Before we conclude this month’s Trend Predictions and what to expect from the continuing digital marketing (r)evolution in 2014, I would like to summarize my thoughts on the topic, besides providing a retrospect of Asian eMarketing’s predictions of last year.
Every day, hundreds of new business models are coming into existence, based on the changing technology and culture, which to a large extent can be described as “community power”, technical toys and Web 2.0 - tools. And with around 350 million active Facebook users in Asia and a smartphone sales surge of more than 60% in Southeast Asia alone, it is quite clear that the times are changing.
Facts and figures of social media and mobile users
The fact that social media is tantamount to record numbers is now well-known. But before getting into a deeper discussion, let’s take e.g. a look at the latest record numbers of the still most important social network – Facebook. The social network continues to grow and currently has 1.15 billion active users worldwide. By now, substantial 819 million are using mobile access, which is 51% more than a year ago. Sales of the platform stood at around US$ 1.8 billion – and here as well the increase is 53% compared to the same period in 2012, whereas around 88% are allotted to the display market. Currently, more than 1 million businesses advertise on the platform and more than 18 million companies operate fan pages. In particular in Asia the use continues to rise. (Numbers: Facebook Aug 2013)
The distribution of the various social networks in Asia also brings no great surprises: Facebook with 92.3% is followed by Twitter with 75.31% and Google+ is directly in third place with 69.47 %. Having an account on YouTube is becoming increasingly important (59.54%) and the fact that Pinterest (40.46%) is now even slightly ahead of Instagram (37.91%) surprises just a few. (Figures: Annual Survey Social Media Statistics, April 2013)
The record numbers of smartphone units sold and selling are in line with these results, as Asians bought more smartphones than ever in 2013. The ongoing trend of upgrading from basic mobile phones to smartphones, particularly in Southeast Asia’s emerging markets, has further deepened smartphone penetration in the region. In the first three quarters of 2013, consumers from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines have spent USD10.8 billion on nearly 41.5 million units of smartphones, according to GfK.
However, a change has taken place within the operating systems in use: from IOS (Apple) the usage has been moving more and more towards Android, which now serves 76% of all pocket-PCs (Gartner, 2013). The figures prove that it helps the iPhone only moderately that it is still the most popular smartphone.
Promising channels and technologies
But where do smartphones and other technical gimmicks lead us? And what does that mean for communication channels in the future?
Well, "Google Glass" is definitely an answer– the smartphone on the nose that is currently celebrated by the media. The spectacle frame with the small screen will for sure be on many Visa billings. Through voice control the spectacle wearer can use it if necessary as photo or video camera, telephone, video conference system, navigation system, as well as knowledge base.
The same applies to the new Apple creation, a watch with a functionally similar scope. Like “Google Glass”, there is no meaningful display provided for entering text messages for asynchronous communication - only voice recognition is used. And in September last year Samsung launched its first smartwatch - Galaxy Gear – that has many of the above-mentioned features, too. Galaxy Gear works only with Samsung smartphones and tablets powered by the Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) operating system. This accessory can be used to make and receive phone calls, read text messages and emails, track workouts and capture photos and videos, besides understanding voice commands via the S Voice app. It is even said that Samsung will soon launch the Galaxy Gear 2 smartwatch that will offer more functionalities and work with more devices. Apple is also said to be working on an iOS-based smartwatch that will be launched in a few months.
Besides that, the first signs that the future belongs to video telephony are seen in the social networks: Facebook already surprised its users with this function, thanks to their partner Skype, and blossomed into a complete operating system for smartphones. In the Google+ network these video chats are called "Hangouts" that gain in popularity and will be supported very soon by Google Glass. And since Google usually moves very carefully in its strategy, it is interesting to see that the company has already started to buy their own networks.
Due to the currently still free models of Facebook, Google and Apple's "FaceTime" which are used by at least 70% of the world’s internet population, as well as the fact that every smartphone is a suitable transmission medium, and new gadgets like Google Glass will gain in popularity, an even broader audience will soon be dealing with it. The conditions are definitely better than ever in both areas of technology and culture. Therefore, it is important to check on your communication strategy not only regarding the possible channels, but to continue including considerations regarding the customers' changing culture, too.
Rise of the collaborative economy
For a long time, the opinion makers were to be found in the editorial and advertising departments, but today they are everywhere. The consumer - practically overnight - became a “prosumer”, who no longer only books the hotel room with the best reviews, but asks digital friends and acquaintances about their preferences. This new way of communication, which is based on interaction, has made the interested parties more confident. “Prosumers” are more aware of their key role – and making a distinction between social networks and the meeting in the local pub is getting more and more difficult, as the person is one and the same and takes over only when it crosses his/her mind or considers it to be of advantage.
Certainly, this change has been strongly driven by the new possibilities of communities and real-time communication, as these technical innovations actually enable reviews, product testing, price comparisons and crowdsourcing. But the prosumer will continue to be considered as self-confident and at eye level, even if tomorrow Facebook, Twitter and Google would be switched off simultaneously – because the culture behind it has simply changed.
There has been a growing trend to structure life around technology in the pursuit of constant connectivity with the rise of social media. However, this will reach a point of saturation earlier or later - it is just a matter of time – and the return to “real life” will gain momentum. Instead people will eagerly start to embrace technologies that empower them to achieve a more balanced life – so expect to see an emergence of “The Internet of Things”, all kinds of tools that make it easier to live better by harnessing the best parts of social and digital. Things that seamlessly integrate and add value to our lives, hobbies and interests, rather than taking our focus and energy away them.
From crowdsourcing to crowdfunding
Through the readiness to engage in dialogue regarding quality and quantity, a special feature has quickly developed: crowdsourcing - which is explained the easiest way by using the example of Wikipedia, an encyclopedia written by a variety of different people with different skills, background, age, etc. A few years ago, the assertion that such a project just produces a lot of uninteresting and especially wrong content would have been considered by all means as correct. Even the makers of Wikipedia assumed that and established an editorial authority that however got abandoned quite quickly as it couldn’t keep up, neither with the quantity nor the quality. Meanwhile, crowdsourcing literally resounds throughout the land, because especially the consumer products industry pounces on to the idea with enthusiasm, such as McDonalds encouraging people to create burgers, or Lego to design toy sets.
The rise of this so-called “collaborative economy” will have significant digital impact as it disrupts business models, companies, industries and economies. In the first phase, the people formerly known as the audience, created media and shared it, we know this as social media. In the next phase, the people formerly known as consumers are creating goods, heralding the maker movement, and may also share goods, which we collectively call the “sharing or collaborative economy”. What it all means is that people are empowered to get what they need from each other, rather than to buy it anew.
Corporations that want to be part of this new economy must embrace the same strategies and allow the crowd to become part of their company functions.
By Daniela La Marca