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Microsoft-powered geo-locatable trousers

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As Christmas looms and I find myself dashing off this last mobile missive of 2012, my thoughts turn to drink and mince pies… sorry, that’s better. Right, with crumbs in my beard and my head spinning with mulled wine, my thoughts turn to… 2013 and what is in store for mobile retailing in the year ahead.

To my mind 2012 has been the year of mobile. No, I am not THAT drunk, I really do. For some ten or more years we have been told that this year is the year of mobile and for various reasons it’s not really been so.

2012, however was different.

More smartphones than normal phones are now in use, tablets have exploded into popular use – and with their arrival, changed the face of how people shop and use the web – and, for retail as with many other businesses, mobile is now an entrenched part of how they engage with consumers. That is why 2012 was the year of mobile.

So what does 2013 have in store?

Well if you talk to Juniper Research, they foresee, among other things, that the year ahead will centre around retailers using mobile in-store and the rise of wearable mobile technology (think web-enabled glasses rather than geo-locatable trousers) and, if that wasn’t crazy enough, 2013 will also be the year Microsoft cracks the mobile market.

While all these are great – if somewhat prosaic – predictions (apart from the Microsoft bit) I am more taken with some of the more sociological impacts that mobile is going to have in 2013. Retail, after all, is an exercise in bending people’s will to get them to buy stuff they don’t need (don’t’ get cross, I am only saying what we are all thinking). And as a result I have been talking to some of my chums at service design consultancy Fjord about what they think the trends in the wider digital economy are going to be – and they have come up with ten really interesting ideas as to what is in store.

So, while I chomp on another mince pie and fling myself into a vat of warm wine, I will leave you in their somewhat steadier hands…

1. People are ruining everything… for traditional businesses

Access to technology has made it possible for anyone with an idea, a vision and determination to build a service that circumvents traditional businesses. Traditional businesses will continue to try to arrest this growth through legislative or political action, but the startup community has come to see these kinds of challenges as a badge of honour. This disruption will be joined by a third wave, in the area of peer-to-peer manufacturing and distribution.

2. I Belong to Me… the personal data battlefield

Users are now more aware of what can be done with their information, and they are beginning to demand access – and real value – in return for their data. We’ll see the wave of data visualization continue to grow, driving value and building relationships between individuals and those who help them to extract value from their own behaviours.

3. Dawn of the “Personal Ecosystem”

The growing number of devices and sensors that we incorporate into our lives will set the scene for what Fjord calls “living services.” These emerge at the point at which individual smart objects interconnect to form a support network for their owner. We’ll soon start to see connected devices infiltrating more areas of our lives.

4. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

More organisations are finding that a focus on simplicity can have a transformative effect on services and businesses alike. But as personal ecosystems grow, so does the challenge. We will need to make meaning of more data from more sensors, public, private and corporate, and the simplest solutions will continue to win.

5. Revolution in retail… the online/offline distinction disappears

A statistic to strike fear into the heart of any retailer: Almost half of US smartphone users have used their devices in-store, and more than half of those have gone on to abandon their in-store purchase. For smartphone users, the distinction between online and in-store shopping has all but disappeared.

6. Access is the new ownership

Users and services will start to redefine what it means to own something in the digital age. Now, as individuals increasingly consume media across devices, they expect their purchases to be available on multiple platforms, no matter what.

7. Learning gets personal

The next stage of transformation in learning is already taking shape. Fjord believes this will involve highly personalised and adaptive learning materials. In addition, we’ll see the methods of delivery move from one-to-many to many-to-one, and ultimately, this kind of real-time adaptive learning support will transition into the broader business context.

8. You talking to me?

What will it take to make voice interaction compelling enough to make people want to integrate it into their daily lives? Voice integration will become a must-have for smartphone and tablet applications, and voiceprints will emerge as a new kind of personal signature.

9. The mobile gap

In 2013 we are likely to see an intense focus on how to make mobile devices pay for most service companies. This will be joined by an increase in entirely new services and business models driven by mobile-first or mobile-only engagement.

10. Think like a startup… and act like one, too

Companies that are trying to do something new often have to fight their own organisations. In 2013 we will see many more teams restructure and re-organise to adapt to digital change, and a growing demand for engagements that go beyond the traditional agency or design remit. In addition, Digital Natives will start to drive the world – in corporations, education, health and government.

So there you have it. THAT is how to crack the joined up digital world of 2013. Right, have a merry midwinter festival time and see you in 2013, which may yet turn out to be the year of Microsoft-powered geo-locatable trousers if there is any justice in the world. Cheers.

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