1. Beware the Facebook Killer
Big fish eats little fish. Facebook eats Myspace. That is the natural order and Facebook’s number is coming up. Lurking in the dark shadows of the development world is the next slick answer to the limitations of which we endure in social networking.
Why? Because Facebook’s social architecture is too indirect in delivering value for advertisers and relevance for users, and while your friends might be nice, sharing pictures with them is like a flashback to 1995 when people said the Internet would be great for “sharing recipes.”
Plus, the shifting sand of the user experience is making Facebook seem less fun and more engineered for a business model. What’s likely to come down the pike will inevitably be a lot more focused on filtered information from your personal network and much more relevant ad content opportunities.
2. The Instructional Video Glut Cometh
If you thought your search results were getting stale lately, just wait until the new onslaught of visual content from aggregators like Demand Media.
Yes, videos that seem to have the answer could show up high in your search results; everything from a useful two-minute video on cooking eggs with vinegar to content that looks like your cat started experimenting with a flip video camera. Though eventually it could be a good thing, get ready for snippet video to invariably start wasting more of your time.
3. Interoperability, Schminter-operability
For years we’ve been told that everything in the digital universe would sync seamlessly. Did that actually happen? If it did, it certainly didn’t happen to everyone. Our digital world is still mélange of moving platforms supporting too many applications that neither translate nor interoperate.
Gmail allows you to consolidate your email accounts and companies like Silentale and Grand Central (bought by Google) group your Twitter and phone communications respectively. But now that you think about it, that’s a group of consolidations. Maybe someday we can consolidate the consolidations…
Another 10 years into the millennium and we’re likely to see a kinder, gentler, more compatible world but until then, “You need to get the update!” is the consumer’s call to action and the developer’s mantra.
4. The Great Mobile Phone War
More and more tech giants are stage diving at the consumer Mobilestock but will the crowd will clear some space in the mobile moshpit?
This year Google is executing a block and tackle strategy that takes the carriers out of the consumers’ decision process. This can only lead to other “crazy” things like better reception choices in major metros and — heaven forbid — less stupid, competitive ads about more bars and less drops.
My first submission for a Google tagline: “Don’t be a hater; make the call.”
5. TV Goes Rogue
No, this isn’t a Palinesque-manufactured PR redoubt from which to throw stones at your opponent — this is a full-fledged subversion of contemporary network TV. Sites like Hulu are static and dependable destinations for premium content. More will follow in Hulu’s steps and the idea of a scheduled TV slot that you plan your time around will go the way of the dodo bird.
And if you’re looking at the ads, did you notice how they’re shorter? That is the new thing: Ad agencies will have to sharpen their pencils (and budgets) and get the 30 seconds down to 5 seconds if they want to sell an ad to a client. This doesn’t get rid of the annoying factor, but it’s a model that will continue everywhere there is a screen.
6. A Marriage of Reluctant Heirs
Branding and shopping for that brands’ merchandise will merge in the digital content world. This may not seem new, but many online retailers who export that kind of content to magazines will soon get smarter about mixing selling with telling.
Though this has been a bumpy road, the scale growth of user-influenced commerce is fragmenting existing expert sites. So instead of staying in the retail sales-pitchy world, retail brands need to be balanced and objective experts in their own right. That new bag you’re thinking of buying will have a broader and more robust community with a mix of opinions to help you decide.
7. Let’s Get Physical
No, not in the 80’s power-ballad sense, but in the brick-and-mortar retailer sense. For the past decade, the consumer needle has been moving in the direction of online forretail brands looking to make the leap to online without having to reside in the physical world. Now the needle will swing back the other way, as the “Starbucks model” for Barnes & Noble becomes the “new wave” for retailers.
So get ready for cookies, video games, free consultations, mobile phone charging stations and free wifi when you’re trying to buy that frying pan. All you need to do is fork over some contact info. Smart retailers will find ways to keep people in their stores, shopping-and-staying, in lieu of the traditional shop-and-leave paradigm.
8. Digital Ecosystems for Customers
We’re going to see a lot more conversion to “online enabled” physical retail. This isn’t about gadgets, but more about how online and in-store are interdependent. Though many brick-and-mortar companies aren’t willing to change unless there is a definite ROI to it, ship-to-store is a reality for consumers today, breaking down the “shop-till-you-drop” mentality.
Wal-Mart is testing an online order drive-through pick up window to see if customers can handle that much convenience. Shopping for the harried is undoubtedly in our future.
9. The Feedback Loop
The dimension of feedback from consumers will be a bigger than ever in the coming year. And yet it’s not all about merchandise-related complaints. Product design and development, delivery methods and marketing communications all are candidates for critique.
This isn’t to say that building from such criticism will take off as a ubiquitous strategy for retailers, but we will see improvements in how businesses listen to consumer feedback in real-time, whether the problem is complex or simple.
10. Retailer-Generated Video (RGV)
RGV is probably the newest arena that retailers are congregating in that has a direct application to sales. We’re heading into everlasting brand traffic jam, where users are going to gravitate to more types of product demonstrations from retailers and brands with 30 seconds to spot.
Companies like Toys R Us and Tumi are adding new videos to create context around products every day. We’ll see many agencies spring up with theability to produce videos cheaply, and many product developers cringe at the result. Somewhere, agencies and retailers will meet in the middle to create strong, benefit-oriented videos at a reasonable production cost.