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Six Cool Trends I Think 2012 Will Bring Us

December 28, 2011 21 comments

2011 is coming to a close but before it does, I wanted to write down my thoughts on some cool trends I think 2012 will bring us from a marketing, mobile and technology perspective. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Near-Field Communication Becomes Mainstream

The biggest issue with NFC right now is the fact that we’re calling it NFC. This technology (RFID) has been around for years in fact, you likely already use it a few times a day to gain access to your condo, your office and even pay at the pump using your MasterCard Paypass. The introduction of Google Wallet in North America means that Google is helping to educate the mass market about NFC, but I think, as marketers, we need to simplify the message. Paying for everyday items is as easy as tapping your phone. Checking into foursquare will be as easy as tapping your phone. Sending someone your business card will be as easy as tapping your phones together. Accessing brand & product information, downloading music, videos, apps – will be as easy as tapping your phone. Just Tap It. Tap It. Simple.

The phones are here and the API & other applications are coming. Sales of NFC-enabled phones is set to hit 80Million globally in 2012. It’s a huge trend. Your wallet, loyalty cards, ID and gift cards could potentially live on your phone and this is going to really take flight this year. While this could be a scary concept for some, would you rather lose your wallet & have to replace all of your cards, or lose your phone and simply wipe it remotely and be able to restore all of your cards quickly and easily?

2. Diffusion of Engagement.
A marketing buzz word in 2011, companies everywhere were searching for ways to connect and create ‘engagement’ with their influential customers. The idea being that using services like Klout, Kred & others can help you reach the people who can ‘influence’ the purchase decisions of people within their respective networks. In 2012, customers will become increasingly savvy to this. We don’t like telemarketers interrupting us and we know what’s fake. We’ll sniff out that blogger that is only promoting a new brand or smartphone because they got a sample or got one for free. We’ll start to turn off the companies that are using social media like a megaphone to push their message out to people instead of truly connecting with and rewarding their loyal customers. At the end of the day, word of mouth needs to travel through trusted sources. People are more likely to buy something that one of their FRIENDS have recommended; not Justin Bieber.

3. A Mobile Advertising Platform for BlackBerry
If you are currently developing applications for iOS, Android or BlackBerry you know that iOS and Android come with many PAID methods of helping you gain distribution and promote your application to generate downloads an stimulate usage. ADMOB (Owned by Google) is likely the most efficient. It’s a Pay-per-click advertising platform for iOS and Android that allows you to target potential users through its mobile advertising platform (in-application) based on several user demographics. You can target on country, gender, age, even device & carrier network, set a daily budget and get a comprehensive report on how many impressions your ad generated as well as the number of click-thrus and downloads. If you’re familiar with Adwords, it works in much the same way but for mobile.

This is something that is really missing for BlackBerry. With over 75Million BlackBerry users worldwide; a mobile advertising platform whether in AppWorld or through free BlackBerry apps is important, relevant and realistic for two reasons. (1) It could be a potential source of mobile advertising revenue for RIM. (2) It presents a channel for the makers of the over 50,000 applications available in BlackBerry AppWorld to target and communicate to their base of users, gain feedback and offer increased value. Some find ads annoying, but for smaller application development companies – it’s a cost-effective way to reach potential users and is a great channel to gain and share information.

4. RIM’s Market share in the United States will climb aggressively.
This may seem like a #BeBold statement and is not intended to align with their current Bold campaign. I am still a firm believer in Research In Motion despite their 2011 blunders for a number of reasons:
1. They have over 75 Million subscribers world wide.
2. They are growing in other important markets (Asia)
3. They realized over $5B in Revenue last quarter
4. They are in a market that is only 3510% penetrated globally. We’re still in the early stages of mobile adoption.
5. They make a good product. The Playbook is a strong tablet & the Bold 9900 is the best device I’ve ever owned.
6. They have made a number of strategic acquisitions (TAT, Tungle, Gist, JayCut) that I feel will drive home the user experience and pull them back into the smartphone race.

Look, I get it. RIM has had some serious issues with leadership and execution. They have lost a few key people in key positions from downsizing and from attrition and I know the microscope is on them. They’re not going to zero, and in my opinion are not in a death spiral as the mainstream media would have you believe. Their developer channel is solid, they have great patents and IP, they make a great product and are growing in other international markets. As a PlayBook owner, I have a lot of confidence in the move to the QNX operating system. I think it will pave the way for some cool functionality and a reinvention of Blackberry as we know it.

5. Everything’s a game.
Gamification. Game Mechanics. Call it what you like, everything you touch in 2012 will have some sort of game component to it. Whether it’s checking in and earning points using Foursquare, or rewarding users for watching TV shows and shopping at certain retail stores – People will go crazier than ever before trying to outdo their friends and family by collecting rewards/badges/trophies and points for completing certain tasks and actions. Do we need another digital farm? Definitely not, but we’ve only just scratched the surface with respect to how the user experience can be integrated, ‘fun-ified’, changed and improved using competitive elements. Bigger trend – you’ll see many companies introducing rewards system for real world stuff. Points will become a form of virtual currency that you’ll be able to redeem for coupons, discounts and even purchase retail items. It’s not new (air miles/Petro points, Avion points), but it’s set to explode this year.

6. Experiential Marketing Comes to Retail
I recently purchased a pair of sunglasses from a sunglass retailer with over 2,000 stores around the world. This was a new location and it had been a while since I had been in this chain. I was surprised by the mediocre experience. Though the staff were helpful enough, the experience felt cheap. Glasses secured in closed display cases with the logos of brands scattered about, prices hand-written on tags attached to the glasses in blue pen. I had to write my name on a piece of paper to activate the warranty. Really? How does this get information get entered into their system? After begrudgingly shelling out nearly $300 for my new shades, the associate happily smiled and put my purchase in a little shopping bag. A cheap experience for an expensive purchase.

A good retail experience reduces buyer’s remorse. You feel valued. You feel special and you want to return to that store with your friends and family. It elevates and establishes your perception of that brand in your mind. I think starbucks does a phenomenal job of creating a great user experience. Being inside of a starbucks (The decor, the way the baristas speak to you, the ambiance) all makes me feel comfortable about shelling out $5 for a latte. It feels like a treat. They make you feel special even though at the end of the day, you’re just buying a coffee. I think 2012 will be the year that we see this happen at more stores – a greater focus on retail marketing. Companies will be further integrating their digital and social activities with retail locations. We’ll start to see individual stores reaching out to their customers to connect with them on a more personal level. Experiences will improve. We’ll see more integration with technology, more retail mobile payments and more linkages between the brand across retail, mobile and smartphones (Think Foursquare, NFC, Facebook like, Twitter, QR codes, SMS). The retail experience will be improved in 2012. At least, I hope so.

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