Fjord Predicts: 2013 Digital Trends

13/12/2012 10:50 GMT | Updated 11/02/2013 10:12 GMT

What will the key changes be in business and design during 2013, and what should you do about it? Here are the top predictions from our team at Fjord...

At Fjord we work across multiple domains that are going through major transitions and the work always involves an element of "new". A new platform or technology, a new business proposition, or new target users. It's an exciting space to sit and our work sits at the front edge of mainstream, where innovation meets mass-market appeal. The constant presence of "new" in our work feeds our curiosity, and makes exploration a necessity.

We constantly think about what tomorrow will bring and each year, we ask teams at Fjord to predict the major trends that will impact businesses and society next year. Here, we delve into several of our predictions for 2013 and share our thoughts on what companies need to consider to make sure they stay ahead of the curve.

1. People are ruining everything... for traditional businesses

The single biggest source of digital disruption over the past decade has been people - the users of technology themselves. Access to technology has made it possible for anyone with an idea, a vision and determination to build a service that circumvents traditional businesses.

The past few years have seen a dramatic upswing in peer-to-peer services, which has begun to disrupt several industry verticals, including travel and transportation. Services like AirBnB, Getaround and Lyft have understandably caused much alarm amongst traditional businesses which has contributed to political action in some areas and raised the possibility of regulation. Peer-to-peer funding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have also begun to disrupt the way that businesses are created and grown, bypassing the traditional investment framework.

Peer-to-peer services will continue to grow, in areas of finance and personal services as well as the segments in which they are already substantial players. Traditional businesses will continue to try to arrest this growth through legislative or political action, but the start-up 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, which will crest as 3D printing becomes accessible to everyone. We are already seeing movement in the creation and publication of peer-to-peer 3D printing plans: although fraught with legal difficulty, we expect this movement to gather momentum in 2013.

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.

EU legislation in 2013 will have an impact. Whether its rulings will be immediately enforced is a legitimate question, but affected businesses certainly need to start thinking about a course of action immediately. At the very least, 2013 will see dramatic growth in user awareness around their data, and potentially also a series of tools aimed at helping normal people manage and control who sees their data, when and how.

As the proliferation of service players continues, particularly as we see more and more traction for over-the-top players in verticals like personal finance, striking the right balance between data gathered and value delivered will become increasingly critical to the success of many large businesses, notably banks and insurance companies.

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 we at Fjord call, "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.

The past 18 months have seen the beginnings of mass-market adoption for a select few connected objects, driven by the services that make them meaningful. Nike Fuelband and Jawbone Up are two examples from the wellness sector, while Nest is a connected home example. The next 12 months should see an explosion of connected and smart objects spanning a huge range of technologies and applications.

As more and more objects come onto the market, over-the-top data services will begin to form around them to drive increased value. The earliest of these are likely to be wellness-driven (like Tictrac), or focussed on finance. In the near term, however, individual users will still have to engage with multiple services and touchpoints to get the value of their things. There will also be a rise in single-purpose objects that foster intimate relationships between people: one example is the Good Night Lamp, which makes its debut at CES in 2013.

4. The mobile gap

The speed of movement to mobile has amazed everyone. But it has not been matched by the speed with which most organisations are able to monetize it. We've gone from analogue dollars to digital dimes and now to mobile cents. This is creating a commercial gulf that is going to put pressure on cash and funding for many new mobile ventures, simply because the average revenue per user has a clear tendency to drop when a product is wholly or primarily mobile. Into this volatile mix we can now add tablets and 4G in many markets next year.

The search is on for business models and enablers, and it's likely some will come from the developing world. Developing countries (notably Kenya, Brazil and India) have seen massive innovation in business models that leverage mobile technology. In fact, fifty percent of Kenya's GDP moves through mobile, and most Africans experience the Internet first on a mobile phone. In Kenya, Sudan and Gabon, more than half of adults use mobile money.

In 2013 we are likely to see an intense focus on how to make mobile devices pay for most service companies. Wallet initiatives will be at the centre of this, but expect also innovation in mobile discovery both from the major platform owners (Apple's App Store and Google Play) and independents like Flurry. We will see an increase in entirely new services and business models driven by mobile-first or mobile-only engagement.

5. Think like a startup... and act like one, too

As the pace of change in digital continues to accelerate, people working inside businesses are under increased pressure to swim in unfamiliar waters. At the same time, a generation is emerging that has grown up with digital their entire working lives and are demanding dramatic changes in the way people work together in traditional organisations. And start-ups, the most dangerous competitors of large organisations, are unhampered by legacy thinking and processes.

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. Organisations divided by channel will start to look very old-fashioned. In addition, Digital Natives will start to drive the world - in corporations, education, health and government.

This is just a snapshot of some of the shifts in digital and technology that are set to impact the way we work and live. Evidently, mobile is still changing everything but if anything it's doing so much faster than before, and now includes new ways of working. Personalisation will also be a hot topic for success while data and the success of new systems will remain tightly bound together. Our complete set of trends delves into this and much more. However if anything, the businesses that will do well in 2013 will be those who can heed that insight that ultimately, for true success, the needs of people must come first.