While many article and columns look back at the year that was or posture on the year that will be, it's becoming abundantly clear that 2012 will - without question - be the "Year of More."
It sounds a little incredulous to say this when we're in a world that is struggling for stability. While there is not enough food, jobs, healthcare and not enough room for the nearly seven billion of us (and growing), it's clear that with all of the challenges we face, the human race pushes on. With that comes innovations, new opportunities and an ever-demanding public desire for the latest and greatest. Businesses who have struggled with the technology revolution (and don't kid yourself, there are many businesses that are still playing catch up) will continue to struggle, but it's becoming less about physical infrastructure and much more about a philosophical perspective on what businesses need to look like in 2012 and the year of more.
More social. Social Media and online social networking has changed the very fabric of business and society. Along with the slew of customer service gaffs we've seen businesses go through in the past five years, this has forced brands to become (somewhat) social. While Social Media has aligned within the marketing and communications departments, we're going to see the social impetus be pushed through the entire DNA of a company. That may not happen this year, but you will see that consumers will be even more social in 2012. They will be sharing, chatting and talking about everything from where they are to what they're watching and who they are doing it with. Will this trend stop in the future? It may (but I'm bullish on it continuing), and this year will be a year where consumers will be even more social than they were in 2011.
More global. The subtitle of my first book, Six Pixels of Separation, is "Everyone is connected. Connect your business to everyone." That line was written in 2008, but the ramifications of it are going to be felt in a massive way this year. In this connected society, we now have the ability for businesses (even very small ones) to be global. This isn't about simple distribution channels and selling opportunities, it means much more operationally as well. This year we will increasingly see businesses being more global than they have ever been before.
More local. Achieving mastery of the local market has never been easy. Groupon's development of the hyper-local deal-of-the-day model, has created a slew of new business models and opportunities that will materialize more saliently this year. Through mobile (which are GPS-enabled) and other innovations, there will be a much bigger push to deliver services to the consumer where they physically are in much more effective ways.
More devices. If you were hoping for convergence and a world where one device rules them all, 2012 will not be the year for this (but it will - hopefully - happen at some point in the not-too-distant future). This year will see the introduction of many new devices (including the hotly anticipated entry of Apple into the television set business). From Amazon, Google/Android, Microsoft, RIM (hopefully) and maybe even Facebook, our lives (and briefcases) will continue to get filled up with new, different and interesting devices.
More connectivity. We will be that much more connected. Not only to one another, but to brands (whether the brands like it or not). That point is less important than the slew of devices (see above) that are going to come along that are going to be truly networked and connected to one another. So, while we'll have many new and varied devices, we're going to see them much more tightly networked to one another. The biggest leap this year will be how our home appliances (from televisions and heating) will connect to all of our other Internet enabled devices. Look no further than your weekly Best Buy circular to see how almost all new television sets are what they are calling "Internet ready" (aka networked). All roads (and screens) lead to the Internet. This connectivity of devices will also push our connectivity to one another as we share more things like what we're watching or what we want to buy.
More direct. In April of 2011, I Blogged about the next five years stating that, "The next five years are going to be about... direct relationships. The next five years are going to be about how well a brand can actually change the relationship from one that looks at how many people are in their database to who these individuals are and how the brand can make the connections and loyalty stronger." While loyalty programs will continue to be a critical function of businesses ability to drive marketshare, none of that will matter unless they are developing and nurturing a much stronger and direct relationship with their consumer. This is going to be especially true for brands that sell their products and services through third-parties (like retailers or value-added resellers). The race to "own" the consumer is going to heat up this year - like never before - as more and more brands fight to have the direct relationship. So, while this will evolve over the next five years, the battle begins right now.
More noise. The book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has nearly four-thousand consumer generated reviews on Amazon alone as of today. For those keeping score, that is book number seven in J.K. Rowling's astoundingly successful series. Do you think that anyone is going to be able to read and make heads or tails of this? As more and more people complain about a brand on Twitter and more and more people compliment the same brand on Twitter, how are consumers going to make better choices? Filtering and curation have been hotly debated topics by many of the media pundits, but it's going to be increasingly difficult for consumers to navigate all of this content that is being created by both brands and each other. Expect this noise level to increase significantly this year. With that, we'll see many new services that will attempt to help us all sort the wheat from the chaff.
More is not always better.
That being said, I wish your business much more success, joy, wealth and health for this year. I also hope that you will take this year of "more" to think about ways that you can experiment more, optimize more, think more and do more.
What "more" do you think is going to shape 2012?
The above post is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:
- Montreal Gazette - The Internet will keep on changing the way business is done in 2012.
- Vancouver Sun - Anticipating a 'year of more' in 2012.