Whether used in private or professional settings, new information and communication technologies have profoundly influenced the way we communicate, express ourselves, and behave as consumers. They have also affected the way we learn and work as well as, more or less, every other aspect of our lives.
Let’s take a look at the major trends contributing to today’s interconnected world.
1. Social Media Trends
Facebook and Twitter, with respectively 1.06 billion and 200 million active users worldwide (as of December 2012), continue to dominate social networking. Companies use them extensively to promote products, interact directly with consumers, and improve customer service response times. Meanwhile, content on the web has become increasingly niche-focused, reflecting ever more refined marketing strategies. This can be seen in the growing use of sponsored content, storytelling, live events relayed on social media, user-generated content, data visualization, and the like. Additionally, to boost their fans’ commitment, brands are attempting to blend in as naturally as possible with the flow of information, enabling them to reach the right people at the right time.
Despite this major evolution in marketing, there is always room for improvement: a recent study by the Harvard Business Review reveals that only 12% of companies on social media think they’re using these tools to their best advantage.
The rise of mobile devices is quickly displacing personal computers and presenting another new challenge for businesses. Companies are now required to develop complex, dedicated mobile experiences that differentiate them from the competition and integrate the latest mobile functions that consumers have come to expect (Geo-location, cloud storage, intuitive and engaging interfaces, email integration, etc…)
At the same time, images continue to play an increasingly important role on the social web, as reflected by the enormous popularity of Pinterest, Instagram and, most recently, Twitter’s Vine, where users apply the famous Twitter brevity to tell a video story in 6 seconds.
Finally, business-focused social networking, led by LinkedIn and its 160 million users worldwide (as of January 2013), continues to soar. LinkedIn hasn’t stopped evolving and offering new ways for brands to leverage its forums and feeds to post content, segment customer and partner targets as well as to market enterprise activities to the professional masses.
2. Mobile Trends
Nearly half the world’s population now uses mobile communication tools, the greatest technological revolution since the invention of the Internet. By 2017, it’s estimated that the number of mobile subscribers will have reached 3.9 billion (source: “The Mobile Economy 2013” – A.T. Kearney). There’s good reason for this: mobiles have become indespensible and steadily replaced the tools we use in everyday life: cameras, maps, concert tickets, boarding passes, cash, notepads, and more.
In fact, the tablet and smartphone have created a modern lifestyle that’s “always on the go” and “always connected.” The Internet can now be accessed from anywhere – home, work, on the go, on vacation, in the train, etc…. Most notably, this revolution has brought about new uses that have profoundly impacted the way we work: BYOD—Bring Your Own Device—and telecommuting are without a doubt the most talked-about professional phenomena of 2013.
In a word, mobile tools have altered our relationship with brands, forcing companies to adopt a customized marketing approach. Today’s consumers expect mobile services to respond to their needs, as well as intelligent applications that are adapted to new lifestyles and trends.
According to “Forrester’s top 10 Trends for Mobile in 2013”, now more than ever, companies need to find the right mix between business, marketing, design and technological expertise.
3. Cloud Computing Trends
Cloud computing continues to experience great growth. Forrester predicts that the “cloud” market will reach more than $118 billion in 2014. As companies massively relocate their data, IT hosting services are predicted to become an even more substantial market. Having said that, we’re just starting to realize the power of the cloud: cloud computing received extensive media coverage in 2012 and huge strides were made, fueling discussions about just the right mix of private vs public cloud usage, cloud vs on-premise and the advantages of Software-as-a-Service.
Nevertheless, because it offers optimal collaboration in the form of online meetings, remote access to resources, shared documents and more, cloud computing is now recognized as a critical tool in increasing productivity and reducing costs. What’s more, because it allows users the freedom to connect from anywhere, anytime and on any device, it facilitates greater mobility and workplace flexibility.
According to Appcore LLC, a few trends are expected to emerge:
– Increased convenience and user confidence in local cloud networks
– Expanded use of cloud computing by small businesses
– Rapid expansion of community-based cloud computing
In 2013 and beyond, cloud computing will revolutionize our way of doing business.
Social media, mobile and cloud computing are at the leading edge of technology, and are literally changing society. More than others before them, these technologies have integrated themselves into today’s lifestyles, while fashioning those of tomorrow. The challenge for business is to comprehend this dual technological dimension while using these tools to their maximum advantage.