The world of digital marketing is fast changing and 2013 was clearly an eventful year. I expect 2014 to be no less action-packed. Here are my top five predictions to help brands take full advantage of the year ahead.

May the year ahead be dynamic, innovative and successful for all!

1. Google will take a leap forward in natural language understanding

2013 saw Google extend its advance in search through a number of innovations. Hummingbird improved the way Google considers context and with it, the ability to recognise user intent. Knowledge Graph launched as an encyclopedia of 700 million unique concepts and the relations among them that feed directly into the top of the search results page. Also, we saw the initial launch of Sequential Search where a user can search for ‘The capital of India‘, receive ’New Delhi’ as the result and then search for ‘France’ and receive ‘Paris’ as the result.

Lastly, and very importantly, we saw the addition of Ray Kurzweil to the Google team. Ray is one of the world’s leading scientists in artificial intelligence and the futurist who predicted the coming about of search engines back in the 1980s. His mission is to create the ultimate “Google Brain” using techniques of deep learning which are modelled on how the human brain thinks. In effect, a brain that has logical or rational intelligence (left-side human brain) and emotional intelligence (right-side human brain). In my view, this is an immense step forward that demonstrates that true semantic understanding of search engines can become a reality. Undoubtedly, Ray will be looking to make waves as he settles at the Google business, so we can expect natural language innovation from him within the year.  For consumers, this means that results will continue to increase in relevancy, and for brands, it means that context beyond the keyword will need to be considered in search strategy.

2. Everything will be tracked, advertising costs can only rise

Last year saw statistical triangulation technology such as DrawBridge and AdBass take the headlines with their approaches to solving the issue of cross-device tracking. Google is also currently rolling out its own cross-device tracking solution that uses Google sign-in data. That covers tracking users across online devices. Across online to in-store, Google’s Universal Analytics is set up to pioneer in this space. To solve cookie blocking, the likes of Microsoft is at the early stages of developing a cookie-less technology that tracks across Microsoft enabled devices from PC, tablet, mobile to Xbox. Both Apple and Google are hot on Microsoft’s heels.

So everything is becoming tracked and measurement of the true value of each channel, device and the interplay between online and offline is within reach. We know that mobile brings more value than mobile revenue alone and in 2014 we will be able to measure this more accurately than ever. Brands should, and will, jump on this and seeing the true value of mobile, advertising costs can but increase. Emarketer predicts that UK mobile adspend will grow 90% in 2014 and a part of this will undoubtedly include inflation in auction costs.

3. TV and online become best friends

We all know that people multi task while watching television. In fact, 53% of adults in the UK are active on another form of media while watching television. As marketeers, if we can understand the user’s intent at that moment in time, we can engage with them and create a real-time opportunity. This is something that Twitter has absolutely taken the lead on. The social networks says that 95% of public social conversations around TV happen on its service.

I think the next evolution between TV and online has to be that online channels will ‘listen’ to television and so advertising will be more relevant to what is on TV, in real time. A product that offers this already is the social remote control app, Zeebox. It uses GraceNote audio recognition technology to listen to TV and serve relevant content and advertising within the app. In 2014, I believe that larger online technology players such as Twitter and Facebook will follow suit. For brands this means increased efficiency of advertising and yet another reason to increase investment in the growing area of real-time bidding.

4. Social fatigue and how online consumption will change

I was reading an article on social fatigue by Wall Street Journal author, Ekaterina Walter, and like her, I think that many of us are seeking balance in our lives and so search for ways to disconnect from our online lives. Recent stats show that one in three claim to be suffering from social media fatigue and there are even apps that help you disconnect from your mobile device.

In 2014, online consumption will undoubtedly rise but there will be also be a rise in consumer selectivity. Consumers will seek content and share but we will be more selective. We will focus on what is important us, what we are passionate about and we will engage with the online destinations that give us specifically what we are looking for. This means that, brands, more than ever, need to create experiences of quality, share content of value and be where the consumer is.

5. Rise of wearable tech and new marketing signals

The Nike+ Fuelband was Nike’s best-selling product of all time. Google Glass is a hugely anticipated piece of consumer technology and it is rumoured that it will reach the shops in 2014. Samsung worked hard to develop its own Google Glass equivalent product and alongside this has been exploring integrated watch, phone and health-monitoring bands. Similarly, Apple is predicted to launch its Apple iWatch in 2014. All of this smart technology will lead to valuable information becoming available to consumers in real time.

As marketers, this means more ways to interact with consumers in a personalised setting. In 2014, brands need to start to think about how they fit into this new technology and how their current apps and content can add value to the consumer experience. It also means the potential to capture new signals that could be used for real-time marketing. So, putting privacy to one side, we could imagine a few futuristic real-time marketing scenarios – a health band could pick up regular increases in heart rate on a Monday and Thursday night, cross reference against an Outlook diary session marked ‘gym’ and show mobile display advertising for gym gear. Similarly, if a user is watching a TV commercial, pupil dilation could be picked up by Google Glass and so signify interest and engagement which would lead to further remarketing of that product online.

For forward thinking brands, the future is definitely exciting! What do you think? Let me know what you see as important in 2014  in the comments.