpha, the smaller Google killer, which saw some of Wolfram Alpha’s more useful features integrated into their results.
The partnerships Bing also gained with Twitter (admittedly Google did the same 2 hours later) and exclusively with Facebook (within whom Microsoft have a stake) should help Microsoft develop some important features as the integration between social media and search become vital.
To top off the theme of technology giants ganging up against Google there is a rumoured partnership looming between Microsoft and Apple, which will see Bing become the default search engine on the iPhone, which Google currently hold. With it would come a huge slice of the increasingly lucrative mobile search sector.
Why no massive above-the-line campaign in the UK?
There has been limited brand awareness activity in the UK where they sponsored The X-Factor coverage on Global Radio, and had an online tie-up with Thomas Cook. However, there was nothing on the scale of what they did in the US. So why is that? I think there are 2 potential reasons.
Limited US impact
Despite the US campaign generating a market share spike in August, this has since tailed off with the net result being that Google have gained share whilst Bing’s overall gains have come from smaller player such as Yahoo! and AOL. This hasn’t really helped Bing as they want to hurt Google not Yahoo!, which they will soon be powering, or AOL, which is almost non-existent.
Furthermore, Ask.com did a similar above-the-line campaign in the UK. That has done very little for their UK market share. Taking this into account perhaps it has become clear to Microsoft that simply throwing the advertising kitchen sink at Bing in the UK isn’t going to gain them market share long-term. There is obviously marketing budget there for Bing in the UK but maybe they are re-evaluating how to spend those marketing bucks.
The potential iPhone partnership perhaps signals an area where they can hurt Google. The smart phone wars are rolling-on and by using their money to sign partnerships with the major handset providers it will hurt Google. The release of the Nexus One shows Google already sees this as a threat and is combating the move. There are definitely search partnerships out there that Microsoft can steal from Google and bring with it chunks of their market share.
More product development
Google rolled out a number of warmly welcomed releases in the UK at the back end of 2009. Clearly Bing still needs to improve their usability to match Google have in the UK. Rumoured new releases from Bing in Q1 of this year could see a big feature launch in the social media and real-time search areas over the next month. If they engage users then they would be in prime position to roll-out a large above-the-line campaign and gain long-term benefits from it. Perhaps they are also taking some of Yahoo’s learning’s from organic indexing to improve their much criticised organic results.
If they do these things or a whole raft of feature developments then maybe they would feel ready for an above-the-line campaign.
Where does this leave Bing in the UK?
Bing is still without doubt the search engine with the most potential to compete with Google in the UK. At the end of the day the user experience of search engines is what matters most, as Google has proved, and Bing’s new features have certainly made headway. However, before they throw advertising pounds at it they need more. If they do this then there could certainly be some headway made in 2010.
Expect Q1 2010 to be an important time for Bing as this is when the rumoured advertising push will come, and expect it to be preceded by some important improvements.0 Comments