January 2nd, 2012 | 4 MIN READ

6 Tech Trends to Watch in 2012

Written by Amanda Dhalla

As head of consumer research with Elastic Path’s Research and Strategy division, Amanda Dhalla helps global enterprises like Google better understand consumer behavior in order to optimize their digital offerings. Amanda’s research has been cited by CNN, Econsultancy, Smart Money, and Internet Retailer. A seasoned ecommerce professional with more than 14 years in the field, Amanda has hands-on experience marketing, merchandising and managing multimillion dollar online stores. Her areas of specialization range from market research, conversion optimization and analytics to traffic generation tactics such as social media, search engine optimization, and content marketing.

Happy New Year, Get Elastic readers! As we enter 2012 and get back to work, here are 6 tech trends impacting digital commerce that should garner plenty of attention in the upcoming year.

1. The 'Internet of Things' comes of age

While we haven't neared the point where all of our appliances, cars and houses are connected up to the Internet (the so-called 'Internet of Things' coined by tech pioneer Kevin Ashton), we made steady progress in that direction in 2011.

Last year saw the launch of the innovative (though glitchy) Jawbone Up health-tracking wristband and the LG Smart Fridge that lets shoppers receive inventory updates on their mobile devices. Meanwhile, Ford introduced the cloud-connected Evos concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

LG Smart Fridge

As cloud-based services proliferate and demand for anytime anywhere access grows, look for web-connected appliances to come into their own in 2012.

2. Wearable computers make a fashion statement

In late 2011 WIMM Labs introduced a tiny wearable Android watch packed with 'micro apps' that turn it into a health monitor, mobile payment device, or remote. But that's just the start of a trend that will hit its stride in 2012.

According to the New York Times, Apple is rumored to be testing bracelet-style wearable iPods. Giving Google Goggles a whole new meaning, the internet behemoth is developing augmented reality glasses that show virtual content on top of your real-world view. As you walk down the street, information pops up and displays 'Terminator-style' based on your preferences, location and Google's information. Google's glasses would be tied directly to their cloud-based services so you can leave your smartphone at home.


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With ever vigilant devices handing us the information we need to facilitate daily interactions, we won't have to remember as much. Will we become more effective and knowledgeable or 'dumb terminals' incapable of rational thought? Too early to call.

3. Digital content consumption explodes

Tied closely to our first few predictions, watch for a content explosion in 2012. Last year smartphone shipments eclipsed PCs and laptops for the first time while tablet shipments breached 60 million. This ever-growing pile of connected devices is fueling consumer desire for on-the-go access to news, books, video, and music. New devices, industry players, distribution channels, and access models will emerge as consumers find themselves ready to spend real money on digital content.

We'll be downloading and streaming more than ever – whether we're listening to Spotify or watching movies on Netflix or through new online digital library UltraViolet (despite getting off to an inauspicious start). With Kindle sales topping 1 million per week in December, ebooks will thrive, majorly impacting bricks and mortar retailers. And, through its own publishing imprints, self-publishing platform and rumored upcoming "Netflix for books" subscription offering, Amazon will continue to kick legacy publishers' butts and have a fantastic 2012.


4. Ecommerce quashes traditional retail

In a recent interview with Cnet, Silicon Valley visionary Marc Andreessen predicted that physical retail stores are going to take even more of a beating in 2012. Not much of a surprise given that ecommerce sales were expected to be up 13.5% for the 2011 holiday shopping season vs. a meager 2.8% increase for traditional retailers.

Starting this year, retail stores could begin a transformation into simple showrooms where shoppers scan the QR codes of items they want with their mobile devices and then have them delivered or prepared for immediate pick-up. Witness how Tesco supermarket is facilitating click-and-deliver in Korea through subway billboards featuring products accompanied by QR codes. And, looking at the success of the Starbucks Card Mobile app, mobile payment could emerge as a self-checkout option to help customers shorten wait times in-store.

5. Bring your own device gains momentum

The concept of "bring your own device" (BYOD) is a growing trend. While IT departments everywhere struggle to support and secure the new smartphones and tablets employees receive this holiday season, consumer businesses are gradually adapting to BYOD.

For example, last May American Airlines teamed up with GoGo to offer in-flight streaming video to passengers on their own laptops. Other airlines getting in on the act in 2012 are Virgin America and Southwest Airlines. Some schools are now experimenting with BYOD too to give students anytime anywhere access to educational resources and stretch shrinking budgets.


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6. Voice recognition takes off

Voice commands peaked our interest in 2001: A Space Odyssey, went mainstream with Microsoft Kinect, and evolved with Apple's Siri for the iPhone 4S. Next, according to marketing communications firm JWT, the spoken word may control everything from thermostats to televisions. Apple's rumored TV is said to include voice recognition, and Samsung, LG and Sharp are among those planning voice-enabled TV sets and related products, perhaps making remote controls obsolete.

Broken remote control

Has the time finally come for computers and humans to talk to one another? Look out for lots of 'cultural' misunderstandings in 2012 and beyond.

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