The Trouble With VR

I was watching, yet another a virtual reality (VR) experience at an ad agency the other day. Before it began, our demo guy said to the assembled group ‘stand well back, as last week I punched someone’. It demonstrates both the benefits and challenges of VR. It’s a highly immersive experience, something that many brands strive for, however it is also a closed experience that removes the user from the real world.

Sensorama - early VRVR isn’t that new. In the early 1960s, Morton Heilig came up with the Sensorama. It had vision, it had sound, it had movement. It even had smell … now why didn’t Oculus think of that? The next iterations were in the late 90s. It was a time of optimism in technology, and companies such as Atari were creating expensive futuristic-looking headsets. The problem was not just the price, the technology also struggled to deliver a convincing virtual experience. In the last couple of years we’ve seen the launch of numerous new headsets – Oculus, HTC Vive, Samsung Gear and even Google’s Cardboard. The technology has caught up with the concept. We have retina screens, we have gyroscopes and above all, we have sufficient computing power to reduce that lag that made the 90s versions somewhat vomit inducing.

With the new generation of devices, we’re beginning to discover applications for VR. Naturally there is strong appeal in gaming. The immersive nature makes it ideal for driving, shooting or fantasy formats. Outside of the gamer world, useful VR applications are being developed in medicine, engineering and architecture. It’s also becoming a useful research tool in retail. Virtual stores can be easily built and different configurations tested on shopper focus groups.

Not to be outdone, advertising agencies are also jumping on the VR bandwagon aiming to deliver that illusive, immersive brand experience. And therein lies the problem. They’re replicating existing experiences without creating true audience engagement. So far, brands have built some well produced, mildly interesting, yet obvious applications. From Audi to Volvo, a number of brands have created virtual driving experiences. Fine, but really, I’d just like to test-drive the car. Getting a feel of the vehicle on real highways is far more important than looking out on simulated mountain road. Occasionally, there are some nice executions, such as Merrill’s VR trek. However, I would argue that all of these are just stunts.

I see two main problems with VR in the brand context. Firstly, consumer adoptions rate is low. Though much cheaper than the 90s versions, current devices are still pricey. Although people were happy to splash out similar sums on smartphones and iPads, the limited application of VR makes purchasing less appealing. Brands therefore need to deliver high-end VR experiences in-situ, for example in a store. Unlike other in-store experiences, such as digital billboards, VR offers fewer possibilities for the consumer to interact with their own mobile device, or connect to social media. For brands, interaction is often key to creating scale through sharing with a wider audience. VR doesn’t easily lend itself to scale.

The second, greater challenge I see is that brands are struggling to understand VR as a medium. The problem comes from the immersive nature of these new devices. It’s making a connection in the first person. That naturally works in gaming, but brands think of their engagement in the third person, delivering a message to a remote viewer. Digital and particularly social media, are making brands more two-way, more intereactive. However the ‘share your selfie/like this hashtag’ approach is still very third person thinking. It’s an interaction that aims to create scale through sharing to be viewed in the third person. Because VR is immersive and first person, it requires a re-think of how brands approach their audience. For now, though, VR is a tactic for brands – essential for delivering stunts with a short hit of interest.

The Rise of The Phone Zombie

Earlier this year the picture below was trending on Twitter, with the ironic statement (and I paraphrase) ‘What on earth is this guy looking at? The World or something?’. It looks like we’ve become a society of phone zombies.

Instead of engaging in conversation with our friends or family, it seems we are constantly distracted by our smartphones. As if proof were needed, a recent IPSOS study identified this trend. They surveyed 16,000 people in 20 countries and 60% of them agreed that they were ‘constantly looking at their screens’. In the UK though, 71% said they were glued to their phones (second only to China). Perhaps our zombie behaviour is best summed up by Buzzfeed’s, 23 Pictures that Prove Society is Doomed. This phenomena doesn’t just impact on our social lives, there are other risks. One cyclist, writing in London’s Metro paper, explained that phone zombies were the most frequent hazard she had to contend with. Maybe in the future our smartphones will need proximity sensors to alert us of traffic hurtling towards us.

Is the phone zombie good or bad for marketing? A decent ad person would spin the problem into an opportunity. For example, we reach for our mobiles within 15 mins of waking and check them up to 150 times per day. That’s a lot of marketing opportunities. But perhaps, just perhaps the best thing we can do is to help society act a little less like the living dead and occasionally speak to other people. The Brazilian beer brand, Polar tried to do exactly that. They created the phone nullifier. A bottle wrapper was able to block the phone signal for anyone within a few feet, thus nullifying the phone zombies and ensuring that people enjoyed their drink, whilst conversing with their real friends.

Arguably though, the phone zombie could be seen as a natural behavior. Humans, especially the younger variety, enjoy media that distracts us from the real world. The Victorians complained that young people spent too much time reading books. Television and video games have constantly been blamed for corrupting teenagers. Perhaps the phone zombie is just another example in a line of media distractions. Before smartphones, commuters were hiding behind newspapers on their journey to work. And maybe the only reason the man in the picture is looking at The World was because on that day, his battery had died.

The Medium is The Message (why teenagers are going to Instagram and Snapchat) …

Where are all the teenagers going? Instagram and Snapchat it would seem …

A recent Pew Internet study, was followed by aFacebook announcement, that teenagers have largely lost interest in their network. Those of us in the business have been observing this trend for some time. And for brands, this could be  a problem. Just as they are starting to see some ROI from Facebook ads or promoted Tweets, this hard-to-reach audience has left the building.

Of course, this is nothing new, and if you understand teenage behaviour, it should come as no surprise. Like most users, teenagers are driven by need, and not technology. As a teenager you want to communicate (not with your parents of course) and find your place amongst your  peers. That communication has always been  done in school break-time, or by passing notes in class. As mobile phones took off, SMS became the communication tool, and MSN online (fast and almost free). Then it switched to BBM. For a short while it was Facebook and then Twitter. And now, it’s Instagram and Snapchat. The latter is seeing 350m photos uploaded per day, which is equal to that of Facebook.

In many ways, these Instagram and Snapchat are perfect for teenage users. The key drivers are cost, speed and where their peers are. Teenagers aren’t looking to write long prose, whatever they do needs to be done as cheaply as possible and they will tend to drift to the channels that don’t include their parents (and they have no channel loyalty). Instagram and Snapchat also come with the added bonus of pictures. For many, a picture expresses far more than a few words. For some observers though, perhaps there is a little too much expressing. Whilst Instagram is more public, Snapchat has been accused of being a place where teenagers are ‘sexting’ each other. We have no evidence if this is true or not, but it is important to keep in mind that whenever younger people adopt a new comms channel, there is always some kind of moral backlash. BBM was blamed for triggering the UK riots in 2011. Facebook was a corrupting influence, SMS was seen as ruining our language. Whatever the choice, the medium will usually be blamed. The reality is that it is purely a communication channel and they are essentially neutral – they can either be a force for good or bad. It depends on who/how it is used.

Perhaps the best way to understand the teenage engagement with Snapchat is this article by Rory Murdock. Whilst adults view photographs as permanent, or even nostalgic records, teenagers think of most photos as temporary, ethereal and worthless. Think of Snapchat like the notes passed around at school.  Short comments that are instantly disposable.

One thing is certain about all this. The teenage channels are constantly changing. Don’t expect Snapchat or Instagram to dominate a few years from now and advertisers will probably still be chasing their audience. But largely speaking the behaviour stays the same, but the channel in which it’s done will change.

Some useful social media tools …

A useful list of social media tools from (see the resources section for more useful stuff).

Social / Influencer Tracking

PeerIndex – Measures social interactions across the web to help you understand the people you influence online (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora)
Little Bird – On demand expert and influencer discovery and engagement tool validated by their peers on any topical community (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Google+)
Traackr – Tool for finding the right influencers through social media and understanding how to engage with them.
Mentionmapp – Twitter network analysis and data visualization.
Topsy – Measurement and analysis tool for social conversations to identify key thoughts, opinion and content being shared over time or in real-time (Twitter, Google+)
Klout – Social media analytics tool that scores and ranks users’ influence using a ‘Klout Score’ from 1 to 100 ( Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Wikipedia, Instagram)
CircleCount – Google+ profile statistics and influencer measurement.
Kred – Uses social data and influence measurement to produce a personal visual stream from Twitter ID activity or hashtags based on communities connected by interests and affiliations. – Visualizes social footprints to help you discover new connections, understand their impact and find better ways to connect.
Followerwonk – Twitter analytics, follower segmentation, social graph tracking, and more. – Check your Twitter unfollowers, see who is not following you back and who you are not following back.
Radian6 (Salesforce Marketing Cloud) – Social media monitoring tools, social media engagement software and social marketing.

Social Media / Content Management & Marketing
Buffer – Tool for collating and sharing online content via social feeds throughout the day.
Hootsuite – Social Media dashboard to manage and measure across social networks.
Tweetdeck – Twitter management and insights dashboard for power users.
Ning – Online platform to create custom social networks from scratch or to integrate with current sites; also integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo!
AddThis – Social infrastructure and analytics platform with personal and social web sharing tools.
DivvyHQ – Content editorial planning and production tool.
Kapost – Software platform for organizing content marketing into a structured business process with calendar, workflow and analytics.
Compendium – Orchestrates all of the content necessary to maintain a consistent message for your brand from both inside and outside your company.
WordPress Editorial Calendar – WordPress plug-in allows you to set up all your posts in a simple calendar format with clean interface that allows you to drag and drop blog posts to better manage your ideas.
Publicate – Easily organise your content or content you’ve discovered to share, publish and showcase.

SEO / SEM & Keyword Research
Google Keywords – Enter keywords or phrases to see what related word searches your ad will show on.
Wordtracker – Keyword research tool to discover high performing keywords based on your subjects and messages.
SEMrush – Keyword and competitor research tool providing ad copies and positions, organic positions for domains and landing URLs, search volumes, CPC, competition, number of results, and more.
WooRank – Website review and SEO tool for tracking and optimizing your site.



Brands, Mobile and The Future

Predicting the future is never easy, but I gave it a go at a TEDxUCL talk in the spring …

The future is …

By 2045 we will have reached the point of singularity when the devices that are now smartphones will become the size of a grain of sand and 1 billion times more powerful. At that point the computers become sentient and run the world in a Matrix style.

So what happens between now and then? Read the synopsis below, or you can simply watch the video!

Well the first problem is that largely speaking, consumers just don’t care about brands that much. Pointless apps, or social media campaigns fail to ‘engage’ the audiences. The solution is around service. Brands should do what they do, and use channels such as mobile to simply do it better. Some brands understand this. Look at someone like Gatwick Airport who use Twitter as a service channel. They encourage their visitors to Tweet any problems and a small team sets about putting it right. Similarly car companies such as Mercedes are using QR codes in a useful way, by embedding them in cars to help emergency services know how to get access quickly in case of an accident. Or an augmented reality app that shows you how to change car parts.

When it comes to the future of smartphones themselves then we’ve pretty much reached the conclusion. They’ll become faster, brighter etc, but the functions that we have will remain large the same. People were surprised when Apple launched the 5S and 5C that there was nothing radically different. But that’s not the point. The radical change was the introduction of the device itself. From then on, changes are simply incremental. So the next generation are the ‘connecteds and wearables’. Google Glass is seen as a major innovation. It probably won’t be the device that everyone adopts, but it is a good indication of where things are going. However, there are many issues particularly around privacy. Where is the place for brand engagement.

A good brand example of a connected device is the Nike Fuel wristband. Although millions of $s were spent on its development, innovation is not about money, or spending, it’s about ideas. There are many good examples, such as Red Tomato Pizza’s fridge magnet. Simply press the button and it connects to your phone and orders your favourite pizza. A simple idea, well executed. Even more interesting are developments in the world of health. In Kenya they have been using it to track the spread of malaria, for example. Or in Switzerland they have hooked sensors up to the brains of sheep. When a wolf is in the area, it can sense their distress and send a text to the farmer. A simple, effective use of mobile.

With API’s Good Things Can Happen

I’ve been banging on for some time about how APIs are the future for brand apps. The idea is simple. If brands created APIs for their activities, other people would take that information and create far better apps (and at no cost to the business). Strangely, it’s something that government bodies, such as Transport for London seem to understand.  Two of the best apps currently, are API-based, combining open data with a great user experience:


It seems like everyone in London is using this app, and no one has a bad word to say about it. Citymapper has so many functions, in a simple UX, they are impossible to list here.  Even as a life-long Londoner, Citymapper has suggeseted transport routes that I have never considered (and often faster ones). The app achieves its goal through accessing a number of APIs from TfL as well as Foursquare data and delivered via their own algorithm. It’s a great example of how open data can be used to deliver an excellent user experience.


Although it hasn’t achieved the success of Citymapper, Whisk is another example of a great, frictionless experience. After selecting a recipe, and the number of diners, it lists the price of the ingredients across a range of supermarkets. They use APIs from Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose and Asda. You then select which you want to buy, and the supermarket. The best part is that the app allows you to add these items directly to the shopping basket of your chosen supermarket’s app.

Given these examples, why doesn’t every brand create an API for their data and simply open it up to developers? The results will be a far better experience than they could ever create (not to mention many more users).

How Kenneth Cole is Changing Fashion through Mobile and Social Media

‘During the @kennethcole runway show, out of respect for other members of the audience please make sure your phones and tablets are switched ON. This show will embrace the intrusive nature of social media.’

It wasn’t long ago that fashion shows were largely private affairs, where photography and video were tightly managed. Yet  the opening words above, greeted the audience to Kenneth Cole’s 2013 New York Fashion Week show.

The advent of smartphones, with high megapixel cameras and social media apps has challenged the highly controlled world of fashion shows. That challenge is similar to many retailers, where consumers are able to search, photograph and share products instantly. Whilst most runway shows barely tolerate smartphones, Kenneth Cole clearly embraces it. His front row was littered with fashion bloggers all using their smartphones to Tweet, Instagram and Vine (if that is now a verb) the event. He went a step further though, and at the end of the show the models came down the catwalk sending live Tweets from their phones. It was in the name of charity, as each Tweet sent resulted in a $1 donation from Kenneth Cole to an Aids charity.

By embracing smartphone driven social media in this way, Kenneth Cole has shown how brands can:

–       Use mobile social media to connect brands from the physical world to online channels

–       Bring amplification through sharing these events in social media

–       Create a long-tail of brand awareness through user generated content or co-creation

I previously blogged about how mobile social media were disrupting fashion and retail, but Kenneth Cole’s show takes it much further than that. Whilst it creates an opportunity to reach a global audience previously unavailable, Kenneth Cole is using mobile and social to challenge the traditional dynamic of fashion. With fashion bloggers using the new tools of the trade, it brings immediacy to a global audience. With models Tweeting down the catwalk, they are no longer simply ‘hangers’ for the clothes but now active participants in the event. And with celebrities populating the front rows, alongside the journalist and bloggers, are mobile and social creating a new form of reality fashion show?

The State of Tablet Devices: some facts and figures

A roundup of the tablet landscape 

In early 2011, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook announced at Goldman Sachs that tablets will overtake PC sales by the end of 2012.

We know from Tim Cook’s statement that 55 million iPads had been sold in the 18 months since Apple’s was launched. That makes the iPad more successful in terms of sales rate than the iPhone (3 years to 55 million) and much more successful that the iPod. The iPad currently dominates the market, however, there has been strong growth in Android-type devices. Tablet sales rocketed in the third quarter of 2012 (according to end of 2012 figures from IDC), and Samsung and Amazon saw significant sales increases. According to analyst house IDC more than 27.8 million tablets were shipped in the third quarter of 2012 – up 6.7 percent on the previous quarter – but during that time Apple saw its market share cut to 50.4 percent, compared to 65.5 percent in the previous quarter.


According to Comscore data from the end of 2011, tablets skew more towards men, however as tablet devices have grown, the demographic has switched, and are now used by more women than men in the US:

Demographic Profile: Tablet* and Smartphone Audience
3 month avg. ending Apr. 2012 
Total U.S. Tablet Owners and Smartphone Subscribers, Age 13+
Source: comScore TabLens and comScore MobiLens
% Share of Tablet Audience % Share of Smartphone Audience Index of Tablet to Smartphone Audience**
Total Audience 100.0% 100.0% 100
 Male 49.2% 51.6% 95
 Female 50.8% 48.4% 105
 13-17 7.3% 6.5% 112
 18-24 12.3% 16.9% 73
 25-34 24.4% 25.3% 96
 35-44 21.4% 21.2% 101
 45-54 17.8% 15.7% 113
 55-64 10.1% 9.2% 110
 65+ 6.8% 5.3% 128
Household Income:
 <$25k 7.4% 11.7% 63
 $25k to <$50k 17.7% 19.5% 91
 $50k to <$75k 18.9% 19.5% 97
 $75k to <$100k 18.3% 15.9% 115
 $100k+ 37.7% 33.4% 113


As expected, the earlier adopters tend to be of higher income, but are more likely to choose a tablet over a smartphone. As with smartphones, cheaper devices and notebook replacements (see below) will create demand from lower income groups.

For many, a tablet is not a PC replacement, but an additional (yet another) device, that is hardly surprising. Comscore tell us that in Europe 34% of iPad users also own an iPhone.


According to Flurry in Sept 2012, tablet users tend to be older than those with smartphones.

Tablet Age Distribution

Where are they used?

The most preferred place to use a tablet is in the living room according to data from Adweek

tablet location use

It confirms the trend that they are largely a domestic device rather than a mobile one. The use in the living room also demonstrates the shared nature of tablets. Data from YouGov, stated that in the UK there is 8% tablet ownership, but significantly it represented 20% of UK households in June 2012 (

Tablet Devices to overtake Notebook Sales

As expected, tablet devices are rapidly replacing notebook sales, with a prediction from NPD Display Search (Dec 2012) that they will overtake notebook sales this year:

Tablet vs PC

Tablet Users do More

In the US, Comscore tell us that nearly 98% of tablet data usage was from the iPad at the start of 2011. As with the iPhone, it would seem that users do more of everything than other devices. They are also beginning to overtake desktop usage. Comscore’s November 2011 figures show that tablets represent 30% of non-desktop traffic. That is considerably higher than the percentage of ownership of ownership.

When it comes to purchasing, tablets also perform well. A study by Adobe Research over the 2011 US holiday period found that tablet users spend 54% longer on sites than mobile users, and purchase over 20% more than desktop visitors. The following chart shows a comparison using average retail order value.

The high sale value is partly down to the ease of use of the devices. In an IAB study in December 2011nearly half of respondents said they used their tablet because it was ‘the easiest to pick up’ and 37% said that it offered the easiest user interface. But it is also worth considering that as tablets skew towards a higher income bracket, users are more likely to purchase.

Forecasts from eMarketer show that tablet devices show a greater growth when it comes to purchasing, with tablets representing nearly 10% of all US retail sales by the end of 2013:


Top Categories

Hardly surprisingly, the focus on tablet content is much more towards home/family than on smartphones (according to Comscore data):


Last Thing at Night (and First Thing In the Morning)

Data from Nielsen in 2011 found that 70% of tablet owners use it in front of the TV. Clearly, the iPad is the device for two screening. Interestingly though, the iPad is used in bed by nearly 60% of owners and appears to be replacing the book at bedtime. That figure is similar to smartphone use, but with tablets the spike at the end of the day is even more pronounced. Both the IAB study and data from Comscore in the US show that later in the evening, tablets are used more than mobile or television. On weekends there tends to be an earlier peak:

Advertising and Media

IgnitionOne, revealed that year-over-year (YoY) paid search spending growth for tablets doubled that of smart phones in the fourth quarter of 2012 as mobile devices as a whole grew to 18% of search budgets in the U.S

Useful read from Comscore: Connected Europe, How Tablets and Mobile are shifting media consumption (Jan 2012)

An App-based World

The Sept 2012 Flurry report found that tablet users were more likely to download apps than those with smartphones, and used the devices for playing games:


Video Views

Tablet Users Watch More!

According to Comscore in Sept 2012, tablet users are three times more likely to watch video on their device than smartphone users. Over half of US users (53%) ever watch a video during a month, with nearly 10% doing so every day:

Video/TV Viewing on Device for Tablet* and Smartphone Audience 
3 month avg. ending Apr. 2012 
Total U.S. Tablet Owners and Smartphone Subscribers, Age 13+
Source: comScore TabLens and comScore MobiLens
Share of Audience that Watched Video/TV on Device
% of Tablet Audience % of Smartphone Audience
Ever in month 53.0% 20.0%
Once to three times throughout the month 24.6% 10.3%
At least once each week 18.9% 6.7%
Almost every day 9.5% 2.9%

onine video

Inevitably, video viewing is much higher on tablets than mobile. As a total percentage of online video views, tablet (3.21%) surpassed mobile (2.21%).

Ooyala’s “Global Video Index” report (Nov 2012) suggested that 71% of tablet users watch long-form content (30-60 mins), whereas on mobile it is much more focussed on short-form ‘snacking’ behaviour. The report also showed that tablet viewers were far more likely to complete a video view longer than 10 mins than any other device: for videos longer than 10 minutes was 39.2%, compared to 35.3% for CTV & GC, 26.8% for desktops, and 22.3% for mobile phones.

For shorter videos, tablets were still saw more completions than mobile, but were surpassed by connected TVs.

The Preferred Device for Reading

Whilst it is no surprise that tablets are preferred over mobile for reading, they are also more popular than dedicated e-readers (Online Publishers Association, June 2012). That naturally includes news and magazine content. Data from the MPA, November 2011, found that 45% of tablet owners spend 1-3 hours per week reading magazines. This makes the tablet the most-used digital device for reading:

Conversion Rates

Data which compared 2010 and 2011, reported by eConsultancy, showed that conversion rates for tablets were higher than mobile – 2.3% compared to 5.4% and 5% for desktops and tablets respectively.

Tablets and Consumers

tablet shopperThe research from Nielsen (Dec 2012, US) shows that shoppers will tend to use their mobile for

–        finding stores, price comparison in-store, redeeming coupons

For tablets, though, consumers are more likely to:

–        Research items, read reviews, purchase

Two Screening

Although two screening use is largely similar between smartphone and tablet, the Nielsen data (US, Dec 2012) suggests that tablet devices are more popular for two-screening in older audiences:


Mobile Predictions for 2013

Whilst mobile technologies move quickly, its rise has been steady and incremental for well over a decade. There has not been, nor never will be a ‘year of mobile.’ So largely speaking, most trends in mobile have already started. If you’ve been reading the marketing and technology press then you will already have a good idea what will happen in 2013. But which trends are just fads and which will become a reality?

QR code scansIt feels like QR, Augmented Reality and NFC have been on mobile forever. Don’t expect to see any significant shifts. Consumers will still not see the point of scanning a QR code, with less than 20% of Europe’s smartphone owners doing so. AR will remain exciting and interesting, but with a few million users it will continue to be niche for brands. NFC is also struggling. The lack of a chip in the iPhone5 hasn’t helped adoption, and neither has the lack of terminals. The biggest hurdle is consumer perception of security. Sure, we are beginning to see NFC in credit cards, but it is all about perceptions, and payment providers have a lot of work to do to build trust.

Similarly mobile display advertising will only see an incremental rise. Although brands have been spending more in recent years, it still represents a very small portion of budgets (anyone remember iAd?), especially when compared to the time spent in mobile. Mary Meeker calls this ‘an opportunity’, but maybe brands don’t spend because it doesn’t deliver the numbers. Facebook and Google share prices have suffered as a result. But above all, mobile advertising doesn’t deliver a good experience on mobile. In the UK the operators announced a joint project called Weve, so expect to hear plenty more about it in 2013. Just don’t expect any significant shift in behavior.

The Upwardly Mobile

Mobile Payments have been on the rise for the last few years. It is clear that these payments will not come through any single channel, such as NFC. Instead it will be a matter of consumers using payment through a range of apps, brand apps and mobile sites. Apple’s Passbook shows potential, but the two big players in this space are likely to be PayPal and Square, both of whom are creating secure, frictionless experiences.

China, obviously has seen significant growth for the last two decades, and it has become the largest consumer market, the largest smartphone market and at the end of 2012, mobile internet access was greater than desktop. In 2013 China will be the place not just of ‘uptake’ but a place of real innovation and opportunities for brands. Witness Lei Jun, who is head of technology firm Xiaomi, described as the ‘Chinese Steve Jobs

Virtual retail and the rise of the ‘unstore. Last year I predicted that virtual stores such as Tesco Homeplus in Korea would become more widespread. In 2012 we saw various offerings from PayPal, Tesco F&F and many more. However these were largely PR stunts. However in 2013 we are likely to see more permanent offerings, spurred on by the announcement that Chinese retailer Yihaodian will open 1000 such stores.Tesco F&F London

Data and especially ‘Big Data’ were the catch phrases of 2012. As someone put it to me ‘it’s just data’. The now ubiquitous nature of smartphones means that data is being generated constantly. Combine this with Open Data and APIs and all kinds of things become possible. Twitter has become a major source of such data, predicting the US presidential result or spotting trends five hours ahead. In Kenya they are using it to track and manage malaria. Brands can also use this data to bring a better understanding of their customers and deliver a better service.

Data Privacy – the flip side of big and open data is that as consumers we will see more brand invasion of our privacy. Witness the numerous privacy issues around Facebook. A couple of slightly scary trends are based on facial recognition; Scene Tap and Facedeals. Technologically interesting, it remains to be seen if they are acceptable to consumers.

Connected Devices – the smartphone may have reached its obvious conclusion. Largely speaking it does everything we need. There will be improvements in screen and interface technology in 2013, such as better voice control, gesture control and variable texture or haptic screens. The big change, however, will be in connected devices. Google Glass project has been widely hailed as the future. Patents from Microsoft and Apple demonstrate that the space is hotting up. However, that kind of wearable technology is likely to be limited; both looks and practical issues from potential eyesight damage will not see AR glasses become universal. The interesting trend is in devices such as Nike Fuel. For brands, it will mean bringing more service into the product space. However, simple, cheap devices will also become more prevalent. Witness the Red Tomato Pizza fridge magnet. A simple, low-cost approach to brand engagement.

Want more trends? Try these: and