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Seven More Things That Will Influence Business in 2014

It’s a new year.

That means it is a good time to look ahead and try to predict what businesses will need to focus on in order to stay ahead of the game.

As I was thinking about this post, a few things occurred to me.

First, many of the things that I have on my list are things that people have been talking about for a few years. This may be due to the fact that technology is finally catching up to the hopes and dreams of innovators around the globe. This could also be due to the fact that smart people try to think in terms of what the world will be like 10, 20, or 30 years from now, and plan their short-term goals so that they are meeting the needs of consumers now and in the future.

Second, the lists that we make each year don’t only apply to the year ahead. They build off the past and hopefully look to the future. Therefore, it is not surprising that the items on last year’s list could easily be on someone’s list for 2014.

Third, although now is a good time to look ahead, smart businesses need to be doing this all year long. Because technology is advancing at such a fast pace, something new could be invented or released mid-year that could change the direction of business.

The List So Far

As I mentioned, the things I was watching in 2013 are still relevant in 2014. Therefore, instead of creating a whole new list, I am just going to add to it. For review, here is the 2013 list:

1) Rapid Advancements in Technology

2) Mobile (User Experience and Marketing)

3) Mobile Payments

4) Mobile-Influenced Merchandising

5) Privacy Issues

6) The Evolution of Marketing and Public Relations

7) Emerging Markets

Note: As I do each year, I suggest checking out the “100 things to Watch in 2014” list published by JWT Intelligence. As was the case in the past, this year’s list has some very interesting predictions.

Additional Things I Will Be Watching in 2014

While this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are some additional things that I think businesses should be watching this year.

8) Internet of Things The definition of the Internet of Things is not completely agreed upon. That said, my definition is most aligned with the definition provided by SAP. According to Wikipedia.org, SAP’s definition of the Internet of Things is, “A world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, and where the physical objects can become active participants in business processes. Services are available to interact with these ‘smart objects’ over the Internet, query and change their state and any information associated with them, taking into account security and privacy issues.” This will not only change business, it will change how we live. (The most common example that I have heard about is the refrigerator that can tell you when you are out of milk. This technology can and is being used to help companies meet the needs of consumers in all areas of life.)

In the short-term, the use of this type of technology can help companies gain a competitive advantage over the competition. In the future, this type of technology will be table stakes.

9) The Evolution of Retail It is inevitable that advancements in technology will change the way people shop. In order for brands and retailers to compete, they are going to have to take many variables into account and offer creative ways for consumers to purchase products and services from them. Last year, I pointed out that mobile phones are influencing the way people shop at brick-and-mortar stores. But the changes don’t stop there. Innovative companies have found ways for consumers to purchase products from them in ways that we never thought possible. Need some examples? Look at number 11, 14, 59, and 79 on the JWT Intelligence “100 Things to Watch in 2014” list.

10) Omni-Channel Retail Although this is part of the evolution of retail, it is important enough to be included by itself. According to Wikipedia.org, “Omni-Channel Retailing is the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Retailers are meeting the new customer demands by deploying specialized supply chain strategy software.”

As Wikipedia points out, “With omni-channel retailing, marketing is made more efficient with offers that are relative to a specific consumer determined by purchase patterns, social network affinities, website visits, loyalty programs, and other data mining techniques.”

Note: Some people have used the phrase onmi-channel marketing. However, it looks like more people are going with onmi-channel retail. It seems like they are basically talking about the same thing (i.e., not only having the brand reach consumers via multiple marketing channels, but having each of the channels know how the customer interacted with the brand in the past.)

11) A Global Marketplace Thanks to the latest technology, we have access to and can sell products to consumers located in all areas of the globe. However, the Internet is not making us homogeneous. In fact, as I pointed out in a post last year, research has shown that the Internet may reinforce regional differences. The key is knowing what customers want and filling their needs. This is going to call for increased awareness of the needs of each demographic group (region, political affiliation, income level, educational attainment, etc.) in the market(s) that you are selling to.

The flip side of the coin is that businesses around the globe can now compete for your local customers, increasing the need for improved efficiency and quality, not to mention having an effect on how you price your products and services.

12) 3D Printing Wikipedia.org defines 3D printing as, “a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.” The rapid improvement of this technology has made it economically feasible for people to use it to create a wide variety of products. With it, the technology brings a host of legal and security concerns that need to be addressed. If 3D printers become inexpensive enough, this technology has the potential to change business as we know it today.

13) Cyberattacks By now, everyone has heard about hackers attacking companies and getting access to customers’ personally identifiable information (PII). When this includes customers’ financial information, it can cause a public relations nightmare. However, now that we are connecting things that we use in the terrestrial world to the Internet (see #8, The Internet of Things), just think about the problems that could arise. This is something that all businesses need to think about. This is even more important for companies that are helping bring the latest technologies to our homes and offices.

14) Ethics This is something that all businesses should be thinking about. In fact, it is going to become more important as time goes on. Businesses that deliver a quality product while being friendly to employees, customers, and the environment are going to win in the long term. And, when it comes to using the latest technology for business, companies that push the envelope are often going to be rewarded. However, businesses that go too far and make customers uneasy or upset could feel the financial impact. While I am often an advocate for using the latest and greatest technology, I am also aware that sometimes just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should. A little forethought can go a long way.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. My list of things that I will be watching in 2014 and beyond.

Is there something that you think that I should have included? If so, please let me know…

Photo credits: Zach Copley and Samuel Mann on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Geography of Marketing: The Global Marketplace

As technology advances, it is becoming easier for people to connect with other people around the globe.

Rapid advancements in technology are also opening up new markets to businesses that wouldn’t have even dreamed of selling their products and services internationally just a few years ago.

Although international marketing is not my area of expertise, I believe that it is going to become more important for businesses of all sizes in the very near future. With this in mind, I have begun to do some research on the topic.

In the early stages of the process, three things are already becoming clear. 1) The quality of the product or service is becoming more important as businesses compete with other businesses that are located anywhere on the planet. 2) Marketing campaigns need to be tailored to appeal to individual markets and cultural differences need to be recognized. 3) It is becoming increasingly more important for businesses to do the research to identify what the previous two items on my list actually mean to the business and its potential customers (i.e., how do individual markets define quality and what factors influence how effective a marketing campaign will be when it is used to target potential customers living in other parts of the world.)

Globalization Does Not Imply Homogenization

In an article in the September 15, 2010 issue of the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News, Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown Inc., states, “Culture—the history, beliefs, customs, habits and values of a group of people—determines the ways in which we respond to the world around us, including the brands we buy. Local culture helps establish our values and priorities. It determines our taste for food, aesthetic preferences and communication.”

“Increasingly, however, people everywhere are exposed to foreign cultures through commerce, travel and media,” Hollis continues. “But just how strong is the influence of this global culture when compared to the local cultures in which we are born and raised? While the global culture grows increasingly prominent, my research suggests that the influence of local culture still is very important to brand success.”

Hollis goes on to point out that for brands with global aspirations, the influence of local culture can present significant problems. The combination of product formulations, positioning and communications strategy that made the brand successful in one part of the world may need to be adjusted to build a connection with consumers in new markets. Of these, Hollis feels that communication is probably the most susceptible to the influence of culture.

He also warns that the days of big brands gaining huge market share just by introducing their products and services to new markets are over.

According to Hollis, “It used to be that multinationals could launch a brand into a developing economy confident that their product would be better and more desirable than the local competition. Increasingly, this expectation is unwarranted. With product superiority no longer guaranteed, brands must compete for hearts as well as minds—and to win someone’s heart, you must engage him on his own terms and in his own language. Foreign brands increasingly will need to blend into local cultures if they are to become successful.”

He also points out that the Internet may, in fact, strengthen the connection that consumers have to their local culture.

“People in countries as diverse as China, Turkey and Brazil evince a strong desire to maintain their local culture,” writes Hollis. “In the future, they may celebrate their own cultural identities by choosing local foods, goods and entertainment over Western alternatives. And far from promoting a global village, the Internet actually may be promoting hundreds of local ones. The success of local Internet brands such as search engine Baidu in China and social network Mixi in Japan—as well as the growing trend toward local language blogging—suggests that far from undermining local culture, the Internet instead may be empowering it.”

The Middle East & North Africa Region

A recent report that was released by JWT MENA, titled “JWT MENA: 8 Trends for 2013,” provides insights about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Interestingly, the report appears to verify that Nigel Hollis was indeed correct, at least for this particular part of the world.

According to the JWT report, “‘Arabification’ is definitely back. Whereas in the past, Arabs have looked to the West for inspiration, today, the region in entirety is looking inwards, supporting entrepreneurialism and its own national best interest. Rather than wallow in negativity, Millennials are optimistically looking forward and up, with a resilience and resourcefulness in addressing adversity. Consumer Confidence is up +6 points in KSA and +5 points in Egypt vs. 2011, shaping the ME of tomorrow, which will be pioneered by the dawn of ‘great brands from the Middle East’ as opposed to ‘great Middle Eastern brands’, towards self-sustainable individuals and economies.”

The report goes on to point out that about nine in 10 MENA adults agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are of better quality,” and a similar percentage agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are ‘unique.’” Furthermore, about three quarters of MENA adults agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are cheaper.”

The report concludes that, “At the end of the day, people are not just buying national brands, they’re buying a great brand and that’s the most important thing.”

If your business is marketing its products or services to consumers living in the Middle East or North Africa, I’d suggest reading this report. It provides great insights about the Middle East and North Africa, including interesting case studies from brands that have been successful in this region.

Final Thoughts

It is my belief that advancements in technology, including the increased reliance on the Internet, will make International marketing even more important in the near future.

However, while the Internet gives businesses the opportunity to sell their products and services to markets that they wouldn’t have even dreamed of just a few years ago, just introducing a product or service to a new market is not enough.

In order to be successful, brands may need to adjust everything from the communications strategy to the product itself, in order to appeal to consumers in other parts of the world.

As Nigel Hollis states at the end of his article in the AMA’s Marketing News, “Successful global brands will embrace the diversity of individuals, communities and cultures around the world, rather than seeking to impose one-size-fits-all templates irrespective of local needs and desires.”

Photo credits: stevecadman and Staeiou on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Seven Things on My Radar for 2013

Question: 2013 will be the year of what?

That is the question that many people are currently asking themselves.

In November, iMedia Communications published a blog post that featured 16 business leaders making predictions as to what they think 2013 will be best known for.

In the post, Mark Cuban, an American business magnate and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, predicted that 2013 will be the year of entrepreneurship. Ian Wolfman, CMO at MEplusYou, predicted that 2013 will be the year of purpose (i.e., brands will do more meaningful things in the world and more advertising dollars will be spent for social good in an effort to earn the trust of consumers.) Furthermore, Alfredo Gangotena, CMO at MasterCard, focused on the changing economic conditions around the world, including new opportunities for business growth in Africa in 2013.

Other experts predicted that we will finally get mobile right in 2013, video will explode, we will be able to achieve better targeting for in-marketing consumers, and that there will be more consolidation and easier technology, among other things.

If that list wasn’t enough to inspire your imagination, I’d suggest checking out the “100 Things to Watch in 2013” list published by JWT Intelligence. This yearly list has some amazing predictions for 2013.

Some of the Things That I Will Be Watching in 2013

I don’t have access to the same information that the business leaders that I mentioned earlier in this post have. Therefore, I am not going to make a prediction as to what I think 2013 will be best known for.

While I can’t say what 2013 will be best known for, I can provide a list of some of the things that I plan to study and monitor in the next 12 months. That list includes:

1) Rapid Advancements in Technology

We all know how fast technology has changed the world that we live in, in just the past decade. Think about what the world will be like next year, then think about the remarkable changes in technology that we will witness in the next 10, 20, or 30 years. In order to stay ahead of the curve, I think that it is important for businesses to pay attention to what futurists like Raymond Kurzweil predict the world will be like, and make sure that they have the products and services that will meet consumers’ demands when the time comes.

Therefore, it is not surprising that Google recently hired Kurzweil to be the Director of Engineering. Sure, the real reason for the hire is because Kurzweil has decades of machine learning experience, but there are other reasons for having a brilliant futurist on staff (i.e., making sure the competition doesn’t have the same level of access to all the knowledge that he has in that head of his.)

There are other reasons to be thinking about the future of technology from a business standpoint. For further insight, look at number 11, 20, 27, 43, 52, 65, and 70 on the JWT Intelligence “100 Things to Watch in 2013” list.

2) Mobile (User Experience and Marketing)

According to comScore, “123.3 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones (53 percent mobile market penetration) during the three months ending in November 2012, up 6 percent since August.” (This doesn’t include the increase that we will most likely see after the numbers are in after the holiday gift-giving season. Also, keep in mind, this number doesn’t include tablet computer usage.)

Therefore, it is not surprising that many experts predict that mobile will play an increasing role in consumers’ purchase decisions in the future. Therefore, it would be extremely ignorant to ignore this important technology.

From a business standpoint, it will not only be important to monitor how consumers are using their mobile devices in their day-to-day lives, but it will also be important that consumers can easily find the brand’s products or services wherever they are looking, including when they are using their smartphones or tablet computers. And, when they do find the brand’s products or services online, it will be equally important that the information that they find is user friendly and optimized for the mobile device that they are using.

3) Mobile Payments

Mobile devices will not only change the way that consumers find and do research on products or services, they will also play an increasing role in how consumers actually purchase these products and services. In fact, according to a post on the Intuit GoPayment Blog, a recent Jupiter Research study estimated that, by 2017, one out of every 25 retail transactions worldwide will be completed with a mobile device.

Therefore, it is important that businesses start getting comfortable with this technology now, while the technology is still new and they have the luxury of time to experiment and make adjustments, as necessary. If businesses wait until a majority of their customers become comfortable with the technology, they might end up losing sales to competitors that have taken the time to experiment and perfect the transaction process.

4) Mobile-Influenced Merchandising

As an increasing number of people use mobile devices to gather information as they shop in brick-and-mortar stores, it is inevitably going to change the way that consumers interact with products in the real world. Retailers are going to want to do everything that they can to prevent what some experts call “showrooming.” Finding ways to get consumers to buy from the current store that they are in is going to become a top priority. Among other things, this might lead to more price-match guarantees to increase sales. There is also a possibility that consumers’ shopping behaviors will be altered in ways that we haven’t even thought of as a result of consumers having a mobile device in their hand while they shop. It is for this reason that I will be watching merchandising trends in 2013.

5) Privacy Issues

Changes in all sorts of technology, from Facebook to facial recognition technology, will have consumers worrying whether or not their personally identifiable information (PII) is getting into the wrong hands. In this environment, even the perception of a privacy issue can have a huge impact on whether or not consumers trust the brand, which can ultimately have an effect on the bottom line.

6) The Evolution of Marketing and Public Relations

It is important that businesses monitor changes in the marketing and public relations world. Each new technology that is introduced brings with it new challenges. Therefore, it is important to understand what is working for other companies and adapt that into your marketing plan, if possible. It is also important to try new things, test, and make changes when necessary. However, as Mark Schaefer points out in a recent blog post, one of the best ways to cope with the changes that marketers are facing today is to view technological change through the lens of marketing fundamentals. That way you can more easily weed out the stuff that most likely won’t work. In other words, a solid understanding of the fundamentals of marketing and public relations will still be the foundation for success.

7) Emerging Markets

Alfredo Gangotena’s comment in the post that I mentioned earlier really got me thinking about the possibilities that are available in emerging markets. Therefore, I plan to add this to my to-do list of topics to study in 2013.

Conclusion

These are just some of the things that I will be watching in 2013.

It is important to note that a change in technology could have a huge impact on all the other things mentioned on my list.

So now that you have my list, my question to you is: what is on your radar in 2013?

Photo credit: Official U.S. Navy Imagery on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The JWT 100 Things to Watch in 2012 List

The new year brings with it new hope and new challenges.

In an effort to plan for these challenges, it’s a good idea for businesses to look to the experts to see what trends that they think will influence the business environment in the upcoming year.

With this in mind, I visited the JWT Intelligence website recently and found their list of the 100 Things to Watch in 2012.

There are definitely some very interesting things that are on their radar, including:

* Access everywhere

* Anywhere, any-way shopping

* App overload

* Apps for an aging world

* Cloud security

* Electric fleets

* Facebook’s IPO

* Fuel from waste

* Gesture recognition

* Internet-enabled cars

* iTV

* Mobile security

* The personal retailer

* Screened dining

* Screened shopping

* Smarter check-ins

* Social seating

* Tap-and-pay incentives

* TV commerce

* Unwrapping the process

* Virtual fitting rooms

* Voiced-based microblogging

* Voice control

* Web chat everywhere

* YouTube, the new boob tube

Final Thoughts

I think that JWT Intelligence put together a very interesting list. I suggest that you check it out in its entirety.

In fact, with the increasing number of people who own smartphones, I think that creating apps for the aging world is an idea that is definitely worth exploring.

Although I’d like to see most of the other things on their list become a reality, I’m not sure if they will gain widespread acceptance in 2012.

However, with all the smart people out there who are looking for ways to change the world… who knows?

Photo credit: Valerie Everett on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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