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A few decades ago there were reasonably sized businesses that didn’t have a single computer and if they needed something big calculated they paid somebody with one to do so. Now we carry around devices with way more computing power in our pockets, using them to schedule appointments, have remote meetings with people around the world and play Angry Birds.
Think about that for a moment. Now go beyond just the technological advancements and think about the degree to which the tech you use in the office and the tech you use at home has converged. Over the next few years, that’s only going to become more prevalent, along with increased access to Wi-Fi, and a growing emphasis on the individual. These in turn mean that we’re likely to see even more data being produced and the need to produce great content if you’re to have a hope of standing out from the masses.
While we’re going to see other trends affecting business in a big way along the line, these are the trends that are most likely to affect business in 2014.
1. Consumer electronics sees strong growth
A transformation of communication is being driven by the need for consumer electronics. The US Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecasts (July 2013) projects that industry sales will reach US$202.6-billion this year, stable compared to 2012 sales, with 0.2% growth. Looking ahead to 2014, industry sales growth is forecasted to increase by 4.5%, with industry revenues reaching US$211.7-billion.
“There is no doubt that the smartphone — and more specifically the premium smartphone — has made huge inroads across Africa in recent years and this is not set to change any time soon due to demand and compatibility,” says George Ferreira, VP and COO of Samsung Electronics Africa. “As a result, building locally and relevant content and services directly related to the African market will remain key to Consumer Electronic brands – as this not only demonstrates company commitment to the continent, but positively impacts and enhances the lives of consumers.”
Gysbert Kappers, CEO of WyseTalk agrees but mentions that we can’t ignore feature phones. “A large part of the African market is dominated by feature phones with more than 300 million feature phones in the market and as such we cannot overlook this market but need to accommodate it and ensure that we continue to develop apps and services that are feature phone friendly.”
2. Big data — Volume, variety, velocity
However as smartphone penetration increases and digital content rises, no matter what industry you are involved in, you have likely heard about the concept of ‘Big Data’! In fact, the IDC* is predicting that the Big Data market will grow at a rate of 31.7% until it reaches US$23.8-billion in 2016.
“Businesses need to get smarter with their data,” says Martin Rennhackkamp, CIO at PBT Group. “As such using more data visualisation to understand and detect valuable insights in big data will become increasingly important to present accurate analytical insights and results in a more user-friendly and simpler format to business users.”
With the continued drive to get insights and to apply analytics faster, the adoption of in-memory databases and in-memory analytics will continue to rise. “The biggest change I foresee is on the social media/social analytics front,” continues Rennhackkamp. “Many organisations are doing, or are interested in doing sentiment analysis. It’s all good to analyse what is being said – and what the sentiment of that is – but we also need to consider the influence and context of the speaker/tweeter/poster – so interest and the application of influence analysis will likely rise.”
Maven Agency couldn’t agree more. Says Dawie Harmse, co-founder and head of technology at Maven Agency: “2013 was the year of big data undoubtedly. Now, with all the data comes the remarketing of it and the opportunity to analyse and interpret it to best suit the business. As a result, customer relationship management (CRM) and email re-marketing should see a rise in popularity once more. Through in-depth analysis of the data, businesses can send the consumers on targeted journeys of communication that fits their interests and criteria.”
3. More access to more Wi-Fi
As the need for constant access rises, 2014 will be a breakout year for Wi-Fi — from solving congestion for mobile network operators to open access networks in public spaces. “We are likely to see more Wi-Fi in malls, stadiums and public places,” says Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. “While we have seen a large uptake from the hospitality and education sectors, we are likely to see more Wi-Fi in public places and hotels who will be forced to provide good quality Wi-Fi and in most cases for free — just like hot water.”
One of the major challenges for free Wi-Fi is to make sure it works. The free Wi-Fi projects tend to be done very cost-effectively so when the uptake is good, it cannot handle the capacity which results in very disgruntled customers.
“Wi-Fi is no longer the ugly stepchild of licensed wireless access. The potential that Wi-Fi has to change and open up the telecommunications landscape across Africa, as with the rest of the world, cannot be denied and so we will continue to see greater need and interest in this incredible technology enabler,” adds Fletcher.
4. Content remains king
As wireless access increases, content generated for a specific target audience is going to be a big trend in 2014. Adds Harmse: “Delivering personalised experiences to the right audience at the right time will prove to be essential, which means that brands will need to focus on genuine quality of their content to not only build solid brand awareness but also loyalty. Additionally by making some content available only to a select audience, brands can build value into key relationships.”
Furthermore, having content readily available on all forms of mobile devices will be essential, and as a direct result of the growth in use of smartphones and tablets having a responsive website will be essential.
“In 2014, the likelihood that a piece of online content will be shared among users will be directly related to how many images it contains,” says Harmse. “Sites such as Pinterest, Slideshare and Tumblr have skyrocketed in popularity due to the emerging trend of pictures over words. Images will outrank words for valuable data. Less will become more and a big trend will be to simplify marketing messages in 2014, taking away the guess-work and leaving a solid impression on the consumer.”
5. The rise of the individual
The consumer will be key in 2014. Advances in global education, health and technology have helped empower individuals like never before, leading to increased demands for transparency and participation in all aspects of decision-making. According to Rizzo, “growing individual empowerment will present numerous challenges to government structures and business processes, but if harnessed, could unleash significant economic development and social advancement.”
Kappers concurs. “With the convergence of technologies we are seeing more business centric solutions as companies need to look at collaborative ways of working/operating that will encourage both employees and their consumers to become actively involved in the business or brand. As such, we are bound to see a big focus on collaborative software (social business software) and a slow migration away from email centricity,” he says.
The world is changing rapidly. Technology is connecting people and disrupting existing assumptions and ways of communicating and doing business. “Business innovation will be crucial in the coming year not only around the generation of new ideas, technologies and products for example, but also aspects around how to fully support these changing business models will also become a key component,” adds Ferreira.
Rizzo meanwhile reckons that governments in emerging market countries” may need to consider how enabling technology can provide ‘leapfrog’ opportunities that can bypass intermediate technologies and/or legacy systems.”