Top digital trends for creatives in 2014

From the Internet of Things to crowdsourcing your creative process, tech guru Cat Leaver guides you through the digital tools and trends that should be on your radar this year.

Digital advances are being made every single day, so 2014 is bound to bring some new and exciting surprises for businesses and consumers alike. Some of the biggest trends from 2013 will carry over into the new year, with content marketing, mobile-first and responsive web design remaining at the forefront of the digital landscape.

Building on this will be a move toward behavioural design and an emphasis on context. Design is typically implemented to improve the state of something or to enhance its ability to achieve its objectives or its users’ needs. However, design can often be overly prescriptive and make assumptions based on what the outcomes of use will actually be.

As such, I believe future web design will look to be more malleable – offering guidelines that encourage specific user actions and journeys, but present some flexibility for the user to experience the digital environment in a more tailored and relevant format. This will take into consideration the context of consumption, meaning both content and design will cater to possible situational and behavioural elements.

Linked to this will be the growth of the collaborative economy. Collaboration and co-creation are not new concepts, but ones that have been gaining momentum for years now and remain as prevalent as ever. Savvy marketers in 2014 will be asking how they can involve their audiences in the creative process. The more input your consumer has, the more invested they are in your organisation and offerings; ultimately this will lead to greater brand loyalty and you will see the returns.

As a result, developing and nurturing your online community will be at the heart of effective digital marketing this year. This will involve a combination of proactive and reactive digital activities, such as starting and joining online conversations, maintaining your blog and presenting opportunities for your audiences to contribute online to your output.

Mobile commerce is expected to increase 53 per cent in 2014 and mobiles have now overtaken desktop computers in terms of browsing, but the impact is greater than that still. Mobiles / tablets are not just a substitute for desktop computers; they change user behaviour altogether – we are now spending more time online. Consumers are just a touch away from the internet at any time, meaning that not only are they closer to your online presence but also are constantly bombarded with marketing messages from your competitors and others seeking their attention.

This ubiquitous connectivity relates to the ‘Internet of Things’ concept, which refers to the way internet-enabled devices are uniting digital and physical environments further. The effect of this in 2014 will be a reverse in the traditional order of things, ie we will no longer search for things; they will effectively search for us based on an informed understanding of our needs/wants (products, services and brands).

Another interesting trend for 2014 will be a fairly dramatic shift in social media usage amongst teenagers. This change in behaviour looks set to continue as teens seek more discreet social interaction and grow increasingly concerned around the security of their personal information. Channels I predict will do particularly well out of this include WhatsApp, Snapchat and closed social media like Nextt and SquareHub.

On the flipside, social media cha-nnels are attracting a greater volume of users aged 25+ and even witnessing considerable growth within the ‘silver surfers’ (55+) demographic. This will be interesting as we see organisations reassess how they use social media and segment audiences on these platforms, and also begin to recognise the value of older target audiences, ie more time and disposable income.

These are just some of the many digital changes we’re likely to experience in 2014. It may seem daunting but the best way to manage this is to keep up-to-date and take an agile approach to your marketing.

Cat’s Top 5 Social Channels

1. @TheNextWeb 

A great source of international news on technology, business and culture

2. Red Bull Stratos

Exemplary of Red Bull’s dedication to content marketing and resulting success in building and maintaining active online communities and brand loyalty

3. @Skittles

A wacky but overall thoroughly engaging Twitter channel from Skittles, which regularly connects with their customers and online audiences and has, as a result, an active online following and community

4. Old Spice on YouTube

Old Spice have developed a unique character around their brand that is reflected consistently throughout its on and off-line channels. The highly proactive Old Spice Twitter and YouTube accounts are particularly entertaining and regularly applauded by marketers for their wit and viral marketing effectiveness

5. ASOS Facebook page

With over three million fans, the ASOS Facebook page is extremely effective at engaging new and existing customers, optimising on social advertising, increasing brand loyalty and up-selling, and delivering top quality customer service around the clock. A good channel to keep an eye on, as ASOS consistently employs innovative digital campaigns and technology

Catriona Leaver is marketing manager at Alienation Digital.