With digital budgets now big enough to make that endeavour an entrenched part of the marketing mix, 2014 is the year we'll be less impressed by snazzy new service launches and more enamoured with opportunities to specifically target consumers using existing technology, says Hotwire and 33 Digital's fifth annual Digital Trends Report.
Social media is one technology where niche has never been more important, according to the report. "Whereas in the past we have commented on the launch of promising new social media with regularity, such as Foursquare, Pheed, Instagram and Pinterest, there are now too many new networks to name, as the social model enters its first stage of maturity and everyone is already thinking 'social by design'.
"Generic broadcasts to the masses are out; marketing teams need to go to where the audience is, across multiple social networks."
Clients will need agencies to manage increasingly targeted channels, like the fitness service Strava, fashion app StyledOn, Jelly for knowledge-sharing and Current for businesspeople, rather than just the broader, more established networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
The companies say users are more and more sophisticated in their use of social media in an interest-driven world and trust is becoming a more important factor in where users share information.
"As we become more aware of our online trail and conscious of the availability of the data we share – might that encourage us to think a little more strategically and selectively about what and where and how we are willing to engage?"
Teens have become such heavy social media users that the report authors call it a lifeline for that group. They even ask if social media education should be part of the school curriculum. And that means brands targeting youth audiences should be aware of the need for online safety education, they say.
"We expect that the communications industry will explore their role and accountability in defending the growing threats to young people on social media in 2014."
The report authors also point to the rise of e-commerce player Etsy, which has 'humanised' retail online. Etsy's story exemplifies the rise of what they call the digital artisan, bringing authenticity to its brand story.
"Increasingly we’ll see brands creating stories that give us behind-the-scenes access, showcasing the processes and people that make them unique.
"Yet such stories are not enough by themselves; twee representations of a bygone age will not be celebrated. Leaders in the space know to underpin content with clean design and slick systems of commerce and sharing, enabling customers to review, rate, favourite, share and find out more about the products and the people who create them."
Click here to download the full report.