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Voice-Enabled Mobile Category Search replacing 411 Paid Directory Assistance

Written By: langdon on August 30, 2009 2 Comments

Voice-Enabled Mobile Category Search replacing 411 Paid Directory Assistance

Traditional, customer-pays 411 is in decline and quickly being replaced by a new generation of Voice-Enabled Mobile Category Search. There has been news stories of large telco’s such as BellSouth Operator Services laying off people because of a decline in 411 calls. There’s no diminution in consumer demand; it’s just that call volumes are shifting elsewhere.

Directory assistance (DA) is the original “local search” and its younger sibling, wireless DA, is the original mobile-local search. But now customers are starting to understand how much they pay for these services, as free alternatives are emerging. And as the customer-pays, traditional DA market declines a range of new services, models and providers is arising such as 1800Free411,  and YellowPages411 (formally known as Hello Yellow) from the Yellow Pages Group Co., and many others.

For years, enterprises have restricted access to 411 to avoid paying fees. Consumers have become accustomed to using the Internet at work for look-ups. Yet consumers, especially wireless users, have largely been ignorant of the fees they pay to carriers for 411 calls — until recently. PR blitzes by a host of “free 411” providers who have basically entered the market simultaneously are starting to build public awareness of these ad-supported services and the fees that traditional carriers charge for 411 (from $1.15 to $3.49 per call).

The data reflect that 35% of DA calls (it may in fact be higher) originate from mobile phones. The vast majority of these calls are for business listings. This is a window into the demand for mobile-local search. However, in the DA context it’s restricted to “What city, what listing?” That’s not a particularly good user experience. But that consumer “training” also creates problems for the ad-supported models. Category search (rather than a specific business look-up) offers a much better proposition to advertisers. However, the free DA services aren’t truly set up to service category searches.

Yet DA is arguably the most consumer friendly mobile-local search experience available to the mass of users who aren’t SMS mavens and don’t have smartphones with 2.5G or 3G networks to browse the mobile web at high speeds.

An impressive hybrid of DA and a more flexible mobile-local search paradigm is Yellow Pages Group’s  YellowPages411 (formally known as Hello Yellow) service. The service is available across Canada, excluding the Yukon. The service is entirely automated and offers category search. In fact it leads with a prompt to do a category search. Approximately 60% of Hello Yellow’s call volume is coming from wireless phones. The voice interface and the general ease of use (familiar from 411) have made this an accessible, mainstream product. It also extends the yellow pages brand successfully into mobile.

The listings and other information played to consumers are from the yellow pages database. The business model is advertising; the consumer doesn’t pay for the service. YPG includes the entire listings database but offers mobile advertisers more content, placement within relevant category results and additional enhancements. The mobile ad content, which is distinct from the content that appears in the print yellow pages, is either recorded voice or Text-to-Speech (or a combination).

The service is two steps beyond most current DA services because it’s free to consumers and generates category searches, which are ultimately better for advertisers. You can access YellowPages411 by dialing 310-0411 from any land-line or wireless phone in Canada or by dialing (877) 310-9356 anywhere in North America.

Mobile-local search is coming in a big way in the next few years and one of the central questions is how important will a voice front end/interface be for mainstream adoption?

David Langdon developed the strategy and managed a high performance team to deliver mobile, voice, and social media solutions that included speech recognition – voice mobile search that included the award winning YellowPages411, Telus411 and Rogers411. You can access YellowPages411 by dialing 310-0411 from any land-line or wireless phone in Canada or by dialing (877) 310-9356 anywhere in North America. Since YellowPages411 was launched, we further integrated the services of YellowPages411 into the 411 Directory Assistance Services at Telus and Rogers Communications. You will find more information about Telus411 and Rogers411 in the related article below.

Feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about how to implement interactive voice based services; have mobile app development needs or require assistance with your mobile marketing strategy and execution. Your comments on mobile marketing are most welcome. You can leave comments below. 

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