December 26th, 2011
Not sure I have mentioned it before, but I read way too much. If there is a thing that I am grateful to the Internet for, besides its obvious networking and communications capabilities, is the trillions over gazillions (is that large enough?) of bites of information available to read at my disposal 24/7. Based on all this information and my passion for connecting the dots to identify strategic insights, I have selected what I find to be the most important insights and projections for 2012.
I will be focusing in two key strategic insights areas, in Part One, top tier dot com tech giants fate in 2012 and, in Part Two, Insights driven by the changing consumer sentiment and behavior in the new era (now available). As I have thought about these insights, I have placed as much weight in my experience as a user as much as in my business training and experience over the last 20 years. I urge you to read it from the same perspective – I promise you it will make a lot more sense. Enough preamble, here you go:
What will or should happen to the current dot com “Tech Giants” in 2012?
Amazon, Facebook and LinkedIn will further solidify their base and continue steady growth : Not sure if you have noticed but these guys continue to steadily grow and gain not only unique visitors but loyal converts (read active visitors). While others try to imitate their business model or position themselves as uniquely capable of creating personal or professional networks, the truth is Facebook and LinkedIn have these areas covered pretty well, respectively. The only chance that anyone has to chip away from their current leadership is to buy them or find a segment large enough to cater directly to them (hey, Cuba now has its own Facebook, Red Social- There’s a Physician’s Network, those HIPAA requirements are a bore, and some are even starting college student only social networks – what a concept!, now that mom and grandma are in Facebook).
News of Yahoo’s demise have been extremely exaggerated. Not sure if you have noticed – but over the last few months, even without a CEO, Yahoo has stealthily integrated Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds into its My Yahoo page. They are not trying to create a whole new Facebook, a whole new LinkedIn, etc., they are adding value to their users by giving them what they currently use in a single page. A very smart move if you ask me. If they select the right leader (hopefully from outside the tech industry – read CPG ) they should do quite well (Remember Lou Gerstner and IBM´s turnaround?). Personally, I still prefer Yahoo mail over Gmail, it has constantly given me the best available web-based email since 1997 – if all users are as satisfied, they should have a strong enough base from which to build on a growing business.
When it comes to a digital “Mall of America” with sticky social elements – no one comes close to Amazon. You can find anything your little heart desires and have it shipped within 2 business days for free (using Amazon Prime). On the social aspect – its integration with Facebook allows its customers not only to check what their friends are recommending, but also send them a gift from their published wish list (who needs registries anymore)? How does Amazon top this? Building from their initial advantage of online bookseller, they have almost put the old and stodgy publishing industry to pasture via Kindle (authors are starting to go straight to Kindle, forget the middleman). I let the reader’s imagination run on how well this positions Amazon to go Tablet, Smartphone, Kiosks, Pop-up stores…
Twitter may finally find its right positioning – or maybe not, it’s future depends on it. Twitter’s point of difference, in my opinion, is its immediacy. It is like the impulse purchase of Social Media – the talk before you think platform . If you don’t believe me ask Alec Baldwin, Ashton Kutcher , Gibert Gottfried, Kenneth Cole, the list goes on and on…
As a business, I believe it could carve a great niche as a coupon, deal delivery method (at least they could target and deliver in real time, not via email shotgun approach like certain over-hyped daily deal company that shall remain nameless) or as a customer service software cloud offering that could be integrated with salesforce.com.
Socially, the most it can offer is to be the entertainment industry information hub for the star struck set (although there’s only so many Kardashian tweets a human can take). It has recently become the number one multitasking online activity while watching TV shows such as X-Factor (Instant voice lessons coupon anyone). Seriously, how about twitting a Pepsi coupon to the interacting TV audience next time they log-in with their location based application at their local store (Is that capability “ON” already?)
With that said, it will also continue to be a great tool to monitor for potential PR nightmares as its immediacy makes it optimal for wronged consumers to vent, sometimes irrationally. Any business model that allows a company to monitor and engage on these “vents” should be well received. The “maybe” comes from the fact that Twitter doesn’t seem to grasp well its raison d’être, clearly evidenced by its last change (is it me or does it look like Facebook circa 2007)? Read my lips – you can’t out-Facebook Facebook.
The start of Google’s decline, unless they change their ways. If you have read many of my previous posts, you saw this one coming All I will add to this one is three key time honored axioms:.
- You can’t be all things to all people all the time – search, portal, social network, phone OS, browser , notebook – Google, whats your target?, what’s your positioning?
- Build on your Competitive Advantage – last I heard having idle cash is not a sustainable one. Doing this right (read Amazon above) could help Google with axiom one.
- Market Position Bullying = Antitrust Consent Decree – It has happened to IBM , Microsoft and others – trust me the cost of compliance monitoring can deplete innovation and resources faster than you can type Michael Porter in the Google search box.
At the time of this writing, Google is ignoring all three axioms. Signs of missteps are starting to surface, Google + initial user sign up slowed down as rapidly as it started, trust me, unless your target is a young male tech professional demo you are wasting your time with Google+ (do ensure you claim your brand name in a page, thus preventing the Bank of America faux-pas). Latest news on Android’s “Ice Cream” OS upgrade support are not too rosy either. It is time to gather the troops, analyze and focus or risk “googling” no more.
What, nothing about Apple? To tell you the truth Apple would be a post series all by itself. To net it out for brevity’s sake, their key competitive advantages are; flawless design (read unparalleled insight into user experience), expert deal making and a fanatical cult following. Apple will continue to be the source of copycats and wannabe’s for years to come but to reach the type of growth they have experienced so far, they will need to penetrate the TV and Cable Industry – their real competitors are not HP, Dell, Google or Microsoft, but potentially/most likely Cablevision, TWC, AT&T (Uverse), Verizon (FIOS) – remember “coopetition¨?, et al… I see Apple as a key catalyst (followed by Amazon) of the long awaited convergence of Technology, Communications and Media (definitely deserving of a separate blog post series).
In truth, you can pick out the winners by following how efficiently they partner with complementary offerings (Apple with the Entertainment Industry, Amazon with manufacturers and retailers, Yahoo with news sources and existing social media leaders). While I did not touch on mobile and location based services in this post – the industry will develop within these mega-players as key partners and alliances are stroked.
As mentioned in the title these are part forecasts based on strategic insights and part “wish list” based on my opinionated views of how things should work. We are in a new era which is not only driven by technology but also by a fundamental shift in consumer behavior and sentiment. The latter will be the subject of Part 2 of my predictions to be published in the beginning of 2012. In the meantime I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that the new year brings you all you deserve and more. Please share your thoughts below; I appreciate each and every one of your insightful comments, and I promise to pay extra attention to any opposing point of view. Feel free to reach me if you would like to review my thoughts in a more quantitative and practical manner. You can contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @zeusofmarketing and Facebook: Zeus of Marketing. You can also find additional contact information via LinkedIn:http://www.linkedin.com/in/jrgrana.
PS: Unfortunately , I do not own stock or currently have any relationship, other than as a user, in any of the companies mentioned above.