It's almost the end of another year. While South Africa has seen some major advances in technology this past year, we are still a bit behind the curve when it comes to truly utilizing these services to effectively increase our business and marketing efforts.
Here are the top 5 trends to look out for in 2013 and ways that you can start implementing them in your business today:
1. Get on the Mobile Wagon
In a previous article we mentioned the rapid pace that mobile phones are being adopted in South Africa. Research conducted by Analytix Business Intelligence recently found that only 18% of South Africans are still without mobile phones. Many of these phones are primarily still standard and feature phones, with Smartphones making up only 20% of the overall market – approximately 8 million South Africans.
However, at the rate that smart phones are being adopted by South African users it would not be surprising if this number doubles in the next three years.
Most companies focus solely on “being seen” on mobile, eg: “Can my clients see my website on their phones”. While this is essential important many companies overlook another question: “Can I increase the productivity of my business using these platforms?”
Apply Your Business to Mobile
There are many ways you can use these platforms to increase productivity internally in your business. Let's say for instance your company reviews the cleanliness, food quality and general quality of hotels and restaurants. Usually a form is completed, sent to an administrator and the administrator adds the results to a database.
Using custom software on a Tablet you can easily insert the data directly into the database, thereby skipping the needless paperwork and ensuring that the data is captured immediately after submission.
2. Let's get Social
2012 was the year many businesses finally boarded the social media bandwagon. With robust social media growth rates of 23.3% in Africa who wouldn't?
As mentioned above, the growth of mobile Smartphone adoptions has increased drastically, continually adding to the already impressive numbers of users engaging with social media. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook amongst others has played a large role in the mobile revolution and more people access these through mobile devices than on desktops. Social media is still in it's infancy and it's only getting better. Businesses are slowly figuring out the benefits of going social and 2013 is going to be a fantastic year for getting on-board.
Applying Social to your Business
Social media is now extending way past marketing and community building. A recent McKinssey report has shown that there is $1,3 trillion in untapped business value for companies. Mostly focusing on the productivity benefits of social media. Rather that seeing social media as an office time waster, you could focus on the potential benefits it offers.
HR departments can use social to streamline the application process. Sales teams can identify clients and pursue leads. R&D can brainstorm in collaborative ways. The key lies in next-generation internal social networks, where entire companies can interact and engage via social media behind the firewall. Custom-built social media for your employees can significantly increase productivity.
3. HTML5 is the Future of the Web
Featured as one of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2013 in a report by international technology research firm Gartner (http://www.gartner.com/technology/home.jsp), HTML5 is poised for another big year.
The new standards gives developers and web-designers much more flexibility whilst also enabling websites to be more interactive, powerful and efficient. HTML5 allows you to integrate multimedia elements on your website without the need for 3rd party add-ons such as Flash or Silverlight. This is a huge advantage when building websites targeting the mobile market as well. Whilst most mobile phone's do not have access to Flash, HTML5 can still deliver multimedia content to those devices. With the unique attributes such as offline application cache, you can build applications that store client side data whilst working off-line, thus allowing access to your applications even when not connected to a network. A great boon for the marketing department is the built in support for Geolocation, allowing for more targeted location aware marketing opportunities.
Why HTML5 is Important to Your Business
HTML5 can save you time and money. With cross-platform deployment capabilities you can save on having to develop separate applications and websites for different devices. The data capabilities of HTML5 will allow you to build applications that work on-line and offline. Thus offering the potential to replace desktop applications for online solutions.
4. Goodbye Skeuomorphism, Hello Authentically Digital
A new era of design is fast approaching us, and it's about time too. Old school Skeuomorphic design philosophies try to imitate real world objects on a digital screen, in other words designers used to do everything in their power to design digital objects that resembled their real world counterparts. It might have made a lot of sense when people first started to interact with the digital world, but it makes for clumsy design and isn't all that intuitive anymore for a tech-savvy audience. Authentically Digital design, spearheaded by Microsoft's Metro design principles, have broken away from that type of thinking. Rather than imitating physical objects, Authentically Digital designers focus on user interaction from a digitally intuitive perspective. Designing digital objects for digital objects.
Why going Authentically Digital matters
Authentically Digital design has several practical and aesthetic advantages over old-school Skeumorphic designs. Designing digital interfaces with Authentically Digital design processes can make your website/app much more efficient, and intuitive to use. By not binding your designs by real-world imitations you can make your websites more user friendly, more aesthetically pleasing and offering a much improved user experience. By improving the user experience you can assure yourself of many more repeat and happy customers.
5. Responsive Design
The world of online web browsing has grown in so many wonderful ways. Not being restricted to using only a desktop pc or your laptop for web browsing has been liberating for many. We can now access the web from literally 1000's of different devices. The spectrum ranges from stand alone pc's to tablets and mobile phones. As great as that is from a user perspective, accessing the web from so many different devices provides a huge design challenge to developers and web designers. Enter responsive design. Designing a website that works equally well on any device. In layman's terms responsive web design uses “media queries” to figure out the resolution (screen size) of the device the website is being accessed from. It then takes fluid grids and flexible images that size correctly to fit the screen of the particular device that you are using.
Business Benefits of Responsive Design
Responsive design saves money and time on development costs. You only have to build one solution to serve your entire market. One website, all devices. This is excellent for your SEO efforts as well, as the content of your site isn't scattered across a wide array of websites for different devices. A properly built responsive site will also likely increase your conversion rate for new users. Creating a pleasant browsing experience across different devices will give your users confidence to use your site from all of their available devices. Using the principles of responsive design will also cause your website to remain relevant for longer, thus future friendly. With responsive design, you don’t need to spend tens of thousands on apps for all devices. Just one site for everything.
I hope that you have enjoyed this quick overview of the trends to watch out for in 2013. With all of these exciting developments, I'm sure that this will prove to be another exciting year in the land of digital.