How will our digital media use have changed by the end of this year? Natalie Gross, Managing Partner at online marketing firm Amaze, offers 10 key predictions for 2011.
In 2010 the Internet became a film…well, the Facebook bit did with The Social Network grossing $100 million in its first three months in the US alone. The iPad arrived and sold over two million in its first two months – spawning, as did the iPhone, a slew of innovative, sophisticated and convention changing followers. And everybody seemed to have a smartphone – well, not quite everyone, but you get the picture.
The primary changes in digital during 2010 were in user behaviour and attitude; confidence, expectations and knowledge all increased. As we archive 2010 and prepare for 2011, we believe that they will continue to be the dominant drivers of change as expectations become more sophisticated and digital habits become entrenched even further into people’s lives.
1. Content is king… again
Content – whatever the format – is back on the agenda. Brands will be creating, publishing and monitoring content like never before and now we’ve got over the novelty of being able to go online anywhere and at any time, we’ll see the reason we go online – content – become even more important.
We’re always connected via a number of devices – digital is no longer one channel – and so content creation will have to take this into account. Brands and organisations will have to create content that is device-relevant, worth spending time with and worth sharing, or they won’t get noticed.
Video is becoming an expectation rather than a treat; but we’ll see that just because it’s a video doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good content. Driven by ubiquitous broadband, higher expectations, attention partiality and instant page hopping, brands will have to create video that is relevant, meaningful, impactful and clever. 2010 saw search and social start to impact video production creating almost real time video responses to consumers. Expect brands to become far more content-led, the cleverest using video innovatively. Video is no longer the preserve of the high-end production house; everyone can do it. Content connoisseurs will become more important in 2011; experts who can collect and curate content on users’ behalf. Wading through the mass of content that now exists online is often frustrating and unfruitful – users will look to publications, individuals, organisations and brands to select and sort content for them. And brands will have to approach their content strategically and creatively if they are to be noticed, respected and passed on by the connoisseurs.
Knowing someone has clicked on a page will no longer be a decent measure of success. Knowing you have a rapt user whose attention will not wander will become far more important. Content will have to truly engage – video is, naturally, a great engagement tool, and so are stories. Rather than simply delivering information, brands will become story-tellers, capturing their users and bringing them back for more.
2. Like me, like what I’m saying
Brand personality is becoming less evident and will tend only to inform individual personalities who speak on the brand’s behalf. Social media – now an integral and increasingly important element of most users’ digital experiences – is informal, relaxed and personal. Many websites are extremely formal, staid and distant and increasingly, brands have a presence in both. Given that users now expect a one-to-one relationship across multiple devices, we will see design and tone of voice explored more deeply, becoming multi-faceted and expressing itself differently according to the medium.
For brands to communicate effectively, they need to throw off the old image of a faceless, corporate entity (however personable) and capitalise on the individuals that make up that brand. Users want individual relationships and so brands will be conducting deep ethnographic research to understand how digital meshes into users’ lives in the real world. Only then can they nominate individuals across the company to become the voice of different facets of the brand in the social web. After all, a brand isn’t formed by the marketing department, it is developed by everyone within the company.
3. Social services
The social web’s commercial influence will become more evident as consumers spend less time on brand sites. Facebook reached its 500 millionth member in 2010 and shows no sign of slowing down (it was recently valued at $50 billion by Goldman Sachs and beat Google as the world’s most visited website in 2010). Facebook has always cleverly tapped in to what users want (although often don’t express) and seems to be doing the same with email, Facebook Deals, Facebook Credits and Facebook Groups. The latter will be interesting to watch.
Many are predicting social media fatigue and even regular digital downtime, however, the fatigue we will actually see in 2011 is with the sheer size of Facebook. Niche social networks will proliferate where like-minded people can congregate around a specific topic or activity; hence the launch of Facebook Groups. Whether people use the social giant or create their own networks remains to be seen. Let battle commence…
2010 also saw many brands launch themselves into the social world with varying degrees of success. 2011 will see brands re-group and realise that before they leave home to face the new social world, they need to sort themselves out internally. Social is a two-way thing; brands go out to meet consumers, and once that door is open, consumers will come in and visit – brands need to prepare for that.
The huge and often frightening power of the social web is its ability to unite consumers in a democratic space that is controlled by users rather than brands. Consumer influence has risen accordingly – from peer reviews and public complaints to the wisdom of the crowds and group buying. Expect this to continue as consumers start to flex their financial muscles together.
4. On the move
It’s happened; mobile has finally arrived. Expect huge change in habits and behaviour driving instant and convenient digital communications. There is now no doubt that the long-standing ‘this is the year of the mobile’ predictions actually came true in 2010. And in 2011, we will continue to see growth in mobile and mid range tablet devices such as the iPad, Dell Streak and Blackberry Playbook continuing to gain market share and challenging traditional web platforms. Smartphones, apps and cameras are everywhere, everyone’s connected, the Internet is finally in all of our pockets. This means that the products we buy are no longer individual items on shelves; they are physical manifestations of a much larger, virtual world.
2011 will see the rise of QR codes, bar code scanners and image recognition software that enables shoppers to connect to digitally branded content, expert reviews, peer opinions and product/price comparison tools on the spot. This creates an interesting challenge for brands in 2011 and we will see more creativity and inventiveness as a result.
As cloud computing increases its ubiquity, mobiles will become even more powerful because they do not require programs to be installed in order to use them. Our lives will be accessible through our mobiles; we will use them to pay for goods and services. Location-based services mean that we will automatically receive useful information when we arrive somewhere (an airport map and departure board, for example), and the small screen will cease to be an inhibitor as projection technology is refined. And we’ll be in big trouble when we lose them!
5. The pursuit of app-iness
Apps will continue to extend their reach across devices and onto the desktop. With over seven billion downloads of apps from Apple’s app store, there’s no doubt that these handy little applications have caught on. In 2011 they will continue to grow in popularity as smart phones proliferate and apps move beyond the mobile.
Apple has launched an app store for its Macs, making it even easier for users to spend money through their iTunes accounts and add games and utilities to their already crowded desktops. Google Chrome’s web store also makes apps available for users of its browser, providing an even greater degree of personalisation. The ease with which we have taken to the convenience of apps is taking faltering steps towards our computer screens – expect these baby steps to become a full-on charge before too long as brands vie for position on our desktops.
Apps are breaking away from the mobile onto the desktop and, interestingly, beyond that even. The automotive industry is starting to link apps to the dashboard, incorporating app controls into the steering wheel – at this stage it’s generally music apps – offering the driver the same control over his music as he has outside the car. Nissan has launched its Carwings app for its new electric Leaf model, which allows users to check charge levels and driving range as well as turn on the climate control, all from an iPhone. This linking of apps to hardware that isn’t a phone or a laptop will develop in 2011 as our expectations of choice and control extend to every part of our lives.
6. Money makes the www go round
We’ll find new ways of transacting and brands will find new ways of selling their products; both will be much easier. Near Field Communication (NFC) will create an entirely new banking system. This high frequency wireless technology enables the exchange of information between devices and will be introduced into mobiles enabling them to become digital wallets. We will need new digital payment systems, new security and new behaviours – and they will all arrive very quickly. Facebook’s oh-so-simple integration into brand websites (and the other way round) means that Facebook Credits (its virtual currency) could overtake PayPal as the leader in virtual payments – this means that brands will have to gear up to sell in Facebook; a very different shopping experience all together. This integration of social and commerce will grow – users will be able to see what friends have purchased and easily get the same item, and financial rewards will be given in exchange for recommendations. Brands that are used to selling in a closed environment will have to adapt to sharing a virtual shopping aisle with more competitors than they are used to.
7. May I have your attention please…
As we spend less time with just one screen, brands will find new innovative methods of grabbing our attention. The rise of connected devices means that our attention is shared between any number of screens (laptop, phone, tablet, TV etc) and identifying the right platform for the right message (or part of the message) has, thus far, been a problem. 2011 will see innovative brands providing multi-faceted content simultaneously across various platforms attracting our now partial attention… and this will be big news.
Also, 2011 will see the long over-due start of social TV. Or, more accurately; TV’s going social. The profiling of viewers will allow providers to make accurate recommendations based on ‘people like you’ as well as personalised electronic programme guides that mimic iPlayer’s (and others) popularity rankings.
8. Hide and seek
Without large shifts in the search market, content will continue to remain ‘hidden’ on social sites such as Faceboo. We expect Google search results to embrace social beyond Twitter and YouTube. 2010 saw the search giant make a number of social acquisitions – a clear indication that leveraging social into search will be a focus.
Mobile search will rise in 2011, which in turn, will lead to more sophisticated location-based offers and messaging; social tie-ins will be key.
9. Analyse this
We know more and more about users – but unless we’re careful, this knowledge will only serve to alienate them. As devices proliferate and consumers assimilate digital even further into their lives, tailored dashboards and data mashups will develop to derive the greatest insight from clicks and behaviour. Attribution modelling (understanding how different online marketing tactics synergise) will become mainstream and low-cost in 2011 and the integration of demographic data into keyword search planning strategies will be key.
Analytics without an understanding of user behaviour could lead to over-use of behavioural re-targeting. As more data becomes available, automation of planning will lead to users switching off from advertising. However, clever marketers will combine analytics with their own CRM data and develop innovative strategies and communications plans.
10. And finally…
There are new inventions hitting the market all the time. And of them all, we felt irresistibly drawn to one in particular: 3D printing. MakerBot’s Thing-O-Matic DIY 3D printer kits will change product prototyping forever. And they’re really cool!
Expect to hear more about these is 2011…
By Natalie Gross