The 12 digital marketing trends of 2011

In this guest post, Reading Room’s Cathie McGinn offers 12 key digital trends for marketers in the coming year.

1. The Rise and Rise of Social Shopping

Social commerce goes beyond merely allowing consumers to make purchases on  social platforms. We’re not satisfied by mere convenience: we’re social animals, and clever marketers need to use social influence techniques to connect with consumers in a noisy marketplace.
We’ve already seen a great deal of social integration with e-commerce in 2011 and Facebook is increasingly the venue of choice to promote anything from fashion to car launches with its ambition to turn pages  into storefronts. The launch of Google’s Boutiques.com, early success of the BigCommerce shopping app and iTunes Ping are clear signals that social shopping will be a significant area of growth this year. Sorry, Mr Harvey.

2. Transmedia
This is a development which goes far beyond branded content. Transmedia content works across platforms, devices, timeframes and technologies, allowing creatives to tell stories in a rich variety of media, allowing us to create compelling and cohesive experiences for audiences in a new and more engaging way. Agencies with strong multimedia production skills and an emphasis on integration and media planning are well placed to take the advantage.

3. The ubiquity of social media

Brands and agencies will finally stop speculating about the need for social media and begin plan campaigns around social networks by default, integrate social media engagement seamlessly with all other marketing activity and think strategically about making campaigns and activity social from the outset. The need for social object creation is no longer a theoretical one, with an emphasis on creating content that is inherently shareable and searchable.

4. Mobile and Geo-location

Smart phone sales will eclipse PC sales by 2012, according to recent figures from Morgan Stanley. The trend in mobile is to offer extension to people’s lives through increasingly tangible touchpoints. From Bump-style apps using a gestural interface, to the rumoured iWallet and mobile credit card payment systems along with QR codes that enable on-the-spot transactions, the opportunity to reach consumers at the critical moment through relevant, contextual ads and apps has never been greater.

Geo-locative content will mature, with Facebook Places and Deals pushing forward the need to use geo-social tools for a clear purpose, rather than the early race to claim pixel prizes typified by Foursquare. Tools like FutureCheckIn, which run continuously on a smartphone and don’t require users to opt-in to log their location via GPS provide a glimpse of the new framework, in which we’re connected to the grid at all times. Rethinking how we use geolocation will give consumers exciting new interactions with brands. A great example is Swedish campaign Find the Mini, win the Mini – a simple but effective geolocational campaign that combines geolocation, social networking and gaming.

5. Design and user experience: beyond the app
The mobile and tablet experience will ultimately mean a return to the web, rather than flipping between a series of standalone apps, but meanwhile, apps will continue to be the flavour of the moment throughout 2011.
The challenge for designers and user experience professionals alike is to create interfaces that offer a unified experience regardless of which platform you access this content on – users expect consistency. New advances in coding capabilities like html5 and CSS3 mean interface design will make bold strides this year.

6. Facebook optimisation and alternatives

Facebook recently hit the 500 million user mark, and it looks set to achieve Australian saturation this year. But concerns about privacy, Facebook’s ownership and use of user data, and also a need to create more focused communities has led to the creation of several strong alternative contenders, in particular Jumo (for the not for profit and NGO sector) and Diaspora (an open source platform)

Chris Hughes (co-founder of Facebook), created Jumo after the Haiti disaster. It remains to be seen whether this will make a huge change to the way people make donations, but it will certainly be interesting to see whether providing charities and their supporters with one central location will alter how they mobilise themselves online. Diaspora has the makings of a great platform. It’s open source, privacy aware, built upon distributed architecture and offering all the social functionality that Facebook provides, without selling your personal data to advertisers. Expect the buzz around this project to continue in 2011 as people start wondering if the benefits Facebook provides are outweighed by the risks.

Meanwhile, the emphasis is on Facebook News Feed Optimisation as marketers realise that stylish Facebook landing pages alone won’t keep an audience engaged: with less than 2% of fans revisiting a brand’s page after becoming a fan, brands need to keep creating new content and pushing it through the newsfeed to keep the attention of their audience.

7. Cloud Computing

Australia is leading the charge in its adoption of cloud computing. Cost and the ceaseless proliferation of data means cloud computing, both for infrastructure and software, is becoming a necessity. Our need to access data across a range of devices and locations means tools like DropBox and Google documents, which gives users access to their files and on any device are replacing static software solutions.
The scalability and cost effectiveness of cloud hosting make it a essential choice, particularly for campaign sites.  Concerns about security are lessened as more and more public cloud systems open up, buying sophisticated data protection encryption services will becomes affordable, and the issue of data jurisdiction will be solved as local service providers become cheaper and more accessible.

8. IPv4 to IPv6

The web is running out of addresses. Complete IPv4 address exhaustion looks likely in 2011 – 12 and will mean a move from IPv4 to IPv6. This will not only offer a unique IP address not only per user but an IP address per device, which could offer marketers some exciting new data sets about our users.  It also means organisations need to be prepared for the transition to ensure seamless reconfiguration.

9. Internet TV
In 2011 we’ll see wide scale adoption of internet TV services across a multitude of devices; TV, desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones. Platforms are no longer emerging but maturing with support and aggressive promotion of new technologies from the likes of Intel, Apple and Google. Expect the interaction between multiple devices to create more engaging experiences. Users will be able to watch streaming video content on your TV while controlling it with an phone/tablet, contributing live to shows with layered contextual Tweeting, voting and interacting with TVCs. There will be a battle for supremacy over the coming months as users seek to migrate from separate platforms and players to a single common platform.

10. 3D Projection Mapping

Continuing the meta trend of using digital and virtual tools to deliver real experiences, projection mapping is going to be massive over the next six to 12 months as more brands use the technology to interact with consumers. Its applications range from education to advertising, for example, the History Channel projecting the history of a site onto the walls of  the present-day building, and BMW advertising their new car across Singapore’s CBD skyscrapers

11. Data

Data continues to be the most valuable commodity we have, and marketers with a finely honed ability to find the most salient stuff will be in high demand.

The tension between privacy and accessibility will continue as social conventions struggle to adapt fast enough to the amount of data we share, knowingly and unwittingly, on the web, and 2011 will see further discussion of civil liberties and individual rights as the consumer becomes more aware of online surveillance by brands and governments alike. Consumers will increasingly expect that brands are more responsive to complaints and comment via sites like Twitter, Not Good Enough and so on – implicitly viewing it as a value exchange – their information for better service.

Data protection will also become a more pressing consideration, with recent Tumblr outages and the possibility of further changes to Facebook’s terms of use raising the question of dependence on third party sites. If we accept that Facebook will always know more about our fans than we do, are we as happy to accept that Facebook is the only channel  through  which we can connect with them? Ensuring that if a site goes down or locks you out, your data and community doesn’t go with it means implementing a social CRM (customer relationship management) back up system, in  which you own data about your customers, learn about their preferences   and talk to them in their preferred medium, an excellent way of minimising risk and building good relationships at once.

12. Integration

Marketing activity needs to be seamlessly integrated across all platforms, devices and technologies, and it needs to be flexible and agile enough to adapt quickly to changes in platforms and technology. A successful campaign doesn’t needs to operate on all fronts just for the sake of covering the maximum number of possible touchpoints: insight and smart channel planning is crucial.

Integration means giving the customer a way of interacting with your brand in whatever way makes sense and is relevant to them. Putting their experience at the heart of everything you do is critical.


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