As digital marketers approach 2014, it’s not hard to see that we are in an age of digital transformation. Technology is not only being developed but adopted at an accelerating rate. Access to data is changing how we approach all facets of our business – everything must be supported by data that is so much more easily available. In 2014, the internet will begin to undergo its long-awaited expansion with thousands of new top level domains launching and changing the landscape of possibilities. After studying at length the gTLD applications, studying shifts in consumer behavior and interviewing industry experts, a few clear digital trends begin to emerge for 2014.
- .com strategies must begin to evolve. Yes, that’s a bold statement. But, in November of this year as we remembered the late great, JFK, the quote “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future,” resonated with me. There are many who believe .com will always be the gold standard and that nothing will change. But, how can any of us look at what’s happened just in the last few years and not see that change is inevitable. Every company should have an evolving .com strategy in 2014, meaning not just assume that a .com home page is enough – how could gTLDs serve as a digital platform for new campaigns and slogans interconnected with mobile and social strategies?
- Many of the generic TLD businesses will fail and new business models will emerge just as in the .com era. There is no question that some of the new top level domains will fail. They may not be properly capitalized or have the right marketing strategy to migrate enough companies into their new name space to survive. But, just as in the .com era, a few will succeed. Those that fail will pave the way for improved thinking in the new digital frontier. And, the registries that fail will likely be picked up by other big TLD players for a bargain.
- There will be increased merger & acquisition activity related to top level domains. There are many obvious missing players in the gTLD space, particularly big technology and media companies like Facebook, EBay, Pandora, Pinterest, Twitter, NBC, Disney, and others not to mention most of the big consumer products companies like P&G, Kraft Foods, Nestle and Unilever. As consumer behavior shifts and trust moves out of .com, big players may want to acquire companies with a gTLD portfolio they can use.
- Innovation will lead to IPOs in the domain space again. IPOs follow innovative or disruptive technology as a fast way to generate capital and grow at an accelerated rate. As new entrepreneurs emerge with technology and ideas to transform the digital experience by further using the capabilities of the new top level domains, venture capitalists will see the opportunity to jump on new trends. Innovation will be driven by big data and the new capacity of the top level domains.
- Digital Economies of Scale. Digital is the most mismanaged asset of most companies with limited measurement of return on investment. This will start to change in 2014 as companies realize that platform consolidation and more centralized management of digital operations is essential. Most companies continue to manage digital in a fragmented way, with rework often occurring across the organization and data and knowledge left unshared and untapped into as a valuable asset. The expansion of the internet coupled with an increase in patent troll law suits predicted for 2014 will force companies to look at digital in a new way and ultimately lead to greater economies of scale and value. The role of the Chief Digital Officer will be further defined to combine marketing, technology and intellectual property strategy.
- Elimination of cable and traditional television will accelerate. A few sources we trust will emerge as aggregators of content. Google’s Chromecast alone should have cable distributors focused on innovation and the next generation of viewership. Coupled with the new gTLDs and channels for surfing beyond the disorganized and saturated .com space, the new gTLDs, fiber optic cable and new technologies connecting flat screens to easy to use devices will erode the hold of cable as the way to surf content.
- Consumers will select a handful of sites and Apps they trust to manage their life in the digital world. The most powerful idea in the new gTLD space is to help consumers organize and manage their digital experiences. Digital powerhouses and entrepreneurs will introduce ideas to manage digital life in a secure way. The digital world is turning and consumers are ready for solutions.
- Mail will continue to disappear in favor of a customized online world. As costs shift from physical to digital, businesses may start to charge consumers for delivery and payment of bills via traditional mail rather than online. Consumers will be inclined to do more online as a result. This trend has long been underway, but will likely expand in the next year. At the same time, consumers will want more goods shipped to their home and usually in 2 days!
- Brick and mortar retail will become a destination source for entertainment. If you’ve spent any time in a shopping mall over the holidays, you already know this. If there isn’t some experience to bring you in, why would you go to the store to shop? Ordering online is so much more convenient and provides so many more options. Retailers like Microsoft, Apple and Nordstrom get this by creating events and experiences in the store. All retailers need to build experiences in-store and then tie to online shopping memberships, experiences and programs to combine the best of both worlds.
- Search won’t die, but will evolve. Apps and tools that get people to exactly what they want faster will become more prevalent. Search will continue to change and evolve. Big digital and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to consider how search and navigation might change in an expanding internet environment and produce the solution that changes everything. It’s hard enough to find what you are looking for today, let alone, when the scale of what’s out there grows by a thousand plus top level domains. Niched search and paid search will emerge in 2014.
Digital transformation continues. All brands, b2b and consumer alike, will need to consider how they build their digital world for their customers. The digital experience and how you monitor and track the success of that experience is mission critical to 2014.