PRIVACY CONCERNS CHANGE THE SOCIAL LANDSCAPE
WHAT WE SAW: With teens expressing waning enthusiasm for Facebook and citing privacy concerns as a major factor, other networks are actively vying to fill the void. Social Networks and messaging apps such as Snapchat, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp appeal to younger audiences by offering peer-to-peer technologies with greater privacy and less interference from advertisers. Whether or not Snapchat turns out to be worth the $3 billion Facebook offered to buy it, the network has shown there’s an appetite for ephemeral content—the app has more than 350 million monthly users, compared to Twitter with just 23 million.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: With increasing privacy concerns and users craving genuine connections, brands and publishers will begin to create ephemeral content and forge one-to-one communications with consumers. In 2014, companies will likely produce shorter ads and commercials, subtly disguising advertisements as entertaining clips. These fun, easy-to-watch videos will be crucial for marketers courting the highly sought-after millennial demographic.
Along with Snapchat, mobile-messaging services including WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat will continue to attract new users. Meanwhile, the more traditional social media service providers, such as Facebook and Twitter will have to either find a way to insure themselves against the rise of these messaging apps, or may seek to acquire them to remain competitive.
E-COMMERCE AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONVERGE
WHAT WE SAW: In 2013 consumers and brands alike witnessed incredible growth of the global e-commerce market. While social media contributed only a modest amount to total revenue brought in this year—less than 1% of Black Friday e-commerce traffic was referred by social media—there were a number of changes suggesting a resurgence of social commerce in 2014. Developments in social media allowed brands to promote fans’ favorite items (as Target did with its “Awesome Shop”), personalize product offerings, and retarget ads based on consumers’ online behavior. Major networks including Instagram and Pinterest (with Promoted Pins) introduced ads for the first time this year.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: The relationship between e-commerce and social media will continue to grow this year, with social commerce sales expected to reach $30 billion by 2015. Although consumers will still make the majority of e-commerce purchases on company websites, social media networks will increasingly be the initial point of contact and research.
The key metrics in social media will shift from a pure engagement focus to a more direct sales focus as companies seek better ways to measure the ROI from their social efforts. Brands will rely on the marketing insights gained from social media to create personalized, real-time experiences for shoppers, particularly on visual sites like Pinterest and Instagram. The companies that are able to seamlessly integrate the purchase experience with the social experience will have the best chance of success at increasing their e-commerce sales in the next few years.
REAL-TIME GETS REBRANDED
WHAT WE SAW: In 2013, countless brands followed the “real time” trend, generating designed assets at a rapid-fire pace to respond to big cultural moments on social media. A trend famously executed in 2012 by Oreo with its Daily Twist campaign, this year’s executions ranged from Charmin’s response to the royal birth to AT&T’s outrage-stirring response to the anniversary of 9/11.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: With a cluttered space in social media and countless brands competing to break through, “real time” will have to be rebranded. It’s no longer enough to have a content studio ready to generate a Photoshopped image at a moment’s notice. Now, to get attention, and to generate meaningful interactions with followers, brands will have to focus on listening to their audiences and emphasizing creativity.
2013’s improvised TV spots from Lexus and Twitter’s new platform, Amplify, are two recent, groundbreaking steps toward redefining what it means to be “real time.” As we redefine what it means to be real-time, the “content studio” model may become larger-scale. For example, a brand could pair up with a comedy studio to create original content during a big cultural moment, or partner with a media site to create a rich, second-screen experience during a big, televised event.
THE FACE OF INTERNET CELEBRITY CHANGES
WHAT WE SAW: Following the crest of mommy bloggers and beauty vloggers in recent years, Instagram photographers and Vine comedians broke out in 2013. After quickly growing devoted followings of hundreds of thousands, it wasn’t long before many of the top creators on these channels were tapped by brands.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: With a growing pool of social media influencers more diverse and vast than ever, savvy brands will look beyond the traditional types of content creators to redefine what makes an “influencer.” For example, Free People is tapping its biggest fans to appear in fashion shows and generate their content. It remains to be seen who in 2014 will be the next big thing, but the consistent qualities that take influential accounts to the top are originality and authenticity. And as more platforms emerge, so will new voices.
STREAMING GROWS IN THE GAMING SPACE
WHAT WE SAW: It’s never been more obvious that video game entertainment has matured from child’s play to big business. Grand Theft Auto V broke records by pulling in $1 billion in revenue within three days of its release this fall. The audience that grew up with Pac-Man and Mario are still playing: gamers today average 34 years old and 40% of all gamers are female. Microsoft and Sony both launched new consoles this fall which support apps and streaming video services in addition to playing games. But perhaps the most exciting news is the inclusion of streaming video service Twitch.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: Integrating Twitch directly into the hardware of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 will allow players to stream their activity to friends without any effort. The controller for the Playstation 4 even has a Share button, which instantly streams gameplay to Twitch. Other players are jumping in, too: Ustream and YouTube both provide live streaming services. 2014 might be the year video games become a spectator sport.
LIVING ROOMS GET WIRED
WHAT WE SAW: Smart TV’s have spent the past few years trying to become an app platform, but have failed to see significant adoption by developers because of competing standards and a serious lack of computing power. As a whole, the living room app industry is still struggling to be more than Netflix players and fish tank screensavers.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: A new generation of smart TV’s, game consoles and hardware accessories emerged at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 that will rekindle developers’ passions for the big screen. The Xbox One and PS4 consoles both launched to massive sales, and have been courting indie developers. With significantly better hardware, rich development kits, and standard user input devices, the newest game consoles may be fertile ground for the living room app developer. Meanwhile, Google’s snuck in a trojan horse: its ultra-portable, ultra-cheap Chromecast dongle. Google has big plans for the tiny Chromecast, and is in the processing of rolling out a development kit for it. That development kit could be just the thing that’s needed to get Android and Chrome app developers to tune in.
VOICE RECOGNITION BECOMES THE NEW CLICK
WHAT WE SAW: In 2013, we hit an inflection point with voice recognition, as smart devices, like the Moto X and the Xbox One, began passively listening for commands. Meanwhile, services like Facebook’s Graph Search and Netflix’s Max took conversational approaches to dissecting big data, and emotion-detecting cameras began to creep into retail.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: Voice recognition, emotion recognition, and human language access to big data are on a collision course. The Winston Show (an iPad app for kids from former Pixar employees) teases what this next wave of technology will bring: contextually-aware services that you engage with like another human being. Expect to see toys that proactively play with your kids and virtual concierge services that are sensitive to your mood.
BIG DATA TRANSFORMS BRICK AND MORTAR
WHAT WE SAW: In-store monitoring went into overdrive in 2013, as cameras tracking eyeballs and emotions sprung up in test programs around the world, and stores began watching cellphone ID’s to track customer visits.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: Widespread digital signage will become necessary to capitalize on the mountain of data generated by in-store monitoring, as advertised specials rotate to match customers’ specific interests and buying habits. Impulse-conversion becomes more and more important, and new technologies like iBeacon will help by letting retailers beam customized offers directly to customers, and encouraging customers to check out instantly and skip the register.
FITNESS-TRACKING DEVICES ARE PUSHED OUT
WHAT WE SAW: According to a Consumer Electronics Association study, consumer interest in fitness wearables like FitBit and Nike Fuelband has never been higher, and is growing at a rapid clip. Manufacturers have taken notice and flooded the market, though no definitive winners have emerged.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: Like America’s short-lived love affair with the beeper, the dedicated fitness wearable will soon be phased out of the market. At one end, smartphones with highly-refined motion tracking, like the iPhone 5s, or with health-specific hardware, like Lifewatch V, are emerging in response to the appetite for health and fitness tech. At the other, even smarter wearables, like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch, are beginning to break through to the mainstream. Expect consumer’s enthusiasm for fitness bands to turn into apathy as they’re increasingly drawn towards bio-aware smartphones or feature-rich smartwatches.