2012 Digital Marketing Predictions

Author Avatar
Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 13 min read


Companies will finally embrace the power of digital

  Smart marketers will either continue to shift their budgets to the digital landscape or be out-shined by more agile brands that understand the importance of being where their audience is.

24/7 Customer Service on Twitter

  More brands will expand their customer service efforts to include monitoring Twitter mentions around the clock. By immediately engaging disgruntled customers in a dialogue and publicly resolving their issues, brands trade damaging discourse for positive public perception.

Social media will start to focus more on content

  As Facebook’s Open Graph continues to take over the universe, it is collecting massive amounts of information about users behavior and will become an important tool for brands using Facebook’s platform.

Smarter Targeting – Behavior driven creative

  Analytics will continue to get smarter and play a larger role as the basis for delivery of creative. Users actions and use cases will trigger targeted messaging and creative that will produce higher yields.

Marketers will stumble on social bookmarking as a distribution medium

  With “discovery” being such a prime focus for music, video and content on the web, sites like StumbleUpon and other social bookmarking sites will be a great place to syndicate content in search of new eyeballs.

Bye Bye Middlemen

  Facebook cut out media agencies and went right after Heineken directly. This may be an indicator of the cut-throat media game getting even dirtier. The importance of direct relationships will be more key than ever as ad exchanges and self-serve auto-optimizing platforms make the job of media buyers easier with every new update that Google and Facebook roll out to their platforms.

Loyalty programs are the new sweeps

  Winning something free with lottery-style sweepstakes may drive the click, but long term ROI is all about loyalty programs. With repeat business in mind, brands and smart marketers will shift their focus to reward and incentive-based programs with physical and virtual redemption.

Ads will echo: Re-marketing will be the norm for display ads

  Google just made advertising a little bit easier. The ability to advertise directly to previous site visitors will be a huge part of any future digital campaigns. Targeting this user base with special offers and promotional material will do wonders for traffic and ROI.


Growth in mobile-first/responsive design

  With smartphones growing and expected to reach 1 billion HTML5 powered smartphones by 2013 designers and creative strategists will likely be starting content and design planning from a mobile first perspective figuring out what information matters most on the smallest of screens.

  With powerhouse media companies drinking the HTML5 Kool-Aid and moving towards more responsive layouts, we’ll start to see everyone paying more attention to how their pages look on mobile (including here, if we can spare the time to work on our own site!). Take a look at how gorgeous the new Boston Globe website “responds” as you view it at different size and dimensions. This magic is achieved with the usage of CSS media queries and in many cases a little bit of JavaScript.

  As web designers and developers become comfortable with the techniques of responsive design and with the event of the iPad 3 and its 2048×1536 screen resolution and increasing Android and Windows 8 tablet sales, it will become apparent to developers that media queries need to adapt to more than just the traditional iPad/iPhone resolutions.

  In addition, we predict you will read the term “responsive web design” a couple thousand times in 2012.

Battle of the Typefaces

  As browsers improve, designers can get more confident in exploring font replacement. We believe we will start to see more handwritten fonts and new typefaces especially with Typekit being acquired by Adobe. Say goodbye to Cufon, it looks like the battle of font replacements will be won by @font-face and Typekit.

Parallax, Parallax more of the parallax

  Side and vertical scrolling websites dominated the web in 2011 and we don’t expect them to slow down anytime soon. Some of our favorites included: http://www.smartusa.com/, http://www.nikebetterworld.com/, http://lostworldsfairs.com/, and http://activatedrinks.com/.

Infographics, Infographics, Infographics

  To combat the eye-glazing effect of spreadsheets and Power Point presentations, graphics of the past will continue to be replaced with the flood of Infographics, which are heralding new ways to visualize data in a more digestible format.

  Infographics will become less static and more interactive. There are only so many times you can look at a ridiculously long jpg image and still be interested. Infographics will need to be interactive in order to keep users engaged, possibly even updating stats in real time. Great sites like coolinfographics.com and http://visual.ly/ have really captured the lion’s share of our Twitter streams exposing us to many great and cliché images chock full of data.

A greater need for design

  The business world can’t ignore the monster success of companies like Apple. Companies will start investing more and more into design of their products, websites, and their social networking impact on customers.


More people will confuse Javascript effects with HTML5

  This year everyone’s been bashing Flash and labeling everything that feels like it was designed this century as HTML5. HTML5 is about semantics and doing a better job at marking up content in the browser and continuing to separate the presentation layer from content.

  The power of HTML5 will continue to grow at the rapid pace it has over 2011. Several new HTML5 features will be announced and cross-browser support will improve tremendously. Browsers will become much more efficient in their support of some of the coolest HTML5 APIs, in particular cross-window communication and offline capabilities, meaning more and more developers will turn to HTML5 for apps as apposed to native and proprietary mobile or desktop technologies.

Attack of the Frameworks

  Node.js, Socket.io, Fitvids and, by now, JQuery are a common part of the vernacular of even the least technical savvy marketers. Javascript will continue to get better and be widely adopted as a syntax and language of choice. With the emergence of local storage and offline capabilities, Frameworks like JavascriptMVC and SproutCore and server side technologies such as NodeJS, JavaScript will continue to be the rising stars of web development. If your programmers don’t know Javascript, you might want to have a talk with your human resources team. Better yet, just hire us. We can help.

Grid-frameworks to be replaced with a more SEO optimized and semantic markup/styling

  HTML is not only becoming more semantic, but also more responsive. The code makes more sense, and we can smoothly display it differently to various screen dimensions. Why, then, would we stick with frameworks that stick us into set-width layouts and add non-semantic bits into our markup?

  We won’t. The changing demands of Search Engine Optimization, mixed with the ever-growing need for mobile-friendly layouts (not to mention client deadlines which seem to only shrink) will lead us to ditch the CSS frameworks we’ve grown to love over the past 2 years.

There will be hackers! Security will become a bigger priority

  With some of the largest institutions in the world falling victim to hackers in 2011, the focus on information technology and security will be seen as a much larger priority. Many websites have begun switching all their browsing to SSL and more encrypted formats of sending data.

Continued Decoupling of Hardware from Software leads to Better Experiences

  We’ve seen it with every brand and device: OSX and iOS merging functionality and interaction modes, Android unifying tablet and phone operating system, the desktop/laptop port of Android, and the arrival of Windows 8. Operating systems that are designed to run on everything from tablets to desktops will not be where the decoupling of software from the hardware it runs on stops. With the maturation of things like Titanium Studio, Phone Gap, and other multi-platform SDKs, developers will be increasingly able to focus on a write once, deploy everywhere methodology, allowing for better end user experiences.

Internet Explorer will be alright

  Yep, Internet Explorer has for many years been a burden to many web developers. However, version 10, set to be released in 2012, may change everything. Microsoft have put a lot of time into the development of IE10, in particular the support of HTML5 and the associated APIs as well as enhanced JavaScript performance. This, coupled with Microsoft’s announcement of plans to employ a fast development cycle and silently upgrade their browsers, will make the world a better and much cooler place.


The best digital camera is the one you have with you

  With the iPhone photo capability boosted to 8 mpx for stills, and full 1080 HD video, 2012 will see the smartphone competition step up, all aiming to become the Swiss Army Knife of communications.

  Digital SLRs will see increasing competition from mirror-less, through-the-lens view cameras, and third-party add-ons, including lenses, for smart phone cameras will increase their range and flexibility. Consumers will have quality choices for every photo op on the horizon, and those who prefer the point-and-shoot variety will likely adopt devices that perform multiple functions.

Mobile Gaming Starts to Catch up to Consoles and PC

  The advent of Tegra 3 tablets, AMD Fusion processors for mobile devices, the iPad 3 and Windows 8 running agnostically on ARM and traditional PCs will drive the elevation of gaming on the mobile platform to near-console quality. Games like Infinity Blade will see successors and copycats that push the boundaries and begin a tech explosion much like what occurred with traditional discrete graphics cards from nVidia and ATI (now AMD).

HTML5 Web Apps versus Native Apps

  HTML5 web apps will continue to make strides, impressing us by taking on snappy and snazzy visuals that years ago could only be dreamt of. Whats the difference between a native app and a web app?

Clicks crumble the bricks – Ecommerce will dominate

  As companies streamline their operations and further leverage technology and analytics, consumers are more compelled to shop online. What started as searching online to drive customers in-store has largely been reversed in favor of a pure online exploration. In addition, mobile apps and POS transactions (through Square and similar apps) will spur a growth in the mobile ecommerce experience.

The tortoise will lose – Page load times are critical

  Information overload has taken the world and web by storm. People don’t want to wait. We’ll start to see more people optimizing their apps and websites for faster load times in order to keep their users happy.

Even grandpa will use the Cloud

  With Apple educating the masses on the power of the cloud, more data will continue to be stored online and accessible with services like iCloud, Dropbox and Google Docs being the de facto standard for storing photos, music and content online. Connected devices will become the norm, starting with cellphones and computers while likely moving towards other devices such as televisions.

Technology will create a physical void

  More companies continue to embrace the “agile” workspace. People spend more time tweeting, texting and conversing together digitally despite sitting across from the table from one another. With the youth of today getting exposed to touch screen devices and of course the Internet, social interaction will continue to be had through a screen.

Voice recognition and device automation

  It’s hard to deny that Siri set the standard for voice technology, but can it keep the lead? Android devices had voice capabilities long before Siri, after all, and have since pounced at the opportunity to get back on top. Google will be pushing a voice update in early 2012 to catch up and even surpass Siri. Additionally, Google will be pushing Alfred, which relies less on voice commands and more on providing personalized recommendations. In the meantime, Vlingo is one of what will likely be many startups aiming to throw their hat in the voice command game with a cross-platform app that caters to multiple devices and provides voice command capabilities to rival Siri.


Search will be bigger than ever

  Voice Search, mobile search, the list goes on. People were paying less attention to search saying “SEO is dead”. Well we respectfully disagreed, and are now seeing it’s more of a focus than ever. Agencies should further embrace SEO experts and welcome them at the table as digital strategists and not just view them as keyword tinkerers.

QR codes will diminish in favor of Image recognition, RF and NFC technologies

  As image recognition technology gets better the usage of Quick Response (QR) codes will begin to diminish in favor of Near Field Communications (NFC), Radio Frequency (RF) and image recognized data points. If we know you drink energy drinks and like to snowboard we’re going to follow you around the web broadcasting advertisements.

Recommendation Engines and Algorithms will get better

  The ability to tap into a users inputs and past behavior allows recommendation engines to better pair a user with propositions over advertisements which will increase the propensity to click and be engaged.

Daily Deals diminish

  We all guessed it – the “daily deals” thing was a bubble just waiting to be popped. Location based deals, travel deals and flash sale sites popped up out of the woodwork like bad celeb gossip. Smaller daily deal sites will get scooped up or acquired by giants like Groupon who continue to play out acquisition strategies to hold onto and fight for market share.

Social Gaming is the new time suck

  Thousands of apps with explosive titles like Angry Birds, Words with Friends and Cityville – social media integration incorporated into game dynamics will forever change how we play games. Artificial intelligence is being replaced with the human factor and we will all continue to rely on the Internet to keep us connected.

Where first?

  Check-ins and location based information delivery will continue to get smarter. With Geocache databases getting better data and GPS beacons accurate to the meter, marketers will continue to use pinpoint geotargetting to reach their desired audience and engage consumers.

More Legislation to Come

  The tech industry has not heard the last from entertainment-industry lobbyists looking to put an end to piracy. SOPA and PIPA were just the tip of the iceberg as legislators look for a long-standing solution and continue to make decisions on Internet regulation.

Speaking of politics…

  2012 Presidential election campaigning has already begun and we can see how technology will play an even larger role in who gets elected in November. From political scandal to party debates and town hall meetings via social media, look to the Internet for information and conversation regarding the election.

Also, we disagree with the Mayans

  The world will not, much to our dismay, end as we know it.