By Dileep Srinivasan Tuesday, 04 September 2012

Six technology trends driving competitive advantage

In today's dog-eat-dog world, technology can be the difference between being a winner - or becoming luncheon meat. Here are the top six technologies you should adopt to stay ahead of the pack.

1. Mobile devices

While by no means a new technology, mobile devices have exploded in the last five years due to widespread consumer adoption of smartphones (notably the iPhone) and tablets (chiefly the iPad). According to IDC, smartphone shipments have grown 87% between 2009 and 2010 while PC shipments rose only 3%. Consumers now expect to be able to consume data anywhere, any time, on any device, and business user expectations are only slightly behind consumers'.

Any organisation that has not already enabled mobile consumption of its data (or does not have an active project for such) is in danger of failing to provide a critical aspect of customer experience.

2. Gamification

Game dynamics or 'gamification' techniques involve the application of game design techniques and mechanisms to create compelling, interactive content. Game dynamics will be a large part of strategies that involve consumer engagement. The use of game dynamics will be the next wave for generating customer loyalty.

'Gamified' business apps can help companies overcome inertia and mistrust, breaking down traditional barriers to collaboration by offering an incentive for doing so. In fact, some organisations are already applying elements of game dynamics to influence collaboration and community among employees, customers and even partners.

3. Augmented Reality

AR has enormous potential and limitless possible applications in both the consumer and business worlds. Advanced companies are already putting AR to countless innovative uses – everything from a virtual mirror to check out how clothes and hairstyles would look on you to virtual worlds on your smartphone that orient you to your surroundings using floating icons. AR adds much sizzle to the consumer experience, but also has a highly practical side. A business that buys a high-end printer, for example, might get up to speed on its features via an AR application. Field service personnel could access AR tutorials to better understand how to repair a piece of equipment. Virtual agents already welcome visitors into a variety of web sites, making users feel more of a personal connection with the material presented there.

4. Social currency

Related to the gamification trend, social currency involves a form of currency (points, ratings and the like) that users earn in an online social context. The rewards points that credit cards offer in exchange for meeting certain purchasing levels were an early form of social currency. E-community sites are already offering social currency in exchange for posting user-generated content. In addition to virtually limitless consumer application possibilities, businesses can offer social currency to motivate their employees toward preferred behaviors, such as collaboration. Consumer and B2B marketplaces will soon be built primarily on social currencies.

5. Location-based applications

Again, not a new idea but location apps will come to greater prominence (even ubiquity) over the coming years. Many organisations, especially those serving consumers, are examining how they can use location-based applications to delight and engage their core demographics - think location's based voucher offers or restaurant recommendations. Location-based apps require a particularly thoughtful approach however as they necessarily impact the user's privacy. We believe this But this concern is likely to lessen over the next two to three years, especially among millennials and their younger counterparts, as users see the value of swapping some privacy rights for information and value.

6. Virtual goods

Unimaginable just a few short years ago, virtual goods are just that – online incarnations of things that people want in the real world (e.g. flowers, clothing, jewels and cars) in pixellated form, as well as those things that exist only virtually (such as avatars). Online consumers have embraced virtual goods with a passion. According to the Inside Virtual Goods report, the US virtual goods market will reach $2.1bn this year.

Enterprises of all types and sizes must build a digital agenda incorporating these six technology trends to remain competitive today and survive in tomorrow's marketplace.


Dileep Srinivasan is vice president of CRM, social CRM and digital marketing at IT consultancy Cognizant.

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