What are the top technology trends that will change the game and determine this year’s business winners and losers?
Travel Weekly PLUS turned to Scott Klososky for his insights on the matter. Klososky is a visionary thinker and doer when it comes to technology. He’s founding partner of Future Point of View, a technology strategy consulting firm whose clients include a range of organizations from non-profits to business heavyweights like IBM, eBay, Trane, Wells Fargo, Georgia Pacific, Volvo, Chubb, Marriott, and Cisco.
Here’s what Klososky has to say about what business leaders need to understand about how technology is changing the game this year.
#1 Older execs will get it, get excited, and get involved
“2013 is going to be the year when leaders — especially leaders who are in their mid-40s, 50s, and 60s — capitulate to the fact that technology is the X factor to winning.
For the last 15 to 20 years, technology has been something that the IT department took care of, and a lot of leaders looked at it as a necessary evil. They were not very active with technology, or even very excited about what technology can do. I think this is the year when a lot of leaders will switch their minds over to understand that technology is a strategic weapon, and that they have to be good at it.
I have seen a lot of this in the consulting work I do: older executives who have the budget control and who are the strategic leads in their businesses are realizing that technology is a difference maker, and they’re putting more effort and energy into learning about technology personally.”
Why this year is the tipping point: “Blockbuster, Kodak, Borders Books, Spiegel — there’s a long of companies, some that were 80 or 100 years old, that have gone bankrupt because they didn't understand how technology was going to change their industry. At the same time, there have been enough companies that have won in the market because they've developed some interesting use for technology. No leader with a decent IQ can ignore the confluence of the benefits you get from technology, and the consequences you pay when you don't understand it or ignore it.”
Specific pointer — get going with digital marketing: “The travel industry has known for a while now that digital marketing is a growing trend, but a lot of travel companies still put just a little bit of budget money into it. Like a lot of other companies in other industries, it has been ancillary to their normal advertising. This year, leaders in the travel industry are going to need to take a hard look at digital advertising and say, “We have got to find new ways to communicate with our customers. We’ve got to find new ways to build relationships with travelers, new ways to provide information, because the old ways are dying.”
THE TAKEAWAY: I’d sum up this trend with a quote I often share: “Acceptance of technology starvation is tantamount to leadership treason.” That’s right: when a leader accepts starving their company from the technology needs it has, they are acting in a treasonous way. In other words, they are not doing what they are getting paid to do, which is to be a leader.
#2 Customer behavior is changing faster and faster (and it’s not just the younger folks anymore)
“Over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of momentum in the way customer behavior is changing. That’s going to speed up in 2013.
We used to say, ‘Well, young people are changing their behavior. Customers 25 or younger are changing how they look for products, how they purchase products, how they connect to brands online, how much they comment online about a product. But we're starting to see that behavior moving up age groups, as it often does.
Customer behavior is going to continue to change at a rapid rate this year, across all age groups. Companies that have new methods — for example, mobile applications — are going to find that it isn't just the 25-year-olds that are downloading their mobile app; it’s people in all age groups. This year we are going to see an explosion of customers behaving in new and different ways because of the mobile devices they carry.”
Specific pointer — get a great, multi-functional app out there: “In the travel space, we’re moving to a time where — if, for example, you're a cruise line — you will have to have a mobile application that every person who gets on your cruise ships has. And that app needs to have seven or eight pieces of functionality that everyone will want, regardless of their age. That will completely change the cruise line’s relationship with the traveler; it will change everything about the customer’s experience.
Let's say I buy a cruise. The first thing that should happen is the cruise line sends me my mobile app to download. And this app allows me do transactions on the ship, helps me understand what tours to sign up for — everything is done from that mobile app. This is the year when customers will expect this kind of thing. And it’s not just young people; my mother's in her 70s and she has her mobile device, and she's getting more comfortable all the time with what that mobile device can do.”
THE TAKEAWAY: “Companies that fail to see how customer behavior and customer desires are changing will die. These companies will perish because their competition will come out with mobile apps and capabilities that will give them a huge leg up in the market; customers will flock to the companies that are providing the capabilities they want.”
#3 It’s going to be a big year for big data
“We’ve had business intelligence now for a decade or more, and big data got hot last year. The confluence of those two things, and people's awareness of the importance of analytics, is going to create a huge year for the use of data.
Companies are all gathering massive amounts of data, and they also have a lot of capability to analyze that data to see things they've never seen before. This will be the year when companies really start to mine that, and wake up to the fact that when you have more visibility than your competitors, you'll make better decisions.’
Specific pointer — gather more data on your customers: “Most people in the travel industry, and in retail industry overall, have very little idea why their customers do a transaction, or how their customers feel at any moment — they have very little visibility into it.
If you ask most cruise lines what data they have on a customer they’ve sold a cruise to, they’ll tell you they have a name, address, telephone number, email address, their food preferences. They’ll give you about 10 fields of data. If you ask Facebook how many fields of data they have on users, they'll tell you they have hundreds of fields of data.
What we are going to see in the travel space and in retail — especially in restaurant — is companies waking up to the fact that, ‘Hey, we really need to be gathering 40 or 50 fields of data on customers, and then we need to be able to analyze that data to see things we've never seen before.’ A cruise line or an airline works really hard to fill a ship or a plane, but they know very little about the people who are on that cruise or on that plane. This year I think companies will take a huge step forward with how they use data, especially combining business intelligence — being able to analyze data in an organization — and big data.”
THE TAKEAWAY: “It would be good if leaders understood that they are blind, because if they did they would seek harder to see. But most leaders seem to be okay being blind. They think they have information when, in truth, they are really very blind about what's going on in their organizations. Over the next year or two people are going to realize that they know very little about what drives their business, that they know very little about their customers and what drives their customers, and they’re going to wake up to wanting to use technology to manage data and information better.”
#4 The integration of digital marketing
“This is the year of integrated digital marketing. Digital marketing is made up of five elements: your website; social technologies; mobile applications; traffic drivers like search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), or crowdvertising; and measurement systems.
We’ve had people building websites for 15 years or so. Social technologies have started to come on over the last few years. Mobile technologies — as far as marketing uses — are pretty new, so companies aren't integrating them well yet. They have different groups working on these things separately.
When it comes to traffic drivers, people are just playing around with SEO and SEM, but they haven't really gotten very sophisticated about how to use them to drive traffic into the first three elements. We have some measurement systems on websites, but most businesses don't know how to measure social technologies, and they often don't even have mobile applications to measure.
What is very clear to me from all the consulting work we do, and from being in the field, is that marketing people are now looking at how to create an integrated digital marketing strategy instead of looking at each of the five areas as individual pieces. What we are seeing now is that rather than having a separate website group, a separate social technology group, and a separate group to build a mobile application, marketing departments are saying, ‘We need to integrate all these tools, and then figure out how to use that to drive traffic.’”
Specific pointer — tie it all together: “Every time some new method for connecting or marketing has come out, some piece of a travel group will try to pioneer or do a pilot program on that method. But the marketing groups haven't stepped back and tried to integrate all of these things together. When somebody connects to us through a social site or a blog, how do we try to drive them to the website? If somebody comes to the website, how do we drive them to download our mobile app? It’s that kind of tight integration that needs to happen from now on.
This year we’ll see less talk about social technologies and more about digital marketing in general.”
What will it take to integrate? “It isn't technology advancement. I don't think there’s going to be much advancement in these areas next yea; in fact, there may not be any. What it will take is internal changes and a different way of putting together the strategy.
These tools have been used separately for the most part, and, in some cases, by separate groups. We’re going to see people aligning marketing to better integrate and combine the use of all these tools, and building better strategies — how does the mobile application or a mobile website impact the full website? What’s the advantage to social technology versus a website, and how do we maximize both?
We’ll see less and less concern about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn — they're just tools — and more and more focus on the overall digital marketing strategy.”
THE TAKEAWAY: Digital marketing is a very powerful weapon, so there is an advantage to being the first one on the battlefield with the weapon. And those who have the weapons, but have no integrated strategy, will lose the battle to those who do have an integrated strategy.
Companies that don’t make a change will end up losing market share. That’s the biggest warning I give my clients: “Either you're going to be teaching your competitors what to do, or they’re going to be teaching you. And the price you’re going to pay if they're teaching you is that you will lose market share. You'll lose market share until you figure it out.”
Parting Perspective: “We live in a blessed time. It’s a time when we have all kinds of new tools that can help us prosper. It’s a tragedy if people don't take advantage of them. I get a little bit nervous because a lot of people don't seem to understand, from a historical perspective, how powerful the toolbox is. If you take advantage of these things, you can really prosper. If you don't take advantage of them, you'll pay the consequences.”