The world of technology didn't slow down for a minute in the past year, and developments are set to continue at a fast pace in 2011. The 11 trends that I've flagged below firstly highlight some high-level predictions for what we at Google see ahead for the Internet, mobile and devices, before going a little deeper into marketing and advertising.
In a nutshell, these are my 11 areas to watch:
Everything gets connected:
Infrastructure investments will increase the availability of Internet access across Africa, thereby driving mobile web adoption, new cloud computing services, and in turn, demand for media and advertising.
2011 is the year where we no longer think anything unusual of being connected to the Internet and finding information relevant to our daily lives as a computer- or phone-based phenomenon. Tablets, although initially expensive, will start to become mainstream; televisions will start to operate as hubs for online-based entertainment offerings; and even appliances will start to become 'smarter' as they become connected.
Mobile continues to boom:
Mobile computing bridges the online and offline worlds. The volume and variety of devices based on Android, our free, open-source mobile platform, continues to exceed even our most optimistic expectations. There are now 300 000 daily Android activations.
Increasingly, we'll see apps launched simultaneously on both iPhone and Android, and over the coming year and beyond, we expect to see some fascinating 'plug-ins' emerge to add functionality to phones.
In terms of devices, we'll see sophisticated 'superphones' (equipped with interactive sensors) become mass market devices, because the costs of the hardware will decrease so dramatically. Touchscreens will inspire new approaches to displays, and will affect how users interact with content.
I may be biased about online search, since it's at the heart of what Google does, but it's clear that search is becoming increasingly influential on an almost daily basis as it becomes more contextual, more mobile and more personal.
We'll see many more geolocation applications and more clever algorithmic-based suggestions, as well as more social elements in search - for example, what your friends think about a website or a review, which in turn may influence your opinions and choices.
Developments in translation and text-to-speech technology such as Voice Search will help people easily communicate across languages, no matter which country they're in, breaking down cultural barriers and increasing opportunities for social and commercial interaction.
It's not just devices that are changing the way we learn: 'open learning' is transforming the way that learners access information, facilitating ongoing learning - regardless of age. For example, ItunesU and YoutubeEDU provide high quality educational content to global audiences, regardless of whether they are 'registered' students or not.
And on the marketing and advertising front... Huge growth in online advertising still to come:
At Google we think that there is huge growth in online advertising still to come, including in Africa. Mary Meeker estimates there is an extra US$50 billion to be made globally from closing the gap between time spent online (28%) and advertising spend (13%).
Yes, you've heard this before from us, we know, but I go into some of the new factors and trends below.
New signals emerging that revolutionise online ad targeting:
There are two key navigation pillars to consider here: search and recommendation. Search remains the strongest signal for marketers: people tell you what they want. Now we also have strong recommendation signals: social (eg Facebook), purchases (eg Amazon), location (eg Foursquare), and taste (eg Boutiques, Hunch).
Increasingly, marketers have tools to take advantage of new signals. We are on the cusp of revolutionising target precision, giving the right message to the right audience at the right price. Businesses need to think about what signals they need to acquire or maybe even think about creating signals themselves.
Real-time optimisation of online marketing campaigns will become crucial to advertisers' online success. As bid management tools become the norm for managing large search marketing campaigns, and advertising exchanges augment the display ad world, having access to real time data and optimising campaigns in response to real-time feedback becomes possible.
Advertisers will have to learn new skills that enable them to compete in a real-time, data-rich advertising environment.
Mobile commerce and marketing:
Digital is already invading real-world ads with the help of mobile eg the use of QR codes, and Google Goggles to recognise ads. Financial transactions over mobile will increasingly become a primary source of commerce, and will create new forms of currency and credit, as well as entirely new areas of economic activity.
Mobile location will continue to bring another dimension to digital marketing, eg a coupon on your phone for the shopping mall you'll be driving past in 10 minutes' time.
We're also seeing the rise of augmented reality apps such as Layar, which helps you to find the things you can't see -- just point your mobile towards Sandton and you'll find out which restaurant is located behind that garage.
Social media engagement rather than brand awareness:
Most of us already know that flourishing social media has become one of the most cost-effective ways of creating a global space for your business or organisation. Online video now enables a new level of emotional engagement, and is more social, customisable, personal and viral than TV.
In the year ahead, consumers will choose how to engage with brands and their friends using different formats in new, creative forms of media and commerce and, indeed, in many other ways we haven't thought of yet!
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