The year ahead for digital commerce

The retail sector has borne the brunt of the impact of digital disruption and here are the four major digital commerce trends to keep an eye on in 2013.

There's never a bad time for a good list and I love them. I sit all weekend and watch the MLB Network’s “Prinm 9,” a show which compiles oddball lists such as the nine greatest left-handed right-fielders. As an homage to such efforts and to get in line with all your look-back, look-forward end of year lists, here’s my list of four major digital commerce trends to watch in 2013. In no order:

Content marketing

Now, this is a term that means different things to different folks in the marketing world, but as we see the technology, discipline and principles of publishing make their way into the world of digital marketing, the use of content (and I mean all forms) to tell stories to engage and (especially) sell products will make a leap forward in the coming year.

The prime driver is the evolution of new platforms that offer the merger of content management and curation, going one step beyond such social providers as Pinterest and Storify. Publish This and Flockler are just two innovators in the next-gen of content marketing.

The return of retail

Let me be clear, we’re not talking about 50,000 square foot big box stores, we are referring to the trend that lives somewhere between food trucks and pop-up stores. This year, The Gap, Microsoft and others opened pop-up stores which are temporary storefronts that offer seasonal, event-based or even trial shopping experiences. Perhaps a page from food trucks which allow chefs and restaurateurs to ply their trade with less overhead…perhaps not.

What’s this have to do with digital commerce? First is the use of such mobile payment technologies as Square (the gizmo that plugs into a merchant’s mobile device and allows him or her to accept credit cards). Second is the use of social media (especially Twitter) to cut loose the clarion call to inform the socially inclined about the newest location of a pop-up store or even what’s on the menu of your favorite BBQ joint on wheels.

Second screen TV

Those in the video world (tech side, that is) have whispered in my ear that 2013 will be the year that second screen/social TV makes the leap from boosting ratings and offering engagement to selling stuff. Not only is content recognition technology getting better and folks such as Apple and Microsoft are building tighter integration between mobile device and TV, commerce platform providers are working closely with online video publishing platform, providers (OVPPPs such as Brightcove, Ooyala) to provide an experience that syncs TV offers with product databases. Think QVC on the iPad and you get the picture.

Consumer review phobia 

Recent court cases where vendors and physicians have sued consumers for malicious comments on review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List may create a chilling effect on how honest reviewers are when encountering a bad experience. This is a trend that's probably going to generate quite a few headlines in 2013 and merits a closer look in the new year.

So there you have it a neat little list of things to keep an eye on in a sector that is now well and truly coming to grips with the digital age.

How does this list compare to yours? Let us know.

Allen Weiner is a research vice president for Gartner's Media IAS service. You can read more of  his blog posts here.