2014 Digital Trends And Predictions

Posted by Tracy Shea on January 2, 2014

As 2014 gets underway, the agency world is abuzz with trends and predictions for digital marketing and how brands can best garner the attention and support they desire.

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To predict a trend, you must be in tune with the ebb and flow of culture and the anthropology aspect of human behavior. Since I’m not truly a Social Anthropologist, I’m really not qualified to predict trends in the digital arena. However, I do have a keen sense of what motivates people and how cultural shifts have fundamentally changed how agencies provide service. So therefore, I’m going to lay out a few predictions that seem to make sense to me.

First point to consider, your brand is a news aggregator – a publisher. Your brand becomes a news feed. You’re a media company. You (the brand) HAVE to be a media company now.

You’re going to hear more about data. Data-fueled content will be increasingly more important. Sensors will customize display ads, and ratings systems will affect the customer and the brand relationship. Your brand will increasingly be rewarded for good service as well as specials awarded for good customers who complete assignments around initiatives. Your data will tell the brand if you’re loyal and, in turn, you’ll be loyal by providing data to your brand selections. Modern day “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

Sustainability will be more talked about than profitability. People want to do business with a good caretaker, not a profit machine. So, big corporations will need to DO and PUBLISH their CSR in more profound ways. The "triple bottom line" of People, Planet and Profit will be an increasing consideration for businesses, large and small.

You’re going to hear more about crowd-business initiatives, where “sharing” companies like Air BnB and Uber begin to emerge more and more. This could also be termed a "Barter Economy," where by swapped goods may put a dent in new sales from big-box stores. This may also mean that some goods can be manufactured, or at least positioned to be in local markets, for more speed to delivery or pickup. Manufacturing will start to take on the characteristics of the “farm-to-table” movement, with some production aspects localized for some goods and services.

Need it? How about printing your own? 3D printing is going to move into retail with experiments in accessories and for "try before you buy" to get a sense for how something looks, fits and feels before ordering the "real" one. This will take prototyping to a new level, with customers starting to be able to create hybrid products, to suit their individual needs.

Crowdsourced will become Crowd Creative; we’ll see people making things, mashing them up to create other products, then selling them on platforms such as EBay, Etsy, CraigsList and more as another level of retail partnership. Brands will empower brand loyalists and enable them to create, thus connecting the brand to the fan, the fan to their network and the network back to the brand.

MOBILE. There, I said it. Mobile is officially a thing. Your mobile devices will know you, know where you are and recommend things based on your agents and filters. You’ll need to program your environmental feed to ensure you’re getting the best information for your particular needs. Oh, and you’ll likely be wearing it.

Agents will search for things and filters will limit the noise to signal for better connections to the brands, goods and services that apply to you. The advertising and marketing you get will be different than what I get, based on sex, age, race, income, location and other measurable "status" markers.

You should expect to hear more about Snapchat, Google+, Vine and Instagram. The web is rapidly becoming a visual medium. It’s decreasing in read-only and increasing in view, contribute, share, search and repeat.

Snapchat ended 2013 with about 5 million active users (largely Millennials and younger) with 150 million photos per day. Forward-thinking marketers are going to get into (already have) this space in a meaningful way in 2014. This will drive some of the audience to other emerging platforms, much like the Facebook flee we saw beginning in 2012, due to marketing and your parents embarrassing you.

Google+ has about 500 million-plus users and is considered the second most popular social network. Google is dominating the content to audience, you to your audience and your content to your audience markets. It’s an ecosystem.

One hundred hours of video is being uploaded to YouTube every hour. Storytelling in short form is a key takeaway. If you have a story to tell, you should be documenting it, publishing it and asking interested audiences to comment, create and share around themes. Your brand is a media channel programmer now. Or should be.

Along the way, we should probably consider asking users, fans, enthusiasts to submit content (then rewarding them). It allows your brand to gather and collect relevant content to build community around themes (Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, etc).

What are your predictions? What do you think of these? Let me hear from you, I’m @Broadbandito just about everywhere.