Why this year’s ‘big digital trends’ will still be here in 2018

Last week I gave a presentation at work about the big Digital Trends that are engaging the best minds in the online world.

I wasn’t setting myself up as some sort of futurologist or digital guru – merely keeping people who don’t spend every day up to speed with what’s happening and how it might affect Age UK.

What struck me, however, is that almost none of what I was talking about was particularly revolutionary. For all its visionary nature and apparent speed of thought and action, digital trends take a long time to reach a tipping point and become – at the very least – common currency.

Let’s take one example: Mobile – when I worked at AOL back in 2005/6, everyone was talking about how mobile was the next big thing. Well, to be honest, it’s only just got here.

In fact 2014 will be the first year that mobile (in which I include tablet) finally overtakes desktop usage – talk about a long gestation period.

Another example is ‘big data’. That’s been a term that’s been bandied around for a couple of years and is only now coming to the forefront – although the concept and the practice are two very different things.

As for the ‘Internet of Things’ – the term was originated back in 1999 by a Procter & Gamble brand marketer called Kevin Ashton.

Why the delay?

So why are these trends taking their time? The obvious reason is money – in many cases, any large brand who wants to get involved first has to wait to ensure it’s not a flash in the pan, and then commit a large amount of money, time and resource to get it in place.

The other main reason is that we’re often waiting for the technology to catch up with the idea. Mobile has only become such a powerful trend with the convergence of high volume of tablets and smartphones, plus better connection speeds.

And the ‘Internet of Things’ was a marketing fancy in the first place. It’s taken the likes of Google to buy Nest for $3.2bn this year to really take it mainstream.

So don’t be surprised if you go to a presentation in 4 years’ time that is still talking about ‘personalisation’ and ‘real-time’ as being big trends. Digital doesn’t move quite as fast as everyone thinks it does.

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