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The future of digital is definitely contextualisation.

The beauty of digital is its ability to be a layer of technology and interaction to deliver experience and service. I tend to think of it as the front window of the I.T. shop – the layer that speaks to your customers yet is backed by the genius of I.T.

Digital transcends industry and numerous and varied applications of digital will enable and facilitate the achievement of particular business goals, in particular when servicing clients – may these be internal or external. But digital is also much greater than a pretty interface or some cool technology or a software layer or some serious I.T. grunt to power an experience.

It’s a mindset.

And it’s with the mindset element that most corporations struggle or fail to implement digital with great success.

If you compare large corporations to start-ups or even tech start-ups that have become large corporation in the past decade (Google, Facebook), at the core is very much a culture of starting-out: we all strive to achieve the same goals as a team.

And that is so often where large organisations fail because within their midst egos brew and hero mentalities explode, where KPIs and strict deadlines erase common sense and blind better judgement of final output, where past experience is forgotten and employee performance is only measured by the last action taken, where failure of any sort is unacceptable and where learning from failure is unheard of.

“Digital is a mindset”

The future progress rate of digital is very hindered by the corporate mindset. This will need to change for digital to really thrive and when it does, it’s full potential will be revealed for the immense benefit of its initiator, user, and recipient.

An amazing statistic from the recent global Harvey Nash CIO survey (15th year running) revealed that 71% of CIOs believe great digital potential lies in their industry going as far as warning that corporations need to embrace new technologies or lose market share.

However, only 2% believe their companies are in a position to achieve their digital potential.

Across Asia Pacific and predominantly Australia & New Zealand, 44% of marketers are still figuring out what to do with digital, only 38% feel digital is aligned to their organisation’s goals, a staggering 88% of organisations still believe digital is a marketing function, and 23% of organisations are still trying to figure out where digital fits.


We are finally well passed ‘This is the year of mobile’ and have entered ‘This is the decade of mobile’ (until this gets dethroned by ‘This is the year of biorobotics‘).

Mobile is huge and getting bigger.

Mobile is the key to 1 to 1 digital interaction & service. 62% of internet traffic is now taking place through a mobile device (phone or tablet).

55% of global mobile phone users live in the Asia Pacific region. 23% of mobile users research their future purchases on their mobile device – up from 18% in 2012.

Growth of mobile device numbers and mobile device usage is staggering. In the future, if strategies don’t come to life on mobile they won’t come to life at all. The perception of mobile phones (smart or else) has taken on such importance that most of us today believe it’s the most important device we own and we wouldn’t leave home without it.

“Mobile is huge and getting bigger.”

It is quite logical therefore to deduce that if you win and grow share of mobile you will create unequivocal retention.

The advancements in mobile technology are also powering this growth of mobile usage. Wearable technology which ‘pairs’ with other devices is poised to exploded probably beyond what we can imagine today (and inches closer to ‘This is the year of biorobotics‘).

We’ve all heard of glasses, watches, bracelets and even skiing goggles that will revolutionise the way we interact with our world through wearable technology. Those who capitalise on the integration of these mobile technologies will undoubtedly build more intimate bonds and conversations with their audiences.


Social is really becoming the channel to connect and converse with ones audience – it was always so, but now this is truly beginning to ingrain itself in the fabric of our society and the way we engage between customers and service & product providers, between friends and family, between peers, between clients and suppliers.

As this continues to grow we are going to witness more and more backlash through social platforms.

“24% of the world population is signed up to a social network.”

Today 24% of the world population is signed up to a social network.

751 million people access Facebook from their mobile device.

People are more comfortable sharing their feelings and expressions in written form than ever before.

There is a definite increase in social network usage by users first thing in the morning and just before going to bed. 58% of purchase research on social networks leads to an actual purchase and this is up from 40% in 2012.

That’s an enormous increase and shows how reliant on social media and peer recommendation we keep becoming.

An amazing 28% of internet users have bought a product or service due to one of their friends ‘liking’ it on social media.

How important is social?

But the big shift to come in social media is building communities (as corporations/organisations/brands trying to engage with an audience) not around platforms but around passions. It’s clear that Facebook will loose market share over time (something already apparent with particular demographics in the US).

Yes it’s likely to be dominant but exploring passions and new social media avenues may lead to better results than focusing on Facebook.

And to succeed in building these passionate communities, marketers/brands/organisations/corporations will realise that sustained commitment through daily conversations not a short-term campaign approach will be critical to engage and retain the attention of their desired audience.

The future lies in the growth of transmedia where social content will create interactive experiences on multiple screens at the same time and offline.

Social will drive further offline interaction. When I worked at Club Five Thousand, our social network was the driver to numerous offline events and offline experiences. People today who are connecting on LinkedIn are more likely to meet up offline as a result of that connection. This will continue to become more of a trend in the future.

Crisis-management and real-time opportunity management will top social media agendas. It’s clear that social media is a powerful customer service medium.

“The future lies in the growth of transmedia…”


It has been said that ‘content is king’ and this has been true since the printing press was first invented. But it’s really the right type, the qualitative content that is king.

Today, in my opinion, good content is no longer necessarily king – it is important but not king, for if the content is delivered inappropriately or at the wrong time in the wrong place it will lack cut-through and stickiness.

Today to truly be king, good content needs to be contextually relevant. An awesome offer or recommendation for pizza from a fantastic pizza place that I’m walking by or a fascinating video/article on the benefits of pizza will be worthless if I receive it as I’m rushing to catch my train during morning commute or that it’s not formatted to my mobile screen if I receive it while in transit.

More and more, consumers’ definition of good content is changing and as old as branded content may be (probably best known as product placement) branded content is making a tremendous resurgence across digital media. Brands are understanding that pushing product or service offerings in consumers faces is not going to win them attention, conversion, or retention.

Digital analytics now allows us to measure the performance of branded content and we are realising that simply displaying a logo on a cool video has a tremendous impact.

Here is a great article and video on branded content: branded-content

A big trend moving forward in content management and production is partnering. Brands, corporations, organisations are more and more understanding and seeing the results of partnering in a win-win situation with other brands/corporations/organisation but also with independent creators in order to deliver ‘great’ content. Services like Spotify and YouTube will continue to demonstrate and provide avenues for these partnerships.

The evolution of content itself is shifting to bit-size consumable pieces. Jai Baer coined the term Youtility as the new form of effective and therefore ‘good’ content:

YOUTILITY: Massively useful free information that creates long-term trust and kinship between a company and its customers



– Seth Godin


Data is the Holy Grail. Data is relevance. It’s the way to measure your efforts, to understand what you are doing well or not doing well. To measure ROI and to get incredible insights into how, when, where people are using & interacting with or for your brand/service/product.

Data is the backbone of contextualisation. It is the source to deliver better customer experiences. It beats opinion on any given day – it doesn’t lie – it shows you exactly what is happening implicitly. 

So what’s the future of data? and why is it so important to the future of digital?

Coming back to the mindset point above, here too we will need to shift our understanding of data and how to use it.

Today we see data as a means of keeping score when in fact we should be focusing on data for making better decisions.

And this will be a huge trend going forward that has already started (everyone is talking about ‘big data’ – buzz word for us to change our focus on data that we’ve had for years).

McKinsey Global Institute predicts a 40% annual growth in data generation going forward. Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist believes “The ability to take data – to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualise it, to communicate it is going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades.”

Numerous companies have already embarked on this path with great success, such as Macy’s in the US, and the key to their success in using data has been driven by a change in mindset, a change in the metrics they focus on, and aligning their business strategy with a long-term technology road map.

“Data is the Holy Grail. Data is relevance.”


Perhaps due to hardships experienced during the latest global financial crisis, perhaps due to our evolution as human being, perhaps due to technology enabling us to act in ways we’ve always wanted, the fact is that collaborative consumption is taking hold in certain areas for certain goods, services, situations.

We are slowly reaching the detachment of ownership and materialistic importance. Cars is a growing example. As Rachel Botsman says “the currency of the new collaborative economy is trust”.

And we already see that trust is a big winner amongst consumers with people more frequently turning towards their peers, networks, and Facebook friends for their opinion on a brand/good/service. The big question for marketers/brands/organisations/corporations is ‘how do we become our consumers’ friend?’

Time Magazine recently called Collaborative Consumption one of the “10 Ideas That Will Change The World“.

Collaborative consumption has the potential to have a tremendous impact on digital’s future as digital supports and enables collaborative consumption.

“The currency of the new collaborative economy is trust.”

– Rachel Botsman


Contextualisation is the key to the puzzle – it is what bring all the elements above together and is critical in driving digital success and the future of digital.

Contextualisation is using data to understand the end user (their interests, their habits, their behaviour, their location, their schedule, their desires), turning that understanding into content that is:

  • Great
  • Highly relevant to the consumer of this content
  • Formatted appropriately to the screen this content is being consumed on
  • Delivered at the right time when the consumer will want it most

Contextualisation is understanding what the consumer wants at the time and screen they want it on and delivering it appropriately.

You might think that this sounds like personalisation. And it is. But past personalisation initiatives failed because all they looked at was ‘profile’.

What contextualisation does is combine the three key elements of:

  • Profile
  • History
  • Situation

Contextualisation is fuelled by consumers expecting their experience to be relevant to ‘place’ and ‘time’. Interestingly:

  • 85% of consumers know websites track their behaviour
  • 75% of them would prefer brands use their personal information to improve their experience
  • 64% believe it’s more important for brands to present relevant offers
  • with only 36% of consumers not wanting their behaviour to be tracked

The evolution of data will be driven by the growing demand for contextualisation and will lead to predictive analysis where data will predict what the consumer is likely to want next.

Contextualisation doesn’t need to be a completely new direction or a complete redesign of your website, mobile sites, application. You can apply contextualisation by prioritising content based on location and behaviour.

This would be a very good first step. Of course, you will need data to achieve this.

“Contextualisation is the key to the puzzle.”


They are some clearly significant structural shifts on the horizon that will impact digital and the application of digital to further our goals and in doing so will transform and revolutionise industries.

High-speed large bandwidth internet access for the masses

In the US we’ve seen the likes of Google deploy fibre networks to the home across an entire city. In Australia, the current rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is achieving this on a national scale. But the biggest obstacle to how disruptive this technology will be in the context it is being delivered is down to bandwidth capping and pricing.

In Australia in 2004, the country saw a rapid increase in internet adoption. This was due to the major telecom company Telstra changing its pricing for broadband internet. People realised that they would be getting more internet for less per month than on their current dial-up plan.

In Europe, internet usage also grew rapidly when telecom companies dropped prices and bundled services.

As an example today in France, one can sign up to unlimited 100Mbs broadband with access to 170 IPTV channels and unlimited call to landlines in 100 countries – all for a price of EUR 20 per month or you can sign-up to a fibre internet connection at 300Mbs for only EUR 10 per month.

In Australia, you pay more or less AUD 100 per month for 20Gb of data access at a bandwidth of 10Mbs with national landline calls included.

In Australia it is clear innovation is stifled by cost, quality of service, and politics.

High bandwidth unlimited internet access fosters innovations in ways unthinkable today. Why restrict this potential?

Access to the internet has allowed so many small businesses to advertise to large markets, reach vaster audiences, sell their products and services in ways they could never before.

Offshoring & Globalisation

To some it is painful to others it represents vast opportunities – it is clear that competing on a global scale is now part of the majority of industries not a small number of sectors. And over time when it comes to transacting, national boundaries will be meaningless.

Digital will continue to allow people to sell services, such as anything that is Software as a Service (SaaS) to anyone anywhere in the world at any time of day. It will continue to allow people to sell goods to anyone anywhere and at any time.

This will drive improvements in logistics and order fulfilment.

And as this trend continues, we will continue to witness the growth in offshoring services such as web development or process lead activities. The workforces of nations will be impacted and people will need to be able to adapt more and more, reinventing themselves over time as digital impacts industries globally.

An example of this is website development which has become an industry where companies and individuals compete globally.

It is so easy today to brief a team anywhere in the world to deliver a new site or application. And so a constant war of skill (quality) and price will be ever-present in the web development industry.

We see this today where in Australia the hourly rate of a developer ranges from AU$140 to AU$200+, whereas in Ukraine you are likely to pay $45 per hour for the same service, and in Vietnam, it drops to a rate of AU$180 per day.

3D printing & logistics

I’ve touched on some of these impacts in other papers as they pertain to the retail sector, but dramatic technologies coming to age in the minds of the public at large and in the physical premises of those intended to use them as part of their processes demonstrates clear and radical shifts ahead.

3D printing although not new is certainly one of these technologies and its impact on global logistics will become more and more apparent as the technology continues to improve. It is already mind-boggling what we can achieve with 3D printing (from houses to human tissue).

A particular scenario maybe that goods are no longer shipped around the world but instead 3D printed in-store to the specific requirements (size, colour, etc) of the consumer.

Ultimately digital will be the enabler, but the delivery of future services at acceptable, sustainable costs is critical to the future and the success that hinges on it.

“Ultimately digital will be the enabler, but the delivery of future services at acceptable, sustainable costs is critical to the future and the success that hinges on it.”