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6 trends that will shape digital in 2013

6 trends that will shape digital in 2013 Peter Platt

Digital marketing has already had its share of watershed moments. 2013 is not going to be "the year of the [fill in the blank]." Instead, 2013 is going to build on the digital accomplishments of the past. Our industry is going to continue its refinement based on consumer needs -- and not a marketer's desire to make something big happen.

Something big has already happened.

6 trends that will shape digital in 2013

According to comScore, there are more than 1 trillion digital interactions monthly. For too long, our industry has relied on technological accomplishments to drive our business. Each new technology has generated opportunity, but all too often we focus on the coolness of the technology instead of focusing on the consumer benefit and how marketing fits in.

Digital is no longer a subset of the average person's life. Instead, it's just a part of everyday living that's expected and more accessible than ever. In 2013, marketers will need to embrace how consumers engage digitally and integrate their message accordingly. So what should you should you be looking for next year? Here are the trends you need to be watching if you want to keep up.

Smartphone and tablets divided

Smartphone and tablets are often lumped together in the mobile category, but usage and impact of these devices varies greatly. Smart marketers will start delineating their messaging accordingly.

Tablet usage tends to be more research and entertainment focused, whereas smartphone usage is more task focused. In 2013, we'll have more ways to target and identify device types and deliver better messaging. This not only applies to digital media opportunities, but also to your response goals and metrics as well.

Don't expect smartphone users to fill out long online forms or view a PDF with your product documentation. In turn, don't expect tablet users to print out long documents (most are still trying to figure out how to print from those devices) or use navigation tools to get to your location.

When you set goals for mobile, be sure they align with device capabilities. (And let's all be sure not to fall into the click-through rate trap again!)

The new shareable experience

Digital interactions have always been one-on-one. You don't use your computer or surf the web with other people watching over your shoulder. We don't invite friends over to gather around a computer to watch movies. But that's starting to change.

Today's mobile computer usage reminds me of the early days of digital photography. When people first started using digital cameras, the first thing they did after taking a picture was to quickly turn the camera around and show their friends the photo on the back of the camera. The same thing is now happening with mobile. Photos taken on smartphones are often shared with other people immediately via text, Facebook, Instagram, and via other means. This includes the people sitting on the couch next to them.

Tablets are often handed to friends to have them watch what the tablet owner just saw on YouTube. This is going to be further compounded as your tablet and television become even more integrated. Find what you want to share and slide it from your tablet to your TV for everyone in the room to enjoy. In 2013, marketers will be challenged to find new ways to encourage shareable moments -- and support them with the newest form of "send to a friend."

Death of the QR code

The QR code has struggled for years to gain adoption. It's a simple idea: QR codes gave us the ability to quickly get to detailed information by simply scanning a graphic. Great concept -- but a horrible experience for a variety of reasons.

First, code scanning isn't native on many devices. You have to download a special app, pull it up, and scan the image (assuming you're using a standard code). Then, you'll get a link to the desired information. For most of us, it's often a lot easier to type -- particularly for the text generation that can type faster with their thumbs than most of the secretarial staff on "Mad Men."

Second, marketers have, for the most part, fallen short on their implementation of QR codes. For those of you who have tried to scan a bar code, how many times are you brought to a home page, a non-mobile page, or a page that had the same info you just read when you scanned? Where's the benefit in that experience? So, unless code scanning becomes native in new devices and marketers start really using them for the intended purpose, QR codes will be going the way of Betamax.

Direct video sharing

With tools like Instagram and Snapchat, people have realized the power and fun of sharing images. In 2013, I expect we'll see opportunities to start sharing videos the same way. Marketers are going to jump at this opportunity by inserting pre-rolls, sponsor sharing, and other promotions.

However, the downside of this emerging phenomenon is that people will likely be sharing long, boring videos, and recipients will start to feel like people in the 1970s who were invited over to watch a slideshow of a recent vacation. Be on the lookout for my 2015 predictions that will talk about the demise of direct video sharing.

The privacy debate will get a verdict

There's been a lot of discussion about whether or not cookie tracking is an invasion of privacy, and in 2013, there will be some legislation either for or against cookie tracking. And either way, digital advertising will increase.

Without cookies, it might be less targeted, or cookies might even become more invasive. (After all, direct marketers have been using incredible levels of personal targeting data for years.). But in the end, digital is where your audiences are.

Marketers will still have a need to build awareness and increase purchase intent. How we do it might change, but the need and opportunity won't diminish. I encourage marketers not to waste a lot of effort complaining about how this works out. Instead, embrace the decision. Direct mail has always had more consumer data than we ever see, and broadcast has built a huge business on limited ratings data with limited audience detail. Digital marketing isn't going away.

Increased focus on the social environment, instead of building a social platform

Marketers will finally tire of trying to manage and lead the conversation in social. They will instead focus on surrounding and participating in conversations.

Social media is about personal interaction and conversation, and people don't invite brands into those conversations. In 2013, we'll see a shift from brands trying to build their own social platforms; instead, they'll start participating in ways that provide consumer value.

Ideas from the traditional marketing world will begin to migrate to the social world. For example, a brand that might sponsor parties at spring break or align itself with a sporting event will seek and benefit from the same type of experience and exposure in social. I won't need to "like" or follow a brand; it will just be part of my social world like it is everywhere else (just like billboards at a stadium).


So perhaps there is a name for 2013, related back to a book written by Donald Norman in 1999. In 2013, digital marketing will be the "Year of the Invisible Computer." In his book, Norman predicted that technology would become invisible to the consumer, and his vision has become reality. People don't spend time thinking about how much computing power sits in their pocket; instead, they appreciate the ease of looking up movie times when they are out at dinner.

Digital marketers who succeed next year will be focused on the consumer benefit and not the technology they are using.

Peter Platt is president of PSquared Digital.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Hand hold blank business card" image, "Hand holding blank business card isolated" image, and "2013 business plan concept ideas" image via Shutterstock.

Peter is a 25+ year veteran of the agency business and has been involved in Internet marketing since the early 1990s. He was also one of the first 100 people certified in the Google AdWords program in 2004. Peter’s experience brings together a...

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to leave comments.

Commenter: Cristian Vorstius Kruijff

2013, January 04

I agree with Judd. QR codes are declared dead from the moment it was introduced. That is bevause most marketeers are years behind in their knowledge on mobile marketing and have no clue in using QR codes in a manner that it really pays off. In the Netherlands we provide marketeers with QR code software that goes much further that just linking to online information. And the market in the EU is only growing. A thing of witch we think lacks in this article is the rise of Augmented Reality and Geo-Based communication and virtual shopping. But hey, there is a sea of predictions in the ocean of digital marketing. Nice article anyway.

Commenter: Dominique PALACCI

2013, January 02

Many thanks for this clear list. It helps to find our way in this jungle of so many new technologies.
I think the main challenge of Digital in 2013 will be to propose a Cross Channel Customer experience (SoLoMo) choosing the right technology with each media.

Commenter: Jarmila Halovsky-Yu

2012, December 30

As marketers, for us and our customers to equally derive value from the new Digital channels, we surely need to agree to create valuable content that is optimised / versioned to be relevant for not only the Digital medium but also the device. And, is delivered by a meaningful integrated sales and marketing strategy and plan that has 'customer focus' at its core. Lest we risk reduced customer usage, reliance and trust from these new channels and what we pump into them. Worse still we risk providing a negative customer experience that undoes all the good brand work and investment we make. We've probably all witnessed over and incorrect usage of direct mail and telemarketing. I hope that 2013 and beyond we collectively positively contribute to shaping Digital for mutual success!

Commenter: Judd Wheeler

2012, December 20

While I agree with many of your points, I disagree with the death of QR Codes in 2013. The story of their demise has been told for years. First, they live strong outside of the US. I don't see a timeline to their death overseas. Second, until something comes to replace them, they will still be used. I agree and it is unfortunate, that marketers have failed miserably to use them correctly and take advantage of their capabilities.

Commenter: Miglena Nedelcheva

2012, December 12

In fact, I believe in almost all of the predictions but the best for me is the direct video sharing. I'm sure this is doing to happen soon in 2013 or 2014 and will bring a lot of new challenges for the marketers.

Commenter: amlike thewind

2012, December 11

Why should anyone believe these predictions to be any more accurate than the usual (wrong) ones?

Commenter: Bart De Pelsmaeker

2012, December 10

Hi Peter - thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. My personal favorites is :

"....usage and impact of tablets and smartphones varies greatly. Smart marketers will start delineating their messaging accordingly."

I certainly hope so. It seems to be that many people group tablets even under the 'print' category, when looking at many content apps (pdf-replicas) out there today.

Commenter: Nancy Myrland

2012, December 10

Nice recap of your 2013 predictions, Peter. I wholeheartedly agree about QR codes. I think they have always been clunky at best, and require too much work for the user. They have been approached and perceived as a novelty, and many have spent time and money on them before focusing on existing forms of engagement and interaction that users are already using.

Also, this is music to my ears: "Marketers will finally tire of trying to manage and lead the conversation in social. They will instead focus on surrounding and participating in conversations."

While I do believe marketers and brands will be looked to as leaders in many of the discussions taking place out there, and should continue doing so, there has not been enough bench strength in engagement and interaction.

No brand should let clients, customers, naysayers or brand advocates post alone, but should be engaging in conversation that acknowledges and discusses their comments. If people take enough of their valuable time to engage a brand in Social, then firms/companies/brands owe it to them to show respect by continuing the discussion.

Again, thanks for sharing your predictions.

Commenter: Denyse Drummond-Dunn

2012, December 10

Great article Peter.
This isn't the first time I've heard about the imminent death of the QR code.
However, don't you think it could be useful, if only the hardware could make it convenient?. Being a right-hand finger & thumb typist - never code get my left thumb to cooperate - I would love to be able to have the camera recognise the code and open the appropriate website. At least on the iPhone it is quick to open the camera now.
However I agree that marketing have also to make appropriate use of it for the QR code to have any value.
Not sure which of these is the real problem!