As the year winds down, allow me exercise my older, crankier, opinionated and contrarian side in looking at the year ahead. Here are 10 things that won’t happen in 2012 in no particular order.
Mobile Ads Will Explode. Consumers still either resent them or can’t exactly figure out how to use them. Brands can’t efficiently buy them or measure ROI or engagement value. Look for the bulk of ads to remain embedded in games and in apps.
Facebook Will Grow Exponentially. The focus will shift from 800+ million users to the quality of the experience and the virility of sharing. Brands will figure out how to get more of their messages through the EdgeRank filter and how to prompt brand advocates posting original brand-oriented messages and/or passing along posts crafted by brands. What is said, by whom and to whom, will replace the fan count as a measure of brand page success.
QR Codes Will Blossom. Too many different or not enough code readers, no technical standards, low consumer penetration and poor customer experience will doom this technology. Magazines and others will continue to use them as a badge or signal that they are tech forward, but few consumers will buy that act. Even if you build it; they will not come.
Groupon Copycat Competitors Will Succeed. The bloom is off this rose both in terms of local merchant satisfaction and the inability to scale and customize the product or the deal for national brands. The business model was set up for onesies at the local level. It cannot easily accommodate brands with thousands of stores or franchisees.
Retailers resent the 50/50 revenue share. And they aren’t seeing enough upsell to justify the steep price cut used as a buying lure. Plus, they doubt whether coupon redeemers will become repeat or regular customers. Gross volume will drop. There will be a shakeout among the me-too and also-ran players. Social networks, payment vendors like PayPal and major online merchants like Amazon and eBay will emerge as Groupon killers.
Appetites for Apps Will Grow. With 1 million available apps and more than 100 million downloads from iTunes alone, nobody needs any more apps. The number of apps downloaded and used once or less is ridiculous. Consumers will edit their apps into two buckets; useful time savers and entertaining time wasters. Anything else will go by the wayside. New variations and new competitors will emerge. Some will gear content and user experience to reflect different expectations and behaviors for geared specific devices like iPhone, Android, iPad or other tablet formats. But if an app doesn’t help or doesn’t distract it’s a goner.
Banners Will Die. In spite of being widely ignored, brands will continue to pump dollars into banners primarily because they can. Banners, like billboards, are a media format every marketer understands and one that media agencies love to buy. And even though the metrics prove that banner blindness is endemic and that there is no positive ROI for using banners to build awareness, marketers will spend against them to demonstrate their commitment (to their bosses) to the digital medium.
Mobile Payments Will Reach 50 Million Subscribers. In spite of the incredible utility of mobile payments, the lack of technical standards, limits on smart phone penetration, competing technical and processing systems and tentative uptake by consumers and retailers will retard the growth of this channel. Mobile payments will not take off with a hockey stick curve like Google+ did. Instead we will witness a fog of uncertainty and doubt as the competing interests fight it out, make confusing claims and build daisy chains of retailers and allies. When the battle is settled and a single standard approaches, mobile payments will generally replace credit cards, wallets and checking/debit accounts.
Email Saturation Will Occur. Everyone uses it. Most of us opt-in. Retailers rely on it. Email is the ubiquitous reliable retail channel that consistently delivers personalized offers. Email will become even more segmented, more targeted, more tied to expressed preferences and purchase histories and more integrated into social networks, search and loyalty channels. SPAM has pretty much been controlled. The email workhorse will continue to perform as expected and measured.
TV Budgets Will Migrate to Digital. Not! TV remains the only way to simultaneously accumulate mass audiences and quickly tap into the mainstream culture. Digital channels complement, enhance and supplement TV. In some segments, TV viewing takes place on digital devices and is tweeted or posted in real-time. But marketers aren’t seriously reallocating media dollars anytime soon because they are committed to both the reach and the content that TV provides.
Zuckerberg will Give Up Social Engineering. The debut of Timelines is proof positive that Zuck & Company have a vision, an agenda, a platform and the willingness to impose their perspective about how we should think about and share our lives. Maybe he thinks that since he invented Facebook and convinced us all to use it, that he has the right to shape the form and content of how we express ourselves. Don’t expect user-centric design or functionality from Facebook. Expect them to re-design and impose their vision whenever they like and present it as innovation and improvement. If things run true to form, each new iteration will provoke considerable user push back and privacy concerns.