2013 fads versus substantial developments

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RepRap v.2 ‘Mendel’ open-source FDM 3 (source: Wikipedia)

As marketers we are dealing with trends for the future. We always ought to have our focus on separating between substantial developments that can’t be missed and fads that one might better sit out in order to focus on more relevant developments.

Of course the issue of timing is another critical factor. Of course we are early adopters by nature but we need to keep in ind that our clients have a fairly mainstream audience and that many trends will take time time to catch mainstream. This can be due to the lack of hardware penetration (smart phones) or due to slow shifts in users behavior. For example, we at conceptbakery always knew that Facebook would eventually become the market leader for social networks in Germany but we had to patiently wait until people were ready to make the move from the StudiVZ Networks before we could pitch campaigns for mainstream audiences to our clients.

If we look back at 2012 it was full of events but our professional world wasn’t too loaded in terms of breakthrough technologies or other game changers. Yes Pinterest and Instragram were the two rising stars. Twitter’s nature has changed in its process of maturing and focusing more on their bottom line. Facebook went public and had to deal with subsequent struggles. Google + has continued to be a rather lackluster addition to the mix of social media playgrounds. The iPhone 5 and the iPad mini are more evolutions of existing products to us than main trendsetters or game changers and product like Google Project Glass are still in their experimental phase.

Let’s take a little look into the crystal ball and see what could happen in 2013:

1. 2nd Screen interactions
Marketers love the idea of you sitting in front of a television and interacting with the content they put in front of you via a second device (tablet, cell phone or notebook). This makes their attempts more measurable and feeds directly into their ROI calculations. If you take a measurable action (a tweet including a hashtag, a click on an ad, etc.) they should be much happier than if Nielsen just tells them that X amount of people might have seen their ad. Watch out for the number of interactive ads at the Super Bowl and how they’ll be received to see how substantial that trend already is.

 2. Fluid designs
Yes we’ve been talking about fluid designs where websites render well on desktops, tablets and mobile phones. Implementation has been slow because it is really not easy to change an existing website and not have it break at some point when the screen size changes. You can take the radical route of designing something new from scratch and subordinate everything to the one goal of being cross-platform compatible. Everything else involves a lot of nitty-gritty work and coding expertise. This is complicated even more by the requirements for high resolution graphics for all the newest screens displaying pixels at a resolution our websites were not originally built for. Without going too much into detail it is important to acknowledge that this raises the bar in graphic and web design. The basic html skills that some of us acquired and many of the templates we used to work with won’t cut it any longer. You’ll have to step it up significantly or talk to a professional (we are very happy for having our   team of in-house coders).

3. Changes to the Retail Landscape
Walmart and Amazon are heading towards same-day shipping in many US markets. The cost is rather nominal ($10 or less per shipment) and a delivery of your purchase is happening within hours. This is significantly raising the bar for other (smaller) vendors. How do they compete against these giants when they ship via UPS or FedEx and have to either absorb the shipping cost or pass it on to your customer? Solving this riddle is a huge challenge and we are curious to see what solutions businesses come up with. There are networks like Do It Best or Ace Hardware that let you ship to a local store where you can pick up your products. This mitigates the damage since you save the shipping cost but it is no match to what Amazon and Walmart are offering.

At the very least retailers should make sure their online store is fully mobile compliant and offers at least one payment option that doesn’t require entering a credit card (too cumbersome on smart phones). PayPal, Square or Google Wallet are some of the options to look into.

4. Facebook Fatigue
Facebook has been making some moves in 2012 that made it harder for businesses to reach their audience. They are often forced to promote their post to boost their visibility and we are suspicious that taking this step actually hurts their regular (unprompted) posts even more. We’d expect businesses to explore more alternative routes to reach their target audience. Running ads on Twitter will only do so much since this is only makes sense for demographics that are actually on there. The good old mailing lists have never fully gone away but might see a revival as an option to get the word out. The same accounts for blogs.   Yes, they require time and effort to maintain them but it is a property a business fully controls. There are many benefits to that which can be overshadowed by all the leveraging opportunities a social network offers. Regardless of the above we still see a bright future for Facebook. It is simply too big and too established to go away any time soon.

5. General Drive towards Professionalism
Social media marketing has matured quite a bit over the last couple of years. We see this trend to continue at an even higher pace in 2013. There will be higher expectations by businesses spending money on their online marketing programs and those just have to be met. The cost for seasoned professionals that fully understand the entire landscape will go up. The ROI debates also can’t be easily shrugged off any longer. Marketers will want to see cause and effect of their $$$ spent. The use of professional tools will become more common which is another cost driver. Just using the free version of Hootsuite and tapping into Google’s array of free tools won’t cut it any longer. Tools like Radian 6 or Jive are prohibitively expensive for too many projects but the use of lower cost tools like Sprout Social, Alerti, Raventools, Commun.it, etc. will become more widespread.

6. 3D Printers
We’ve been watching the evolving of 3D Printers for quite some time. We still don’t see this as a mainstream technology yet but with a few more advances we might see them pop up in more and more places. Creative marketers will understand to make them part of their campaigns. The opportunities are nearly endless. Here are just some scenarios that we can easily foresee:

  • Users creating a custom design on a website here and picking up their creations at a particular place and time.
  • Tracking a movable printer on Foursquare and have an item of their choice created for users.
  • Using them to drive people to trade show booths.
  • Enhancing products people already own (designing a case for your phone).

These are just some of the things on my list that I don’t consider to be fads. Therefore it makes sense to watch and understand these areas. Demand for experts in these fields will be there. What are the fads of 2013 going to be? That’s a little harder to predict and less rewarding to get it right. Let’s just hope that neither you or us are falling for too many of them ;)

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