2014 belongs to Social Commerce, Bitcoin, Wearable Tech and Sentiment Search

2013 saw the rise and rise of mobile commerce, the stock market launch (and surge in share price) of social media sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook, the introduction of wearable technologies like Google Glass, and high demand for Bitcoin took its valuation to $1,000.

Google shares reached over $1,000, LinkedIn shares are trading at over 300% of their original value, Twitter and Facebook shares are strong too. Overall, the year was very exciting and reached heights that caused  critics to suspect a tech crunch just around the corner.

On  the downside, 2012 stars like Zynga and Groupon have struggled to maintain their share price and profits, and Samsung and Apple went to war over various patents.

Amid all these highs and lows, I have spotted some trends that might dominate the coming year’s technology developments.

1.Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn might need to think beyond display advertising or parish

Social media networks have become the most popular and most time-consuming sites and applications for users and the big three ($FB, $TWTR and $LINKD) are already trading on Wall Street with a combined valuation of over $200bn and a valuation per user over $100,  but revenue per user still in single figures. Therefore, I think to justify their valuation and competitive advantage, these networks will be forced to find means for brands to do commerce solely on their platform, because revenue merely based on display advertising and industry specific marketing products is not good enough and might only take them to closure rather than leading them to flourish.

2.Google, Samsung and Apple will indulge in a big wearable technology domination war

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas is full of companies (including LG, Intel, Sony, and Samsung) demonstrating wearable technologies, such as: smart watches, smart bands, smart ear buds, and smart glasses.

Apple and Google are not participating in CES 2014 but undoubtedly they must be keeping track of their competitors with an eye on the almost saturated smartphone and tablet market.
Apple has already filed a patent for iWatch and, due to shareholder pressure, might launch this in 2014. If we believe in the continuation of historical trends around competitors product launches following Apple’s new product release, I am sure Google glasses will come out of beta and Samsung will improve their already launched Galaxy Gear in order to be top of their industry; a wearable technology war seems inevitable.

3.Sentiments and Location Search will replace Google Keyword Search

For many, Google keyword search is still the primary form of data finding service. However, the rising popularity of Q&A engines like Quora, Facebook’s Social Graph, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Map, and recently launched Social search app Jelly, by Twitter founder Biz Stone, indicate the futuristic search trend is more aligned to human sentiments, where users can search stuff based on real intention rather than generic search terms.

4.APIs accelerate Marketing Automation but surge bot rates too

“A study by Incapsula suggests 61.5% of all website traffic is now generated by bots. The security firm said that was a 21% rise on last year’s figure of 51%; however, Activity by ‘good bots,’ it added, had grown by 55% over the year.”

The trend will continue because marketing automation with artificial intelligence is gathering momentum and content networks and providers are giving access to their data via open APIs.

5.The direct messaging industry is poised for disruption or consolidation

Snapchat, WhatsApp, Blackberry Messenger (BBM), Twitter Direct Message, and Facebook Messenger process over ten billion direct messages every day. However, none of these has managed to determine their monetisation model, which means consolidation is inevitable. Biggies like Facebook and Twitter in particular are trying to spread their wing in this sector.

6.Bitcoin or virtual currency will become mainstream

Recent developments in the virtual currency industry are:

1) Bitcoin is trading at $1,000 after Zynga announced that they will take Bitcoin as formal currency to sell their products or games.

2) Many companies are already following the Bitcoin success story and launching their own currency such as “a new Bitcoin-like virtual currency inspired by rapper Kanye West is set to be launched, and has been named “Coinye West”. Kanye West is not involved and has yet to comment on its inception. It will follow in the footsteps of “Dogecoin”, another virtual currency based on the popular Doge meme.”

3) Amazon and Facebook are pondering their own currency too! Overall, 2014 will see virtual currencies become mainstream!

4) National government such as Singapore Tax Authorities (IRAS) Recognise Bitcoin;

Is it really mobile vs. social or mobile + social = commerce?

Mobile vs. Social Commerce

As soon as the black Friday commerce data was published with a thumbs up to mobile commerce and a hard beating to social commerce, people started doubting all the hype surrounded social commerce! In a way this thrashing can be justified, as businesses are now expecting significant return on investment after spending substantial amounts of money on social media marketing, from paying consultants to running guerrilla campaigns to engaging people via this medium.



Black Friday Commerce Stats

On the other hand, an introduction of smartphones and tablets has hugely boosted the mobile commerce numbers and if you believe the pundits, by 2015 every 3rd online transaction will happen via mobile device and every second offline buyer will check goods prices on a phone before buying it in the shop!



And as a result of this, every online and offline retailer is vigorously competing to introduce apps with all the latest technologies, such as voice recognition, Image and barcode scanning, to win mobile-savvy customers and to support mobile payments; meanwhile, all remittance suppliers are surging ahead with one-click mobile payment technology!

Which means, if John Smith wants to buy a tie he’s just seen in a magazine or website, he will scan that on his phone to check best available price and buy in one click to be delivered next or same day to him! i.e., the convenience at the best for price sensitive customers!!

So the question is – in this mobile and app commerce world, where does the social commerce fit, or is there any room for the social-verse when all swords are out for Social ROI? And the answer is – definitely social commerce is going to prevail due to simple reason that, we gradually start spending more of our online time on social media networks,those have become our second point of contact when we are watching TV, dinning at restaurants, shopping at mauls or even spending time with friends.

However, there will be a transition, or perhaps it’s already happening, from finding information (or products) on social media to eventually buying the product from that medium! Currently even social media networks from Facebook to Twitter to Google+ to Pinterest are positioning themselves as information gateways, so that when it comes to finding the best shopping trends, images, ratings and reviews, many look at their social universe but still buy on at non-social network platform ranging from Amazon to eBay.And for businesses social media is the place to collect data as thousands of people around many platforms are talking and sharing views continuously about their products!



I think the next stage would be, or perhaps already is, that we will be able to buy desired products from purely social networks rather than using them just as pre- and post-sale discovery tools.


However, I am not a firm believer in an app economy i.e. I don’t believe that apps running on social media will be the main tool of its transition from discovery to transaction tool.


But, if Facebook, Twitter and especially Pinterest can become pure marketplace for both suppliers and consumers, yet maintain consumer privacy and business identity, than they have a winning formula.
And, to a certain extent, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Pinterest brand pages, widgets and APIs are gradually building social interest and knowledge, and professional graphs, which are the right steps in social commerce directions, where both businesses and consumers can interact and know each other. However transactions with payment are still a stumbling block as these networks don’t have their users’ credit card info, which means that to make payment on social networks, both suppliers and consumers needs to seek third party help.

I think here Apple, Amazon or eBay, with millions of consumers’ credit card details, are in very advantageous position, and if they somehow manage to amalgamate social media to their platforms, then we have winner too! But Apple, with Ping, has already burnt their hand in this area – eBay is currently going all image driven (like Pinterest)– results are yet to be seen! And Amazon reviews remain one of the most prominent places to find product information, but not the place to hang out with friends!

Overall even, if we know the winning formula for Social Commerce is eBay + Facebook, there are still a few very hard yards to cover to reach this stage. We all know that just as we don’t hang out with friends in shops and don’t buy goods in restaurants or bars, it would be a humongous task to mix social and ecommerce sites, but I am sure we are not far now from a time when we will have the technology to mix these two, leaving buyers’ privacy and business identity intact. And while this transition will take place, mobile will become (or has already become) the prime device to find and buy products and services. Which means the formula for successful monetisation would be mobile device + social network = commerce!

Facebook SWOT Analysis via Twitter Timeline!

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One Billion Facebook users not enough to make $100bn company

Congratulations to Facebook on reaching one billion users milestone, this is undoubtedly an huge achievement and must be accoladed whole heartedly!

But I might be wrong, it seems to me that Zuckerberg has carried away with sheer number of users and good words from a stalwart like Steve Jobs about his stubbornness to remain product focussed and not interest based revenue-centric, and although he ended up building the best social network platform, so far he has failed to leverage it for shareholders (shares are already down by 40+%).


And when he really tried to please them by launching various FB apps and bombarding users with ads, sponsored status and promoted stories, users become disgruntled about a timeline so full of commercial page links that they have become more listener than participant, and are confused as to why they need so many apps to manage their accounts!



So what exactly went wrong with Facebook? I think, they followed Apple theory too religiously; they built beautiful product (like all iProducts) and then tried to control their ecosystem (Like App Store) in order to monetise it – but can Facebook really follow a purely Apple model?
I don’t think so. Why? Firstly, they don’t have ‘must have’ products for users – social engagement can be substituted or complimented by email, SMS, phone, or via rival networks. Users of iPhones and iPads have no choice but to use Apple by-products, only be available on their devices, including the highly deprecated iMap on IOS6! Whereas they have many choices and no compulsion when it comes to using Facebook and its applications.

In other words, Facebook can’t really push things on their users; it should try to build on what is already working, like Zynga games, Spotify music sharing, or the recently launched Facebook Gift!



I think Facebook Gifts are a great idea and can replace the way we do transactions, specially buying products for family, friends and loved ones – because stats suggests 80+% of us like to buy things from word of mouth recommendations or friends’ suggestions – and there is no better place than Facebook to get recommendations from friends.

In summary Facebook needs to build products with tightly coupled commerce ability not push advertising like pages you may like, sponsored posts or sponsored stories. Along with Facebook gifts (i.e. currency, or credit) let’s build a more open ecosystem for developers so that Zynga- and Spotify-like companies can build really lucrative communities to pour some money in and make Facebook a $100bn company!