Cedric Chambaz - Bing

Digital Thought Leaders

Cedric ChambazBing: Getting you there, faster with Microsoft new search experience

For many firms online marketing only means search. Retailers live and die by their position in the organic search rankings, and fight ever smarter battles in the bid wars for pay-per-click position. Money pouring into search marketing has kept search in pole position, accounting for over half of all the online ad spend in the UK. But now there’s a new kid on the block. So before its official launch in the UK, we caught up with Bing’s marketing manager in London. Cedric Chambaz told Danny Meadows-Klue the story of a new brand, a new approach and the big implications for agencies and advertisers fighting on the frontline in search battles.

Bing is not simply a rebrand of Live Search. That’s the first thing that’s clear when Cedric Chambaz explains what Microsoft has been doing. While the global deal with Yahoo to make Bing the unique search engine across both networks and to thus combine both reaches has stolen the headlines, dig deeper and you find it’s a very different product. Different from Live Search, different from Yahoo, and different from Google. The differences are in all three parts of search: what the user experiences, how the engine thinks, and how the advertising works. And as Bing’s influence grows, the changes will be radical.

“It all started with the unfulfilled consumer needs we knew we could address” kicks off Chambaz. “We went out and really spent time with consumers. We started by looking at what people are doing, and asked them what they were really expecting search engines to deliver. In fact, people find searching tough, so we needed to find new ways to display the results that would make the whole process easier.”

Chambaz is clear about the scale of change: “in the last 10 years the web has become unrecognisable. The applications, the content and the richness of the information have changed the landscape.” Which is why for Bing and Chambaz, providing the same experience simply wasn’t the right approach. “The nature of the data they have to find has become more complex and the engines need to deliver far beyond simple text queries whilst remaining as simple to use as possible.”

As search becomes more critical, the complexity of searches has grown. “There’s a lot of frustration out there. People using the web often don’t find the things they’re looking for. They blame themselves, and that taints the whole experience of using the web. Bing’s ambition is to help users find more easily what they’re after. Our vision is to help users make more informed choices.”

Engagement, relevancy and the timeliness of the results are all part of their story, and while on the surface this might read like a marketing whitewash, Bing’s products and experience are delivering. They’ve removed a layer in the consumer’s journey and brought more of the landing page information upfront onto the search result page. Their challenge is to build a brand and to get people to unlearn the habit of Google. It’s a massive task, and Bing has to first get people trying the new experience to realise that the product as at least as good, if not better.

What’s different?

Not surprisingly, the user interface is deliberately different from Google. Half of the British internet users start their web journey from a search engine, and the Bing homepage is deliberately designed to find new ways to create customer engagement upfront. Just roll your mouse over the daily-refreshed rich image and you’ll see pop ups for quirky insights about what’s in the images. That’s a fundamentally different approach. Microsoft is creating a new experience that captures the internet user imagination and helps him refine his intent along the way.

Behind the scenes, Bing is about ‘categorised search’. Here again it’s a different approach based in part on a taxonomy that includes manual involvement. Even here in Soho, close to our offices, there’s an engineering team that is looking into the relationships between the millions of keywords used by our fellow citizens. “This means that Bing can capture the ‘loose intent’ that people have when they start searching and push the content they are after in the back of their mind”, explains Chambaz. “People enter a ‘first query’, but we’re providing access to the second or third options people want by the click of a button. We’re helping people find more easily what they actually want by integrating historical search behaviours of British users. Take something like a search for Stephen Hawking’s book ‘A Brief History of Time’: if someone is looking for the essay but doesn’t know its title, this person will type the name of the author with the hope to find it, Bing’ll feature a Quicktab, a button labelled ‘Books’ that enables to strip out of the search results everything that is not related to the scientist’s bibliography.This gets rid of the lengthy and frustrating process of trying to find the right word permutation that would bring the desired results.”

In practice this means their model can deal with anything from flights and the details of arrival times, to dentists in the district you’re searching for.

Chambaz believes that “nobody has yet fully cracked the search issue. Engines still rely on consumers doing much of the work.”

Taking Bing out of ‘Beta’

Launched in beta in June, the product is about to be launched as a fully-fledged engine in the coming months. The campaign will combine brand building and product demonstration to show people how it works and encourage trial. In the US we showed how the price predictor works in online banners or TV commercials. We showed the key features and used complementary online and offline communication to build the vision in the mind of the consumer. For one person it might be a price predictor for people to fund the right deal.

There’s a deliberate desire to influence the influencers. Microsoft has been communicating first to heavy internet users and relying in part on them to take the market with them. Sure, you’ll see Hotmail, MSN and Messenger making it clear that the search they see in all these channels is with Bing, but this is a viral change they’re looking to achieve.

Chambaz is convinced the product will win people over: “It’s all about the product. In the UK we have the most relevant search results you’ll find”.

“Take something like the ‘Best Match’ feature – Bing is providing the most relevant by pointing at the official website of certain key branded or navigational queries that people want: type BBC or Facebook and that’s the expected official website we give them in first position. One third of searches are navigational, this feature helps consumers get where they actually want to go, faster and without cluttering their way with less relevant links.”

Shaking up the value chain in search

Bing is also innovating with the business model. In search advertising we’ve had over a decade of cost-per-click as the primary business model but Bing is trying something different. In the US for instance, there’s a cashback model being tested that could change the balance of control and power between advertiser, consumer and search engine. “We are looking for a way to reward all three parties: the search engine, the advertiser but also the consumer. The model of giving a “cashback” value to the consumer. This model has been running successfully in the US for a couple of years. In Europe, with the MultiMap and Ciao acquisition by Microsoft, we are looking at even further innovative models. Chambaz hints at this: “Search and Social Media are getting together and can be monetised, and solutions like Farecast in the US could be relevant for the international markets”

Comments and questions

Steve Smart, AIG, asked about the nature of partnerships between brands and search
“Search engines don’t own the internet and need to acknowledge this. We’re helping people get answers. That means partnering with other companies for services and data that boosts the relevancy for people in each country and creates something which is native for their markets.”

“We’re not creating a one-size-fits-all product. If we’d deployed the same service globally, it wouldn’t have been right for our customers. We work with a global blueprint and have local developers in each key countries looking at the needs of the local market. In Soho for instance there’s a team of 60 engineers just working on the localisation and the appropriate partnerships. So that whether you are in London or in San Francisco, you get local listings, restaurant reviews and maps for instance,

Alison Fogg, SKOPOS, asked: “Which demographic group responded best in the tests?”
CC Our primary audience are search heavy users. People who know the web, and know how much they need to get the right thing. It’s not demographic, it’s behavioural. And part of this behaviour is their influential power which is key to generate consumer endorsement”

Key facts and figures about Bing
• 30% of all UK search queries are navigational: people using the search engine to get to a single URL. Type in Facebook and Bing gets you there straight away – it’s the one link that will come up.
• Preview: Before the click, Bing gives you the preview of the page you’re about to go to – a snapshot of what’s at the end of the link, by hovering over the actual link
Visual search: a search experience piloted in the US that use visual stimulus and intuitive filtering option to help the user perform their search
• Conversion: Nielsen NetRatings have tracked that the conversion rates for advertisers on Live Search (Bing’s predecessor) have been 42% higher than other search engines
• 12% of US queries: Bing’s audience since launch
• 3.7% of UK queries: That’s the market share that Live Search had before – massive expansion potential for Bing, but a big challenge for the marketers
• Microsoft adCenter, the search marketing platform that serves your ads on Bing, is available in the US, UK, Canada, France and Singapore

Bing looks set to fundamentally change the nature of search marketing. The battleground is shifting from using techniques to play the algorithm game. This isn’t small scale, it’s a shock to the search ecosystem and one Google will respond to. Caught in the middle of a seismic shift will be SEO agencies trying to navigate how to make their clients listings perform well on two very different platforms. Bing has mapped the customer journey and are even working with SEOs to make those journeys shorter and simpler (displaying the call centre numbers of the firms that are getting listed for example).

Here in London, the next wave in the search engine battle is about to begin.


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