In 2011, senior citizens embraced Facebook, Google's Panda caused a stir, sales of Amazon's digital books surpassed those of physical books, and venture capitalists hailed the IPOs of LinkedIn and Groupon. As we look ahead to 2012, here are some predictions for what portends to be another technologically eventful year.
Mobile search and purchase are here; adapt or die
Google estimated that 44 percent of last-minute online shopping searches in 2011 came from smartphones and tablets. Analysts are speculating that Amazon -- already making waves with its low-cost tablet -- will launch a smartphone in 2012. This is another indicator that the visionary online retailer anticipates the imminent shift of digital purchases to mobile devices. In 2012, savvy companies and marketers will work avidly to optimize their websites and landing pages for mobile devices. If not, they'll find themselves competitively disadvantaged sooner rather than later.
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Companies increase adoption of marketing automation software
The Pew Research Center recently found that 66 percent of online American adults are using social media. While marketers acknowledge the need to reach customers at the source of their digital presence, a 2011 IBM study found the majority of marketers site a lack of metrics and the inability to turn data into action as the two biggest barriers to successful use of social media. The demand for smart software tools is rife. In 2012, we'll continue to see marketing automation software mature as it more comprehensively connects online search and social media results to sales development and customer management tools. As a result, we expect to see marketing automation become a mainstream enterprise resource in 2012 as companies seek closed-loop solutions that clearly demonstrate search and social media ROI.
Customers are constant touch-points, co-creators, and idea generators
Any marketer worth his salt knows the importance of customer engagement and validation. The development of social media sites has given marketers a non-proprietary direct and public vein to consumers like never before. In the year ahead, we anticipate smart companies will increasingly tap their customers' social networks for collaboration at every stage of the product lifecycle, including idea generation and screening, concept testing and development, and launch. In addition to creating compelling products and services, companies that mine this opportunity will bolster their digital community, brand advocacy, and competitive advantage. Customers will also become an extension of the savvy marketers' efforts when rewarded or attributed for leaving positive reviews about the products they use or the companies they've transacted with.
Virtual teams become the norm
Over a decade ago, laptop computing and wireless networking jumpstarted a workplace revolution, enabling individuals to work offsite. Today we're arguably in the midst of an equally monumental workforce shift; project management and workplace flow technologies have matured enough to support geographically diverse teams. In 2012, companies looking to save on relocation and travel costs while fulfilling specific talent requirements will increase their investment in video conferencing, document sharing, and other robust, low-cost workforce integration services. As such, working hand-in-hand with teammates across different states, countries, or even continents will, for many of us, increasingly feel like business as usual.
Being the 800 lb. gorilla has a downside
No doubt, Google is a behemoth when it comes to search market share and advertising revenues. But, the sheer magnitude of Google's influence and reach ensures a heightened scrutiny of the company's business practices. Just as Microsoft once appeared to be constantly roiled in legal woes, Google is destined to follow suit and reside under an anti-competitive microscope. In 2011 we've already witnessed Congress drill Google execs regarding smartphone privacy protection policies, and heading into 2012 the company is being investigated in multiple countries for anti-trust violations. We can expect many of these legal allegations to heat up in the year ahead.