2012 was a fast paced year in the world of digital marketing and advertising. 2013 will be no less quick! Here are five predictions on the big things brands will be devoting their time and budget to, and how brands can act to stay ahead of the game in 2013.

1. Cross-device tracking will improve value attribution and performance

Today, if a consumer visits a brand’s mobile site and then visits the same site on his computer and purchases, we are not aware that the mobile site was within the consumer’s path to conversion. In 2013, we expect to see cross-device tracking solutions emerge that will enable better measurement of the value that each device brings. This means that, for example, Mobile Paid Search marketing as a channel will not only be recognised for the sales that it produces on mobile but also for the sales it contributes to across all devices – mobile, tablet and computer.

For brands looking to take advantage of this innovation, watch Google and Drawbridge. In mid-2013, Google is expected to launch a cross device tracking product based on leveraging Google account holder data across devices. Drawbridge is looking to use statistical modelling to group a consumer’s computer, mobile and tablet devices. Both innovations will provide more accurate value attribution across devices but also improved targeting – the ability to target consumers on one device and target the same people on their other devices.

2. Display advertising ROI is set to grow thanks to Facebook and Real Time Bidding

In 2012, Facebook Exchange was launched. It opened up a large pool of inventory to the marketing discipline of retargeting, thanks to over 1 billion users a month. Still in alpha to a handful of technology companies, the results are looking positive with some reports of ‘click to conversions’ 50-100% higher than for standard Display ads. In 2013, we expect this to be opened up to the mass market.

I also expect that Facebook will launch their Ad Network in 2013 as a challenger to Google Adsense. For brands this provides the opportunity to reach out to potential customers on a wider network of publishing sites. User-provided demographic and psychographic data within Facebook will enable sophisticated targeting, and so will be Facebook’s point of differentiation when compared to Google Adsense.

Lastly, Real Time Bidding (RTB) is the rising star of Display advertising, where brands can improve the effectiveness and return on investment of Display advertising. RTB works by buying Display advertising on an impression by impression basis in real-time, and currently is just over 10% of display advertising spend. By 2015, this is set to reach 25%.

Clearly Display advertising will become more measurable, targeted and effective in 2013. Make sure you stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of the opportunities opening up.

3. Mobile purchasing through NFC will take at least another year

NFC mobile technology and services such as Google Wallet will provide the ability for consumers to use their mobile phones as credit cards in-store and redeem vouchers on their mobiles. Importantly, the technology will enable the almost real-time passing of sales information from in-store back to online. This data can influence marketing strategy and tactical optimisation.

Unfortunately, the in-store payment technology is not nearly ready to support NFC yet and it will be at least 2014 before it is.

That said, we will see more mobile innovation in 2013 that will drive in-store and online sales. In Mobile Paid Search marketing, new Google products will emerge this year that use GPS data and Google account holder data to measure footfall in-store from online. Also we will see mobile apps emerge that offer object recognition – where a consumer will be able to take a photo of a product and be able to add it directly into their shopping cart. Brands should look to test these new emerging innovations to take advantage of the fast growth mobile channel.

4. Every new website must be responsive

The variety in device size across mobile phones, tablets and newer tablet/laptop hybrids has broadened quickly in 2012. Standard iPads are 9.5inch and new iPad minis at 7.9inch, mobile smart phones start from 3inches and new tablet/laptop hybrids from 11inches. This level of variation makes responsive design a must-have in 2013.

Clearly, with less than 50% of brand sites mobile-ready today, the primary focus for brands has to be the creation of mobile optimised sites. I suggest that brands consider responsive design based content solutions. Secondly, with tablet conversion rates twice as high as mobile conversion rates, investment in tablet experience optimisation will drive increased ROI.

5. Selling International will be a major focus for brands

With the UK in the economic doldrums, highly effective international shipping solutions and favourable customs policies in some markets provided attractive international business opportunities for brands in 2012.

This trend is set to continue and grow in 2013. If we take Europe, ecommerce sales are rising faster than in the UK. Looking further afield, without a doubt, consumers in high growth markets like China, India, Brazil are keen to buy from cool UK brands.

I would recommend that for brands looking to ‘go global’ to create the business case by testing fast response channels such as Paid Search marketing and Display advertising. Also look at engaging with market specific platforms, for example, in China the leading Search Engine is not Google but Baidu. Likewise advertising opportunities exist on Taobao which is China’s Ebay equivalent.