Wendy White, CEO of Moonfruit, writes for CBR on the biggest tech trends for 2013.
Mobile is the shop window in your pocket - but is the shopkeeper letting you see in?
With more than one billion smartphones in the world and counting, today's consumer purchasing power lies in the mobile experience. IMRG anticipates that £920 million worth of transactions will have been conducted via mobile devices between December 3rd and 17th - a fifth of the total £4.6 billion that is likely to be spent by UK consumers. These stats say it all - retailers that don't have a mobile offering will miss out in a big way as we count down the days 'til Christmas.
Customers are constantly on their mobile phones, and while people use their phones to connect with friends and family, and access photos, music, emails, and more - they're also using their phones to shop online, wherever they go. And it's not just at Christmas time either.
Everyone from entrepreneurs and SMB owners to bigger brands now need to meet the rising demand of mobile shoppers by optimising their businesses for mobile. Online shop owners need to optimise their mobile site display and deliver a seamlessly branded mobile shopping experience for end users. This might seem like an obvious fact given the surge in mobile commerce, but many brands still need to wise-up to the needs of their smart phone and tablet using customers. Cath Kidston for one has recently been called up on its online store's lack of mobile optimisation. Without proper mobile functionality, consumers will simply go elsewhere if basic features such as site search, product pages and navigation are lacking. In 2013, it'll be a case of playing catch-up for those retailers who need to optimise their online shop window for the mobile world.
Content may be king, but its crowning glory lies in context and community
Sixteen years ago, Bill Gates told the world that content is king. Gates' statement is as true today as it was back in 1996, the only difference being now is that social media and more evolved platforms must be taken into consideration in today's connected world.
Social media has been the great democratising force in the modern era of the internet, following Web 2.0. No other digital tool has created and nurtured communities as successfully. Today's market leading brands are those that have recognised the value of the communities created by social media, nurtured their own communities and learnt how to tap into their innate power.
In 2012, we saw the likes of O2 responding creatively via their customer support channels, whilst Bodyform took it even further by creating a spoof Youtube response by the 'CEO' to a customer's Facebook complaint. This content became a viral hit but it was the personalisation and tailoring to the specific community which gave it legs.
Brands need to start using content and data more wisely to pinpoint customisation and target specific consumers.
Edtech - digitising our classrooms, shaping our future
2012 has been a landmark year for education and information technology in the UK. Earlier this year the old IT curriculum was scrapped to be replaced by a flexible curriculum in computer science and programming, in a bid to get our youth coding. Elsewhere demand for the affordable, credit-card sized Raspberry Pi computer has outstripped even the most optimistic of predictions.
2013 now needs to build on this momentum and continue the investment in education to inspire a new generation of technology students who will drive this legacy into the future. 'Edtech', the trend which is beginning to make the fully digitised classroom a reality, will see interactive technologies changing the way teachers engage students and enhance the learning experience. It's out with the textbook and in with the podcast, the wiki and the tele-learning. And the future will be brighter for it as the digital-savvy generation begin to put technology to better use - solving real world problems with the advancements we make. We're beginning to take education out of the classroom, it's being globalised and is no longer only in the realm of the elite.
The Visual Web
Arguably the greatest invention of the last century, the internet has now grown into one of the fundamental tools of today's society. 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the web's first image, a long way from its roots as a linear, text-based medium for communication. Today, the likes of Pinterest, image based search and HTML5 continue to make the web a more visual, engaging place. Testifying to the soaring popularity of the visual web, Facebook this year acquired Instagram for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock - the repercussions of which have been felt in the last few weeks as Twitter and Instagram have split for good.
The smartphone explosion and popularity of social networks have all contributed to making the visual web the core of the modern consumer experience. Twitter, now going it alone without Instagram has placed visuality at the centre of its strategy to 'emphasise rich media'. In this way, brands now have to focus on creating the right content to cater for this demand.
Creative, engaging online visuals will have a dramatic impact on a business's relationship with its customers, its perception in the market, and ultimately its bottom line.
On the road to success - are driverless vehicles the next big emerging technology?
The Government has just announced a £50m investment in Silicon Roundabout to create "Europe's largest indoor civic space for start-ups and entrepreneurs". With this kind of backing, the next big disruption in technology markets can be accelerated and discovered. It's not necessarily about trying to recreate the success of Steve Jobs, more about investing in domestic technology and finding the original innovations on home soil. So what's on the horizon?
There seems to be a return to the trend of long-term investment in real world hard science R&D. It's something that the UK has a strong heritage in, but not something that is as talked about as much as the biggest social networks or latest apps. Projects like the Google X Labs and Singularity U are bringing together some of the world's best minds to solve big, real world problems and develop revolutionary technologies. Driverless vehicles are one such technology, with Google being the most visible example of its successful early trialling. These cars have previously only been associated with science fiction, but they're a great example of the kind of emerging technology that's fast becoming a reality. Lighter, smarter and therefore more energy efficient, it's this kind of innovation that will play a part in a more sustainable future as cleantech is more aggressively pioneered.
Wendy White, CEO of Moonfruit