Posted 16th December 2013 | By Nick Evans, Chairman

Franklin D. Roosevelt said "We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future." For people living in present times, preparing ourselves for the future is hard enough. At a time when change is the norm and stability is the stuff of yesterday, we all have to adapt to what the future has to throw at us.

Nowhere more so than in the marketing that is targeting us now and will target us soon. This post outlines a few trends to watch out for as we move through the next five years or more (I was going to write 50 years and then realised that change always happens much more quickly than you expect).

What does future marketing hold for your business

Franklin D. Roosevelt said "We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future." For people living in present times, preparing ourselves for the future is hard enough. At a time when change is the norm and stability is the stuff of yesterday, we all have to adapt to what the future has to throw at us.

Nowhere more so than in the marketing that is targeting us now and will target us soon. This post outlines a few trends to watch out for as we move through the next five years or more (I was going to write 50 years and then realised that change always happens much more quickly than you expect).

How businesses will be affected
Businesses that want to stay ahead of their competitors are already running to stand still. Here are a few things that already consume time and budget for market-conscious companies:

  • Website - it needs to be up to date, up to the minute in style, effective in terms of findability (meaning it needs SEO) and responsive so that it works with mobile devices (even more important than desktop and laptop computers, now)
  • Social media - being live on the networks, driving people to your website with news, views, offers and expertise, building new followers through the medium of the people who already follow you
  • Video - probably the biggest viral pull of all in terms of online marketings, but demanding time and effort to create. It's cheap though and people who do it well - check out "Will it blend?" and see how many views their videos have had - are raising their company's presence out of all recognition

The future holds much more however: more competitive, harder to stay ahead and ... new technologies to embrace. Expect more of the following:

Context search
The visitor to your town who is looking for a pizza is less likely to ask a stranger where the pizza parlour is, than to do a search for "pizza" on their phone. Context search delivers local results for businesses in the immediate vicinity - if the website and associated content is set up to address it. This will get more detailed and widespread as time goes on. Be prepared to set up your website, your Google record and associated map entry to meet this need.

Personalisation
People like to think your business cares about them. Send them personalised messages, offers tailored to their tastes, personalised information that they will like and share. To do this, you'll need to be building information about your customers and their habits (think Tesco), and then you'll need the ability to customise your online communications to match people's interests. This will only get bigger and better.

Referral marketing
Already a big thing, face to face - people tell each other about products and services - but a growing trend online too. Businesses want to see their goods talked about online and will push information at online visitors that is worthy of sharing - think of Will it Blend? again or any recent viral image or video. There tend to be many around Christmas from the big retailers. And, in the fulness of time, it is likely that people will want to be rewarded for such referrals and sharing - aggregating points for each mention, perhaps and, as we all know, points mean prizes!

Recognition
As we drive our cars across the country, police cameras track us wherever we go. Our face is recognised by software in our photo galleries and, more significantly, on Facebook where people happily tag images of each other without realising a massive portfolio of pictures of people across the world can now be associated to a name. For advertisers, being able to recognise a person's face (or retina or thumbprint) can have a number of benefits:

  • Security - validating your identity for a purchase by use of a fingerprint scanner is already with us on new iPhones from Apple
  • Push advertising - software recognises who you are, associates you with your data record and pushes tailored advertising at you as you walk around a store or a mall (watch for this soon - Tesco must be the ones to do it!). If you doubt this future vision, watch this clip from Minority Report where John Anderton is assailed by advertising as he walks through a mall. Scary? It's not far away ...
  • Or clever stuff that uses technology to provide a wow! factor, such as the British Airways #lookup in Piccadilly Circus Not seen it? A child on an electronic billboard "sees" a real BA plane flying in the sky over Piccadilly Circus, gets up from what he's doing and points at the plane. Meanwhile, the billboard tells you which flight it is and where it is from. Clever stuff!

Theme-based group advertising
Many people use Twitter to comment on events and group their comments under a common banner with hashtags such as #stokecityfc. With this tag, anyone can click and find every comment that is being made, for example, during a football game and, in their turn comment themselves. Advertisers have not been slow to realise that they can drop messages into these themes simply by putting "Drink Drano beer at £1.99 a pint #stokecityfc".

Zapping (my term)
This is the ability to convey or receive complex information, simply with the wave of a card or a phone camera lens. You can see this in such things as Oyster cards for travel, contactless debit cards for small value purchases and QR codes for sharing information such as web addresses. Contactless information passing is growing to the extent that, in an Apple Retail Store, with the right app on your phone, you can walk in, "zap" a product barcode, read reviews and technical details and pay for the product ... without the intervention of a single sales assistant.

Augmented reality
Overlaying an artificial reality on top of reality itself is a growing trend. Clever apps that transform the view from the camera in your phone or tablet into a moving animation are just the beginning - here's a demo on Youtube. With the advent of Google Glass, the reality you see in front of you can be augmented with additional information, messages, directions and ... yes, advertisements. For an overview, check out this Mashable article.

So where do I go now?
On it goes, the roller-coaster of the future, bringing with it exciting innovations to surprise and thrill the end user and terrify the business owner, who wonders how they'll keep up.

The truth is that, with a suitable online development partner (yes, I mean ExtraMile here), you can maximise your presence in line with your available budget. One sure thing is that you will at least need to keep your head above water, if you are serious about competing in the world of the near future. Without a good partner, you have little chance of making the most of what you have. With a good partner, you can begin to address the future with a tailored development plan that looks at all aspects of your marketing, online and offline.

The future's bright. The future's techno.

Nick Evans from ExtraMile

At ExtraMile we try to take an hour out each week to look around us at what others do and to gain inspiration and to admire people's creativity. Each post in this series is one staff member's take on the world of web, design and things online. We hope you enjoy it.

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