5 Digital Trends that Will Impact Brands in 2012

2011 brought significant innovations and swift growth in social, local, and mobile. Google Buzz gave rise to Google+? which gave rise to Google's 'Search, plus Your World.' Apple's Siri?, the savvy hostess of the iPhone? 4S, enabled us to bypass search engines altogether. Tablets and Angry Birds spread like wildfire. Daily deal websites became couponing kings.

In 2012, we will see a major convergence of social networking, location-based targeting, and mobile technologies. Search is also changing at breakneck speed, and we expect search and social media to collide (beyond Google). This fusion will challenge brands to organize and activate in new ways across audiences, websites, and devices. This year, to meet this challenge brands should develop long-range interactive strategies to touch audiences with the right content at the right time.

Here are the top digital trends that will impact brands in 2012. We're ready to help your brand face these challenges. Call us at 202-654-0811 about your digital strategy.

Social signals in search - Search engines rely more than ever on social signals to determine content relevance and return highly personalized search results. Google is leading the way with Google+ and Google Search, plus Your World. For brands, building and maintaining credibility and authenticity in search and social media is critical. Smart brands in 2012 will have digital strategies to enhance their presence in search and social media, and truly engaging content should be at the heart of any long-term plan.

Cross-device brand strategy - Tablets like the iPad? are rapidly changing how we work, play, learn, order dinner, and even get healthcare. By 2013 eMarketer estimates that 54.8 million Americans will own tablets - a whopping 63% increase over 2011. The explosion of tablets proves the importance of a solid cross-device online brand strategy. The development options can be overwhelming: mobile optimized sites, iPhone? and/or iPad apps, Android apps, and more. Even for companies that already have mobile sites or apps, 2012 is the year to develop a cohesive cross-device brand strategy.

Mobile-First Responsive Design - Many brands develop their first mobile sites based on their already-existing desktop websites. Because of the significant differences in screen sizes and functionality, adapting websites for mobile devices is challenging. In 2012, mobile-first responsive design will gain traction. In responsive design, sites are first designed for the smallest screens and then the design and functionality are adapted for progressively larger screens, including desktops.

Drupal has taken this efficient and holistic approach to heart with the release of Omega, an HTML5 and CSS3 theme based on a fluid grid that automatically resizes and rearranges content based on the user's screen size. Omega's focus is serving sites to mobile devices, but there's plenty of support for the desktop, too. Companies planning for new or redesigned websites in 2012 should consider focusing on mobile first.

Voice recognition apps - In 2011, voice recognition technology took center stage, and not just on smartphones. Apple's Siri app put sophisticated speech recognition in the palms of our hands. Vehicle manufacturers including Honda and Ford also applied speech recognition technology brilliantly and beyond just Bluetooth?. In 2012, we will witness an expansion of voice recognition mobile apps, including a much-anticipated app from Google. We will also see voice recognition technology integrated in more consumer products.

Voice recognition apps simplify search, even eliminating search engines from the process. For brands that want visibility with consumers, this can present a challenge. Would an app like Siri find your brand? Where geographically do you want to be found? What do you want to be known for? In 2012, brand leaders should consider the potential impact of voice recognition apps on awareness and conversions, and plan ahead.

Windows Phone 7.5 - As smartphone adoption increases, more brands are launching branded mobile apps. Companies must choose which of the major mobile operating systems to target - decisions that can have longer-term impact. Today, the Android and Apple's iOS operating systems have the largest slices of market share in the U.S. (Nielsen), but watch out in 2012 for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5 mobile operating system, called Mango, to gain ground. Analysts report that by 2015, market share of Windows 7-based devices could rank second only to Android, beating out iOS.

Mango includes Internet Explorer 9 as its Web browser, which is reportedly faster than the browsers that currently ship with Android devices and the iPhone. Microsoft is actively recruiting developers to build apps that run on Windows Phone 7.5, and we expect strong results. In 2012, brands should consider mobile apps on Windows 7 and other platforms in their long-range interactive strategies.

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