2012 was a busy year. A string of national and sporting events captured the hearts and minds of the British public and indeed, the world. Meanwhile, consumer technology continued to evolve at an ever accelerating pace; mobile, tablet and network launches changed the way that we connect both professionally and personally, while social media and sharing became engrained in our everyday lives.
As consumers, we had a lot to keep up with and increasingly the internet has become the lynchpin that brings all this together. Almost regardless of age, we are using the internet and our connected devices for a realm of activities; from shopping, socialising, booking holidays, searching for new homes and new loves, catching up on the news, staying abreast of the sports results and conducting and simplifying life's more mundane business - like paying bills or sorting out our finances.
In short - the way we now choose to engage with brands and in turn how we expect brands to engage with us has evolved. 2013 will be a year of continued innovation in the digital marketing space, as brands seek to better understand us as consumers and communicate with us in new and more effective ways.
The wheels for more advanced communication are already in motion. After much anticipation, 4G finally arrived in the UK in 2012. This additional mobile bandwidth promises to not only transform the way we use the internet on the move, but will also see far more information shared through the UK's cellular networks. Content will be delivered quicker, therefore freeing up time previously spent waiting for loading to complete - but we will quickly become more discerning about what we are willing to receive from brands and when we are willing to receive it. We will also become used to mobile sites that are optimised for use on a handheld device and will navigate away from pages that load in a clunky, desktop format when we are on the move.
The way we navigate around the internet will also change beyond recognition. As search habits evolve and consumers become more specific about what they are searching for, search engines will become more intelligent about the results they return and the format in which they return them. Search engines, like Google and Bing, are already presenting us with more information on the search page itself, reducing the need for us to click through to a third-party website to get the information we want. For example, if you search for F.C. Barcelona, you will see the football club's crest, a brief description, the manager's name, recent results and more - so you might not need to click away to the club's official site or another sports page. For brands, the importance of appearing as high up the search page as possible becomes increasingly important: we will no longer need to trawl through multiple pages of search results to find what we are looking for - the information we need is available in the first few lines.
There have already been some exciting developments in social search this year. Facebook announced Graph Search to allow users to find people, activities and places with greater relevance and ease. This highlights our preference to seek out places and activities via recommendation from our network, so travel and hospitality are likely to benefit most.
But these digital developments don't spell an end for the tried and tested methods of communication. Savvy brands will also be overhauling their email strategies to ensure that emails are always relevant, regardless of when they are opened. Emails will contain more dynamic content and will be updated in the inbox - so if you get an email from a brand advertising a sale, but don't open it until the sale has finished, the email will update to show you the new season's styles rather than sale items that are no longer available.
The key to getting marketing right has always sat with insight; understanding who a customer is, what interests them, how they want to engage and which channel is the most convenient for them. Without this in 2013, brands will struggle to make their voices heard.
The word on marketers' lips this year is "omni-channel" - and brands will be doing all they can to seamlessly stitch communications across mobile, social, online and email together to make your experience the best it can be. So for example - you might buy a coat via a mobile app, and then receive an email suggesting complimentary hats and scarves, or begin booking a holiday online but call to make the payment to the call centre. As we become used to these useful, relevant, time-saving marketing experiences, we will step away from the brands that fail to understand us and engage us in the right way.
Brands will be doing all they can to stay front of mind and relevant in our ever busy lives. Watch out for some of these key developments and which brands get it right!