Signs of the Times

A brief overview of some of the emerging trends for business and consumers leading into the year 2013.

Mobile Devices

Mobile devices will rule in 2013, as consumers use them to maximise their every moment, be it experiences, purchases or communications. Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2013 mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide and that by 2015 over 80% of the handsets sold in mature markets will be smartphones, allowing consumption to occur anywhere, anytime, along with the tools and resources to create and capture value being more broadly distributed too.

QR Codes

Consumers will have started to see Quick Response Codes everywhere, from billboards to magazine advertising. Expect to see an almost universal adoption of these as they become an important part of every company’s mobile marketing strategy and as an engagement marketing tool. Services will continue to emerge that will enable customers to send QR code-based discounts and messages to friends via text messages and social networks.















As consumers lust for ever more exciting, new, interesting, niche, perfect and custom products in 2013, we will see the spread of new local manufacturing technologies such as 3D-printing and make-on-demand in manufacturing sectors in established markets. Along with these savvy, demanding customers we will see the industry focusing on the value of customer data to business and a proactive approach to brand delivery to shoppers as the flow is reversed. Along with rising labour costs in China, there will also be a return to ‘local is lekker’ products. Playing an integral role in this will be a proliferation of niche social networks already seen with Instagram, Pinterest and Vimeo. Expect to see more custom networks that use Facebook’s login mechanism as a gateway to smaller, more focused social networks.

Market lines merge

The power of the internet and social media is allowing B2B and B2C customers to go direct into more industries, especially professional services. Along with new generations and the increasing power of the digital platform, social generations are reshaping companies from the inside, creating wider networks to create and deliver value to customers. As communications and marketing moves from a focus on one-to-one relationships to many-to-many, non-technology businesses will need to capitalise on these opportunities, with a strong online presence vital to their continued growth.


Pay it forward

Payment methods for businesses have been dominated by a handful of providers until now, requiring a network of merchant accounts, terminal providers and accompanying fees just to accept the most popular credit cards. A payment revolution is on its way, headed by services such as iZettle recently launched in the UK which allows businesses to take secure payments anywhere and everywhere via iphone, iPad or Android, where businesses pay nothing upfront and get a free mobile website for life. This combined with the growth of mobile wallets on smartphones and alerts to users of sales, offers and deals could spark a revolution for market stalls, events, pop-up shops, restaurants and delivery services and see more businesses requiring mobile compliant sites for phones and tablets.


3D technology

3D-printing has been used by designers and engineers for years, now with falling technology costs we will begin to see designers, start-ups and small businesses able to offer custom, small-scale production runs. A must-have new gadget in the home, it is also likely to stimulate creativity in a new generation of emerging designers and products, with growth in 3D smart phone apps and communities gaining momentum. Internet television will also support rapid growth in internet useage with services such as Google and Apple TV bringing services into homes along with 4k TV – an HDTV experience four times the resolution of current sets that will grow interactivity and bring data and information ever closer to the customer.


Big Data processing

Big Data is moving from a focus on individual projects to an influence on enterprises’ strategic information architecture. Dealing with data volume, variety, velocity and complexity it is forcing changes to many traditional approaches. This realisation is leading organisations to abandon the concept of a single enterprise data warehouse containing all information needed for decisions. Instead they are moving towards multiple systems, including content management, data warehouses, data marts and specialised file systems tied together with data services and metadata, which will become the “logical” enterprise data warehouse. (



With a rising consumer awareness of the role of a healthy diet, many brands will reflect their anti-ageing, and health related properties in their marketing. Along with gluten-free, lactose-free, MSG-free labelled products, we will also see advances in quality and availability of whole range products, meat-free lines and innovative vegetarian foods and those claiming no-fat, no-sugar and salt-free alternatives, with many companies switching to “additive-/preservative-free” positionings, with the use of GM-free claims also growing in popularity. 


Brands will be required to stand behind their product promises, both showing and proving that they have nothing to hide. As the world moves towards a more sustainable and socially-responsible future, companies will have to pro-actively provide evidence of their ethical and environmental credentials. For example, 69% of US consumers said they are more likely to buy from a brand that talks publicly about its CSR results, versus the 31% who would purchase from a brand that talks about its CSR mission and purpose and only 44% of Americans trust companies’ green claims (Source: Cone Inc., March 2012).

Data security

The personal cloud will gradually replace the PC as the location where individuals keep their personal content, access their services and personal preferences and center their digital lives. With social networks already part of the mainstream, there will be an increased consumer focus on privacy and protecting their personal data. Businesses managing technology, especially those using ‘the cloud’ will need to be alert when storing, using and securing personal data to avoid a public backlash and potential legal agreements. Already there is an increasing trend for ‘self-reporting’ to reassure consumers.

Incentivising the workforce

Prior to the economic downturn, business recruited and incentivised staff with a combination of salary, bonuses and share options. As equity prices continue to drop, companies will need to relook at the structuring of incentive schemes so that they regain their place as a staff motivator, in order to retain top-class staff.

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