It’s that time of year when we look ahead and make our predictions of what to look for in 2014.
There are some obvious things to watch, of course. The Internet of Things is marching forward, with every device and product looking to connect more fully with consumer need. There’s also a great deal of attention being paid to mobile payment systems. All of this is getting plenty of ink.
However, as I read the lists and discuss the impact with peers and on The BeanCast, I’ve identified five trends that may still be vastly misunderstood. So this is my list of things to watch closely in the coming year:
Generic Top-Level Domains
You may have heard that the top-level domain expansion is about to happen. The press likes to talk about “.walmart” or “.citi” being the new reality for the web, but generic top-level domains (gTLD) are where the real disruption will happen.
The owner of “.hotel” could control an enormous portion of search traffic for the travel industry and the owner of “.auto” could completely control how we find our next car. Plus, when tied to mobile apps, a gTLD can create a virtual walled garden around a search category.
The land grab is on, so brands need to protect their trademark assets now or risk losing significant amounts of web traffic. Also, watch for a side market in risk management to develop as startups like DomainSkate emerge to manage the legal and branding liabilities faced by the enterprise and SMB markets.
Think about mix tapes. They are easy to create, meaningful to the people who make and get them, and a way to both celebrate the original artist and get kudos for yourself as the mixer. Right now the Internet is beginning to burst at the seams with new technologies and platforms designed to tap into this idea.
MixBit is a fascinating example of this. A video platform created by the YouTube founders, it allows you to upload your short clips, share clips with others and then remix them into endless permutations of a final video product. AuthorBee is another nascent platform designed to aggregate many contributions of text (and soon video and pictures), then the owner of a thread can remix the assets into a cohesive story or news feed.
This ramping up of collaborative creation is just beginning, but has the potential to redefine how crowd marketing is done, and how media is consumed. It provides a more palatable blending of brand control while still including the user’s input.
End of the “Black Hat” Goldmine
It’s been threatened for years, but the time has finally arrived. With all the browsers now employing some form of do-not-track as a default position, coupled with ongoing privacy concerns, the third-party cookie will soon be completely useless.
Google and Bing are creating their own unique tracking systems to replace the cookie while still protecting users, which will create plenty of problems on its own. However, the biggest disruptions will be among those brands that either intentionally or ignorantly relied too heavily on what are known as “black hat” SEO practices. We can expect sharp traffic declines on those sites as a result, as well as a lot of internal questions from management.
In-Store Mobile Signal Tracking
Websites have always had a huge tracking advantage over physical retail locations. On the web, we often know with great specificity how a person moves through a site, what attracts their eye, where their attention is held and what influences them to buy.
Now startups, like Canadian company Mexia, are bringing that level of detailed tracking to brick and mortar retail operations using the non-identifying signals emitted from mobile phones. These signals can be used to monitor traffic patterns, gauge effectiveness of in-store displays and even deliver and monitor conversion of offers. Plus, with the recent code of ethics that this emerging field has arrived at with privacy hawk, US Senator Chuck Schumer, expect to see rapid deployment and benefit throughout the retail sector in the coming year.
Sharing Platforms Becoming Transactional Platforms
We love to talk about the sharing economy, because it decentralizes things like travel to match availability to need. However, sharing platforms like ride service Uber are beginning to realize their power as transactional platforms as well.
Over the past year, the company has staged promotions that allow users to purchase Christmas trees for delivery or even to buy kittens. While primarily launched as promotional stunts, these moves are proving that sharing platforms can also be used to facilitate great commerce and pose a potential threat to existing payment technology platforms.
Look for a rapid expansion in this area over the next 12 months as experimentation with what’s possible here spreads and grows.