I lead strategy for my Web design company, and one of my primary roles is to connect with potential clients. This means I am in the middle of 1,000+ conversations per year about marketing — its past, present and future.
Based on these conversations and experience, I will share my predictions for 2012.
Mega-Trend #1: Mobile Ecommerce Will Reach a Tipping Point
It was a quiet explosion and it’s not over yet. Purchases made on mobile devices will jump significantly in 2012. If you’ve never bought anything on your phone, watch yourself in 2012. You may personally contribute to this trend.
In 2010, e-commerce sales from mobile devices on Black Friday were 3.2%; in 2011, this number jumped to 9.8%. This year will be the tipping point for the ecommerce portion of the mobile mega-trend.
Retail spaces will still be stores, but more than ever, will become showrooms for their Web sites. Big retailers will make it easier to order online from the store on your phone. For small brick-and-mortar retailers, “buy it where you try it” will be the rallying cry. Either way, in 2012 shoppers will realize they can scan, price shop and order any product in front of them, then have it delivered tomorrow.
Mega-Trend #2: The Decline of Apps
Well — not an actual decline, but a decline relative to the growth of mobile sites. 2012 will be the year when people who say “I want to build an app” also say “…unless the same thing is possible with a mobile site.”
Potential mobile application builders are starting to figure out that building an app really means building two apps (one for iPhones and one for Android) or else leaving out a big chunk of the audience. Mobile Web sites don’t have that problem. A properly built mobile site will display on any mobile device.
When something is purchased through an app, there’s a middleman who usually takes a cut (Apple takes 30% of purchases made through iPhone apps, for example). But when you sell something through a mobile site, you don’t have to worry about this. Sales are handled through the company.
App development is expensive and time-consuming and usually has no advantages over mobile sites. They have to be downloaded and installed: This is not my preferred way to access things — is it yours? Plus, apps can’t be linked to easily, so they’re harder to promote.
In 2012, marketers will begin to realize that mobile sites can do virtually everything an app can do, easier, faster and cheaper.
Mega-Trend #3: Enter Inbound Marketing
This is the year that millions of companies large and small realize that inbound marketing, rather than outbound advertising, is the way to go. By inbound marketing (a/k/a content marketing), we mean writing and promoting content using search marketing, social media, blogging, email marketing and PR.
As we begin year four of the recession/recovery, marketers are still cost-conscious. They will find that inbound marketing takes time, but the out-of-pocket expenses are low. Business-to-business companies seem to be leading the charge, but everyone will be on board soon. Year 2012 is the year of content marketing.
Inbound isn’t a fad or the next “shiny object,” it’s a long-term commitment of real time and energy. But as word gets out about the clever ways to combine search marketing with blogging, social media with PR, hordes of marketing departments will jump in.
And to help all these marketing departments, a new generation of marketing company will rise to prominence: the inbound agency. These companies will combine the disciplines of formerly separate companies. Look for hybrid SEO/PR/social media firms. These will be small strategic firms that write search-optimized press releases and understand social media analytics.