As 2010 fast approaches, digital marketers are gearing up for yet another year of changes that will incorporate both the transformational and the incremental. From the economy’s influence on the burgeoning “do-it-yourself” culture to an increasing reliance on collective wisdom, information-based art, and remote computing, digital experts at Last Exit have put together the following list of top digital marketing trends they believe will play out in the year ahead.
1. Facebook Replaces Personal Email: As Facebook becomes increasingly used as a verb (e.g.”I Facebooked you today”) in ways that Hotmail and gmail never were, it will be interesting to see the extent to which it will displace personal email as a communication tool. It’s already completely permission based, there is no spam (yet), and no address book required - your friends are already there.
2. The Cloud Helps Open-Source Software Make Proper Money: Open-source software projects that were typically the purview of programmers and technophiles are now available to the masses. In one example, Beanstalk, a fully hosted, version-controlled code repository that uses the Subversion open-source project has created a subscription based service that - for a small fee - removes the hassle of setting up Subversions and maintaining servers. Services like this can really only be financially viable with cloud computing infrastructure - so companies such as Beanstalk don’t have the huge upfront capital outlay for servers. With the right skills any open-source project can be commercialized this way.
3. Mobile Commerce - The Promise That Has Never Delivered, Yet: Though mobile phones have, for a while now, delivered real benefits to global societies by facilitating the transfer of money, only recently has mobile device use extended to payment for goods and services. The game changer has - and will continue to be - the iPhone/iTunes platform. In-app purchases on the iPhone can tempt users to buy small items, upgrades, updates, etc, while iTunes holds their precious credit card information. All, of course, is done in seamless fashion, enough to promote impulse purchases. It would seem like an easy task for this to be extended to other platforms with PayPal or Google Checkout, but so far it has not been done.
4. Fewer Registrations - One Sign-in Fits All: As consumers grow increasingly frustrated and resentful about registering yet again on another website, juggling different IDs and remembering a dizzying array of passwords, information-managing services such as Facebook Connect and OpenID will becoming even more useful and will continue to be adopted at great speed through 2010.
5. Disruption vs. Continuity - Alternatives to the “Big Idea”: As the significance of social networks continues to grow, businesses are investing more in community building as a marketing driver. According to the recent Tribalization of Business study released by Deloitte, 94% of businesses will continue or increase their investment in online communities and social media and, for the majority of these companies, their marketing function will drive this investment. At the same time, as evidenced by Google’s recent release of “free floating” social tools, such as Google Waves and Sidewiki, there is an increasing shift toward online identity and social activity being an integrated part of the network as a whole, rather than concentrated within discrete platforms such as Facebook.
With the increasing emphasis on marketing and advertising through social networks and the increasing pervasiveness of social tools, marketing objectives come into conflict with advertising techniques. While advertising has often sought to distinguish itself and stop the consumer in their tracks with a disruptive “big idea,” the emphasis is now shifting toward persuasion through fitting organically into the consumer’s social sphere. It will always be the objective of marketing to provide creativity and novelty, but the way in will increasingly be one of persistence and continuity.
6. Self-Sufficiency: The Continuing Evolution of Web-Driven, Open-Source DIY Culture: Much has been said about the power and potential of collective intelligence, and many of the breakthrough solutions of tomorrow appear to lie in more effectively pooling the resources and intelligence of our increasingly networked world. On the other side of the equation, the power of pooled intelligence and networked resources have empowered individuals to take on more and more complex undertakings themselves.
From drawing on the collective intelligence of blogs and university open courseware to educate themselves, to services like ponoko, spoonflower and cafe press that facilitate small-scale production, to offline resource pooling like pop- up retail and collective office spaces, individuals are discovering that it has never been easier to try doing it themselves.
7. Info-Art: Where we once had pop-psychologists and pop-philosophers, we now appear to have pop-statisticians and pop-economists. The growing wealth of data and the access to rich and diverse data sources that are significant by-products of information networks have made the art of data analysis a defining skill of our time.
At the same time, the skill of elegantly visualizing that data has become a defining art of our time. The art of the infographic is becoming increasingly pervasive as people look more and more to the growing amount of data at our disposal for insight, and more refined as the interactions of that data becomes more complex. Expect to see greater innovation spurred by more elegant ways of capturing and visualizing information by a growing number of info-artists.
8. Crowd Sourcing: Across many industries and organizations, crowd sourcing will become a growing tool as part of various outsourcing strategies. Organizations will mobilize the passionate special-interest groups to not only carry a message but also to lead and take part in activities on their behalf. From political canvassing to software development, from people journalism to environmental activism, expect to see huge growth in crowdsourcing models provoked and led, in large part, by digital social media strategies.
9. More Flash, Not Less: Outside of the obvious brand sites, micro-sites and media sites (video, games, etc.) where it appears absolutely necessary, Flash has often been looked down upon if not completely discounted by both techies and search engine optimizers. It seemed to face an uncertain future as a viable tool for serious websites and applications such as eCommerce tools and corporate websites. However, Adobe’s rich media tool has enjoyed the grit and determination of its advocates and external development community. Now, several tricks, authoring tools and server side scripting workarounds have meant that Flash-built websites no longer serve up a single, impenetrable page. They offer deep, searchable, indexable sites that will allow acute, detailed traffic and behavioral analytics and search engine optimization.
As websites continue to increase in their importance as a company’s storefront, the demand for rich, brand-extending experiences will also increase. Further proliferation of fast broadband will reduce download issues while the adoption of Flash on mobile devices will dramatically increase and fuel reach and the desire/need for highly usable, brand transporting, conversion oriented experiences.