"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today." When Lord Chesterfield said this, he was more than likely referring to being steadfast in your work ethic, and avoiding procrastination. More often than not, those who begin their tasks early find themselves in a superior position down the line. The same can be said for those who think ahead, so with the new year ahead, it's important to not only live in the now, but prepare for the future.
There is no question that 2013 will provide new technologies, as is the case with every year. But what exactly can we expect? Can we really predict the 2013 digital landscape?
To answer this question, we asked a few technology and design experts around the office to weigh-in and following are their views on the biggest digital trends and innovations to look out for in the coming year.
- WCM and eCommerce as the Engines of Digital Marketing Platforms -- Last year Siteworx predicted a category convergence between web content management (WCM) and eCommerce platforms. This is already occurring to some extent, but even faster than product convergence will be the emergence of post-product, platform thinking by marketers. What does this mean? It means a WCM that simply democratizes content creation is dead. The new bar set in content-driven marketing systems will include using WCM as the central piece of the puzzle - surrounded by or incorporating social media, connected display and search ads, personalization capabilities, multichannel content distribution and analytics, online testing, marketing automation, and a host of other technology solutions focused on allowing marketers to reach the right audiences with the right messages at the right time. Likewise, eCommerce that simply handles shopping cart transactions is only for the smallest small and medium-sized businesses (SMB); the enterprise market (and the mid-market) will increasingly need recommendation engines, multivariate testing, product information management, CRM integration, implicit and explicit personalization and targeting, sophisticated attribution, social commerce capabilities, multi-channel and other innovations to drive increased average order value and conversion rates. Marketing is the last major organizational function to be fundamentally disrupted by technology, but we are in the midst of that sea-change. If you're not entirely convinced, consider Gartner analyst Laura McLellan's recent prediction, which says CMOs will spend more than CTOs on technology within the next five years.
- Flight to Quality -- There are thousands of WCM and eCommerce products on the market but less than ten that matter at the enterprise level. Despite commoditization and price pressure from a fractured market at the SMB level, the opposite trend is happening at the enterprise. Overhauling the primary technology platform supporting the online face of a company is a risky proposition-too great to gamble on unproven players. Even category players that were dominant five years ago can become obsolete very quickly without continued innovation. As a result of these market forces, we predict a shrinking pool of credible software options, which will become apparent for WCM and eCommerce at the enterprise.
- Back to the Living Room -- We started with television, worked our way to desktop PCs, now to mobile, and it's going to come right back to the TV. But this won't be the beloved knobby TV of the past because now it has to incorporate the digital habits of an audience that's consuming content on their smartphone or tablet while watching. Home automation will also take off this year allowing you to control lighting, security, or HVAC from your phone or TV. From the advancement of pay-by-phone eCommerce to the consolidation of in-home appliance, electronics, and even energy management, both smartphone manufacturers and mobile application developers will continue to find new ways to eliminate the number of remotes, controllers, and interfaces that the consumer has to worry about in managing their digital and physical world. This is going to blur digital interface lines more than ever, making it even more important for marketers and product managers to design with cross-device interoperability in mind.
- Mobile Leads the Way -- The rise in adoption of mobile platforms (smartphone and tablet) as the way many people interact with brands on a day-to-day basis will continue unabated. The inverse of this point being that the importance of the desktop experience will continue to decline. Having a viable mobile strategy along with a site that serves your customers in a mobile-friendly manner is critical and is an investment that needs to be made sooner rather than later. Nearly all of the clients we talk to these days recognize the significance of mobile and are moving to fill the gaps in their mobile strategy. Those who do not take action risk being left behind in terms of the ability to execute effective sales, marketing, and customer service online.
- Windows Smartphone Gains Ground in the Smartphone Market -- In 2013, we'll find out whether the Windows Phone emerges as a viable third option in the battle of mobile OSs. A new report from Kantar Worldpanel Comtech has revealed that the Windows Phone edged out RIM as the third most popular platform during the past 12 weeks, now accounting for 2.7% of all purchases in the U.S. Microsoft has done some great UI work with the platform, but it could all go to waste if they fail to effectively market the OS and if device manufacturers fall short on following up with compelling hardware options and competitive price points.
- Interactive Features and Single Page Architecture (SPA) Take the Spotlight -- In 2013 "interactions" will become the design buzz word when creating sites using more single page architecture (SPA). SPA is becoming popular due to its ease of use and clean aesthetic. SPA also forces you to prioritize your content, providing a driving force for your overall message. Visit siteworx.com as an example of how SPA offers compelling experiences.
- Responsive Design -- The continued adoption of responsive design will impact both the medium and the message. In taking a content-first approach and designing with a "mobile-out" methodology, organizations will adopt a more efficient administrative framework to manage their digital content. Additionally, they will create a model where content can be efficiently prioritized for cross-channel experiences. While it remains to be seen what impact this trend will have on core revenue generation models, such as online advertising, it will be interesting to see exactly what content takes precedence for different verticals and audience types.
- Responsive Design Welcomes Personalized Responsive Content -- Until now, most people spoke of responsive design in terms of the visual display of information that adapts "effortlessly" to the digital context through which it is delivered. But 2013 will offer a richer conversation around the personalized responsive content that must also adapt to the device; that is, experience designers, marketers and copywriters will leverage more advanced WCM techniques to choose which content appears in which context in which design - we won't just see the same content reformatted for every device (for example, the venerable "click here" advice doesn't make much sense without a mouse). 2013 will see this dimension of content strategy and execution flourish.
- Personalization Goes Mainstream -- Content testing, targeting, and personalization will continue to become more mainstream outside the eCommerce space. Marketers in all verticals realize the advantages of creating these more-personalized experiences for their site visitors and are finally in a position to start doing something about it. WCM vendors of nearly all stripes (including Adobe and Sitecore) have vastly improved their capabilities in these areas over the last few years and organizations have moved to re-platform onto these more-capable solutions.
- Big Data and Our Complete Digital Fingerprint -- With over 2.5 trillion bytes of data accumulating around the world every day (take the actual number with a grain of salt, but trust that data is getting bigger faster than ever), marketers and data scientists are making happy bedfellows. In 2013, marketers will expect deeper, more meaningful metrics from analytics packages to drive every user experience towards a personalized nirvana, forming and nurturing a complete digital fingerprint for all of us. Data scientists will provide analysis across devices, applications, domains, locales, social graphs ... everything.
- Marketing Automation is the New Normal -- 2012 saw two major transactions in the Digital Marketing Automation space: ExactTarget purchased the SMB player Pardot for around $100 million, and Oracle acquired Eloqua for over $800 million. This heavy investment indicates that digital experience management vendors are combining cloud-based solutions into total digital experience management packages -- some more complete than others. If a digital experience management vendor does not include marketing automation in their "standard" solution, they'll be left behind in the 2013 race for relevance.
- The Beloved Back Button Continues to Fight the Good Fight -- Since the iPhone begot the iPad, digital experiences have evolved with a fierce rapidity. Native app? Hybrid app? Web app? Single-page architecture? Responsive design or m-dot site? Attendant to this variance has been the varied result of clicking the back button: Will this take me back to my Facebook news stream, or back to the previous page I just browsed inside this window? Will I return to where I was one click ago or multiple clicks ago? Will the animations run backwards or just lurch back to an expired session page? Much like the rise of Flash in the late 1990s and early 2000s, experience designers enjoy breaking a golden rule before returning to some form of normalcy. 2013 will see a renewed respect for the trusty back button as usability tests confirm that people still rely on what should be one of the most consistent experiences on the web.
("Vintage 2013" image courtesy of Shutterstock.)