We live in a world that moves so quickly that it takes a brave person to make forecasts. But looking at the way the market moved last year, here are a few trends I expect to play out in 2013 and beyond. Most of these trends are all about how technology is empowering consumers to shape brands more actively than ever before.
Sharing value for the win-win
Today’s consumers examine brands carefully and look for those with a genuine commitment to creating value for their customers and society at large. For this reason, companies should no longer focus only on maximising profits for shareholders, but must also reflect a true commitment to creating shared value for a broad range of stakeholders, including their customers.
Social innovation will be at the heart of any brand’s competitive advantage. Companies will not be able to claim in the future that consumers, employees, and the community are at the heart of their business – they’ll need to demonstrate it through actions that bring their values to life in a more meaningful way.
Look out for: The rise of shared value auditors, who score and certify companies’ shared value outcomes.
Tech objects in day to day life
Mobility isn’t only about smartphones and tablet computers any more. More and more objects featuring embedded sensors, image recognition technologies, NFC payment and wireless connectivity are being connected to the Web. And wearable computers, touch and gesture interfaces are creating new, easier ways for users to tap into the power of computers and the Web.
These technologies may offer competitive advantage for early adopters or offer potential for significant market disruption. However, companies need to use these innovations to power smart apps that help their customers and employees to improve everyday life. The challenge brands will face is to create real value, rather than creating and adopting tech products just for the sake of it.
Look out for: Technology will become embedded in more and more objects we use every day – from fridges and televisions to cars and clothing. One example is Google’s Project Glass, a set of computerised glasses that lets users take pictures and find information; another is the cool head-up display embedded in Oakley’s Airwave ski goggles for monitoring speed and reading text messages.
Social Web gets mobile
Mobile technology ensures that we are always available and connected – we have access to our social network on the go. We take our social identities on our mobile devices wherever we go. With a portable, durable online identity, users have the opportunity to share their data between sites to build, maintain relationships and stay up to date with the people they know and the things they care about.
Organisations must tap into the social identity and integration frameworks that drive the mobile Internet. They must apply social thinking at every level of their businesses to successfully speak to and engage with mobile consumers.
Look out for: The most successful brands will embrace the world of social mobility both inside their businesses for internal collaboration and communication as well as with the consumer.
Big insights from big data
Thanks to social media and always-on access to the Internet, companies are able to gather heaps of data about their customers. 2013 will be the year which challenges organisations to turn this data into a business advantage.
This data enables marketers to take personalisation to the next level. They can use the insights in this data to better understand the needs of their customers; predict consumer behaviour; and ultimately, personalise, refine and optimise marketing to each customer’s desires, behaviours and interests.
Look out for: The true data analyst will have one of the most important skills sets on the market since companies will need him or her to make more sense of the customer journey.
Retail moves beyond the storefront
Consumers are adopting online comparison shopping, mobile payments and other new technologies as part of their shopping experience. They don’t have to feel and touch to buy, but they do want a shopping experience they can access wherever and whenever it is convenient to do so.
Consumer behaviour together with new technologies means brands must rethink their “retail space”. Today, retail can be nearly anywhere, thanks to mobile. For example, Tesco in the UK did a 2012 pilot of a screen at London’s Gatwick airport that allowed travellers to order everyday staples from their smartphones. Their order was then timed to coincide with their arrival at home.
Look out for: The power of “AND”, it will matter. Consumers are continuously demanding value, freebies and novelty in their shopping experience.
Smarter urban living
Governments and businesses are harnessing technology to offer more sustainable solutions and better lifestyles to city dwellers around the world. These solutions drive smarter, greener cities for an increasingly connected global citizenry that is informed and aware about the environmental and social impacts of urbanisation.
2013 will continue to guide the rise of a new world of connectedness, networks, central databases which is already resulting in cities providing e-services – e-health, e-education, e-traffic, e-home, e-government and e-offices.
Look out for: The likes of Siemens and IBM are involved in creating collaborative solutions to proactively manage urbanisation, but consumers will demand more from governments and businesses alike.