Adapt and prosper: how to harness the four big digital trends of 2013

There a numbers of factors that have come together to help shape the digital trends for 2013. The move to the Cloud over the past three years has revolutionised technology. Mobile has become the new platform of choice and the introduction of social media channels has brought with it the need for multi-channel engagement strategies. And the next decade will be what the IDC has termed The Third Platform

The first platform was the introduction of the mainframe for computing. The second platform was the introduction of the personal computer and local networks. Now we are entering the next platform, which is built on mobile devices and apps, cloud services, social business and big data. This Third Platform gives us a huge range of new opportunities in how we engage with our audiences over the next year.

Big Data

We are now capturing a massive amount of structured and unstructured data. And the need to understand this data is top of the agenda. The information we now receive on customer transactions, loyalty programmes, likes, dislikes, and preferences could really give us a very deep level of customer intelligence. But recent research by Columbia Business School shows that we are currently wasting this potential. They found that nearly half of marketers are not using data to personalise their marketing communications, 28 percent still do not know which high-value customers to focus their marketing on and 51 percent are not using the data they are collecting at all.

The challenge for making the most of all this Big Data is to turn it from a mass of data into real business insight. And in order to gain these insights we need to ask the right questions. So we need to ask questions around the what, who and when. What insight can we derive from the information that we’ve captured? Who needs to know this information? And when do they need to know in order to make a more informed decision? Getting started requires that you define your business objectives and goals and know what data you need to collect and what you want to measure.

Predictive Analytics is becoming crucial to customer engagement today. Whereas data analysis has typically had a ‘historic’ focus, Predictive Analytics allows us to predict future trends and behaviour patterns and identify where our best opportunities for engagement are going to be in the future. For example, in the UK the Royal Shakespeare Company analysed its audience’s addresses, the shows they attended and ticket prices they paid to develop a new targeted engagement plan. This new plan boosted membership signups by nearly 40 percent and increased average attendance by more than 70 percent. In the US the Chicago and Memphis Police Departments have been using predictive analytics to predict crime. And since its introduction in Memphis, crime has been reduced by 30 percent.

It is clear that many marketers are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of data they are receiving. The IBM CMO Survey for 2012 found that 65 percent of CMOs are unprepared for the growth of data from mobile and social media. But don’t get overwhelmed by Big Data – let it be your friend! Big Data and Predictive Analytics can help us identify our best engagement opportunities. Through these insights we can then deliver real relevancy to our most valuable customers and further increase their loyalty. 


Obviously mobile is huge. More people now have a mobile phone in the world than use a tooth brush (4.2 billion); there are over six billion mobile subscribers worldwide which equals 87 percent of the world’s population; mobile is set to become the primary web access platform in many emerging markets; there are now over 1.2 billion people accessing the web from their mobiles; and in India the use of the mobile web is set to overtake fixed-line internet by the end of the year.  

Mobile payments are increasingly being adopted worldwide and many mobile experts believe that very soon we will live in a cashless society. Juniper Research predicts that $670 billion will be generated from mobile payments by 2015. The Commonwealth Bank Australia has developed ‘KACHING’ a new iPhone app that allows you to do your banking anywhere and anytime and also pay your friends and contacts using your email, mobile or Facebook contacts. 

QR coding is helping the shift to mobile payments. There are now a number of QR shopping walls at bus stops and train stations where you can shop while waiting for the bus or train and your products are delivered while you’re on your way home. Tesco’s virtual shops in South Korea have been a huge success. The virtual grocery store has attracted hundreds of thousands new customers and boosted online sales by 130 percent. 

Mobile coupons are also growing in importance. Juniper Research forecasts that the total redemption value of mobile coupons worldwide will be more than $43 billion by 2016. Redeeming mobile coupons and finding deals is now a bigger motivator for using geo-location services than sites like FourSquare. Today 40 percent of smartphone users redeem mobile coupons and 29 percent search for deals on their devices at least once a month. 

Retailers are picking up on this. Safeway recently rolled out a smartphone app that lets customers create shopping lists and find coupons and special offers. It also gives its customers access to the newly launched Just for U programme which delivers coupons and special offers to their Safeway Club Card. So it’s clear that mobile—in all its forms—will be one of the next big trends for the coming years.

Augmented Reality

AR is starting to gain more purchase too. This is where you combine live video with computer-generated data and visualisation, usually on your smartphone. Museums and tourist spots are starting to use this so, for example, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney layers real time digital information over your mobile camera. hyARlocal helps local authorities and other public bodies who hold lots of data about places to show their data in new and imaginative ways.

Macy’s and IKEA are using AR to offer a new type of engagement that moves beyond the web and into users’ lives. This makes the whole experience much more immersive. For example Macy’s allows you to download cartoon characters from its ‘Make Believe’ campaign which you can make appear in your home. IKEA’s app allows you to actually see what furniture would look like in your house and whether it would fit in.

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed a pair of augmented reality glasses to fool the wearer into believing the snack they are holding is much larger. And their research found that where food appears 50 percent larger, people actually eat ten percent less. 

One of my favourite apps is Word Lens, a smartphone app that can instantly translate short pieces of foreign texts to help you understand things like street signs, menus in restaurants and pricing while abroad.


Google is developing its Google Goggles, a pair of augmented reality glasses that gives real-time information right in front of your eyes. And Tomi Ahonen, the international mobile guru, believes AR is the next big platform so it is something we should make sure we think about seriously.


Many companies like Groupon, Zynga and Nike are building their communities through the use of games. The travel company Expedia did this really well with ‘Tag Me If You Can‘. In the game, Nathan Jolliffe (from Australian Celebrity Apprentice) travelled to 15 secret destinations around the world. Every day he gave short video clues about where he was. If you geo-tagged his location to within ten metres, you had a chance to win a share of $150,000. The game was a huge success for Expedia and it is said to be the largest gamification project ever achieved in New Zealand and Australia.

But gamification is not just about having fun. It’s also about using the mechanics of gaming to solve problems and achieve positive outcomes. So for example, last year Sweden implemented a Speed Camera Lottery in Stockholm. How it works is rather that just being fined by a speed camera if you speed, you are rewarded if you stay within the speed limit. So everyone who stays within the limit is entered into a lottery and the proceeds from the fines are shared amongst lottery winners. And it worked. The pilot scheme resulted in a 22 percent reduction in speed in the area within just a few weeks.

Another great example is Foldit. Foldit is a game released by the University of Washington which turns scientific problems into games. By folding digital molecules on their computer screens, gamers cracked an Aids-related puzzle that had been baffling scientists for over 15 year—and they did this in just ten days. 

Organisations can also embrace gamification to create employee engagement. FedEx is using gamification to promote information sharing amongst its 300,000 employees. Through gamification FedEx is hoping to create a fundamental shift in employee outlook from equating knowledge-hoarding with power to believing that knowledge-sharing is power. 

Gamification can play an important role in creating customer and employee engagement. And the message from the experts is gamify everything. 

So Big Data, Mobile, Augmented Reality and Gamification are all big trends for 2013 and we need to be thinking now how we can incorporate some, if not all, of these trends into our digital strategies over the next year. Because to paraphrase Charles Darwin, it is not the smartest or cleverest that will survive in this digital age, it will be those organisations that are most open to change and can adapt to the changing environment.

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