As the browser becomes the new operating systems for all things digital, complete with applications and content, interactivity will grow more powerful in the Internet cloud--as exemplified in Google's new Chrome browser. The Semantic Web will create more sophisticated, intuitive, refined ways to filter information and services, based on users' personal preferences. It is digital intelligence to the next degree. Early attempts include Stumbleupon and Twine. Other browser extensions can be redefining, such as a fully immersive cinematic slide show facilitated by Cooliris.
Conversation is king in 2009 because Web presence alone no longer is enough for individuals or brands. "Now it's about engaging customers in conversation and managing relationships online," IPG contends in a new slide show forecast. For individuals, it is all about "personal branding." How you represent yourself online determines how friends, employers and the world in general view you. Primary tools include personal Web sites and blogs, social networks and Twitter. Special interest, connected communities will create and support expert users.
One of the most dramatic examples of late--the top three online activities of Gen X Moms (using photo sites, rating, reviewing products and shopping for peers) and Gen Y Moms (reading blogs, participating in online peer communities, creating and sharing videos).
Savvy companies and brand marketers are starting to trust consumers and enlist their assistance in product design and development. "Brands are learning to listen to conversations wherever they are occurring, giving them an opportunity to respond and improve service and products," IPG observes. Social media is becoming the new CRM. The new ROI is Return on Involvement.
The third notable trend is the transmission effect, or the speed with which conversations and content spread everywhere like rapid-fire-- beyond the reach of editorial controls, sites or institutions. For instance, Twitter has influenced the format for breaking news. News from live events is transmitted instantaneously through blogging and live mobile video facilitated by Flixwagon, Livecast and other providers. Group-to-group communications (from Wikipedia to Digg to Reddit) also can be powerful with their own personalities, etiquette and jargon.
Brands must keep pace with consumers with a presence at every stage of the conversation (where they can respond--not react) and formulate a Web reputation strategy to manage viral insurrections. They also should be developing their content and other strategies across all platforms: mobile, digital, out-of-home, broadcast, broadband and social media.
Even in the depths of a recession, interactive retail solutions will soar in 2009, IPG says. An online experience punctuated by smart signs, interactive mirrors, loyalty programs and other features is enhancing the consumers' and brands' ability to constantly be connected to the Web and each other by mobile phone. Google's mobile bar code reader Zxing enables photography and decoding of barcodes for more product data, and SnapNow provides price comparisons and peer ratings from Amazon.com.
Such real-time shopping assistance is matched by audience measurement on sight in stores to provide more relevant target advertising that more likely results in a purchase.
Finally, there is the Zen Tech Warrior--the consumer who wants to be digitally connected on their own terms. Already very discerning about their choice of media and tech platforms, empowered consumers want to enjoy and use the fruits of technology (from texting and personal digital assets to media players and Web browsers) unencumbered by wires or chunky devices.
Whether a product of the recession or tech overload, consumers are opting more for single-purpose applications that provide easy, more cost-efficient solutions. They are using technology to save money in a down economy. One in five households is cutting their landlines; 60% of consumers will cut spending in at least one area of communications and media entertainment in the New Year, IPG says.
While there continues to be a privacy pushback in response to overexposure of online profiles and personal data shared in transactions, there also is a push for digital sustainability. Consumers are looking for products and brands that have an eye on all things green, says IPG.