3 Technology Trends that Will Change the Way We Do Business in 2013

February 5, 2013

There are plenty of “what to look for in 2013” articles already circulating online. But as a Forum for Innovation Fellow, it is my aim to boil it down to three important trends that will impact your business and give you insights and resources to make these trends as actionable as possible. 

With that in mind, here are three trends I am watching closely and personally leveraging this year... 

1) The emergence of the "connected device ecosystem".

Like its biological counterpart, this system is sustained by interaction and engagement. The connected devices that inhabit the ecosystem are not necessarily new—you've likely already downloaded a song or app on one device (say, your iPhone), and then pulled it up on another (like your iPad). But the system will expand significantly in 2013 to include additional devices. These include your television set, fridges that send shopping lists and remote car sensors that notify you when you when it's time for a tune-up. Technology has turned everyday items into apps that communicate with us through our smartphones, tablets and laptops. 

For businesses this means two very important things. First and foremost, every company is now a tech company. This development isn't entirely new. Automakers, for instance, have been including digital devices in their vehicles for decades. But that technology was previously insulated in a closed system. Now, companies such as GM and Ford are introducing open-source in-car information and entertainment systems which will be accessible to third-party developers. This represents a major shift for manufacturers and consumers alike. 

2) The connected device ecosystem means responsive design essential. Demand for personalization is closely intertwined.

Consumers are now much more accustomed to checking websites from a variety of devices. They will expect your services and information to be ready for them, regardless of what device they use. Are the online services provided by your business attractive and useful from a range of devices? Can your users navigate, scroll, zoom, and switch between landscape and portrait orientation with ease? It is also important to keep in mind that different devices provide a different experience for different purposes. Customers who access your site from their phone might want very different information and tools than customers who do so from a laptop. Recommendation: Check out Smashing Magazine for some great articles on responsive design. Consider leveraging Gravity, a service that adapts and personalizes websites by trying to understand visitors’ interests.

What’s more, whether we're connecting our devices or watching TV via the Internet, consumers today want to organize and configure all aspects their lives exactly to their specifications. Customers—especially dialed-in millennials—no longer just want personalized products and services, they expect it. They don’t want to go on fifty first dates when they visit your website; they want you to remember them and even more to the point, help guide them to highly relevant options (Amazon pioneered the use of machine learning and if your business isn’t employing it, it should). 

Businesses competing in this new environment should be asking: What personalization options am I providing for my customers? What do I know about my customers that will help me provide what they want? Your customers want to be put front and center—and most importantly in control. Let them have their way. 

3) The "Appification of TV" is coming. What’s your strategy?

Connected TVs—those with built in internet capability—are becoming increasingly common. One quarter of flat screen TVs shipped in 2011 had internet capabilities, according to research from DisplaySearch, and by 2015 nearly half of all flat screen TVs will be internet-ready. As connected TVs increase in popularity, the line between television and computer will blur, changing the way TV is delivered and consumed. That presents a major challenge for marketers. It's already widely recognized that the 30 second promo no longer has the reach it once did. But online viewing will give consumers even more power to control their viewing experience, and companies will need to find creative and effective "in-app" ways of reaching consumers to thrive. 

Closing Thoughts

As the year unfolds, and connected device ecosystems, appified TVs and personalized services transition from hot trends to the new normal, you should challenge your business to get connected, think beyond the computer and cater to customers. 

In fact, I believe so strongly in these trend —especially the appification of the TV and the connected device ecosystem—that you could say I've bet my career on it: I've recently taken on the role of Chief Operating Officer for Guide, a business centered around helping people take the content they love (online news, blogs, social streams) and get it in the format they want (video across all smart devices, including TVs). How’s that for a career-move? Let me know your thoughts by tweeting @LeslieBradshaw.