Bradley Howard highlights five major internet trends that will benefit your business.
It is amazing how much content and services are still freely available on the internet - this is unsustainable. Content websites, such as newspapers and films, are however moving to a subscription model, but it’s inflexible. We may want to read The Sunday Times on the weekend, the Metro during the week, and once a fortnight, The Financial Times. Flexible payment options for this aren’t yet available.
In the future, we’ll have a central company which will have a pot of our money. As we visit websites, the central company will provide the websites we visit with nanopayments. These will consist of tiny amounts of money – perhaps less than a penny, on a per-page or per feature (e.g. sending an email, or searching the Internet) basis. This will be an automatic process, and we’ll have some sort of browser plug-in, which shows how much money we’ve given to this website, and the remaining balance in our centralised wallet.
Nanopayments will significantly reduce piracy. If the price point for content can be reduced to nanopayments, perhaps on a per-play model, users will find this pricing acceptable, and piracy thus becomes less desirable.
Currently, content owners need to charge a higher price partly to cover the transaction processing costs. If the transactions costs are significantly reduced, we could move to a per-play model. So instead of paying 89p for an mp3 track, users could pay under 5p for the track each time they listen to it.
2. Real money
The advertising industry has developed from a simple promotional industry, to the main business model for some of the biggest internet companies. Google and Facebook earn advertising revenue by selling clicks on adverts. There’s a deeper problem with advertising though. Users don’t go to Facebook or blogs to shop. It’s questionable whether people go to Google, rather than Amazon, to search when shopping.
We are beyond the tipping point of advertising products to users – we are inside a huge industry bubble, with too many businesses reliant on pure advertising. However, there is a requirement to continue advertising – for product discovery. We need advertising to help us discover products and services outside of what we search for. This is because the Internet, as great a tool as it may be, is still based on users searching for what they already know.
3. Knowing customers
A few years ago, Big Data was the IT industry’s silver bullet to provide online stores with the same customer knowledge as a local greengrocer, butcher and wine merchant. This success has not yet occurred across the industry and a good example is banking sector. Banks spend a lot on Big Data, but fail to properly use Big Data to gain an intimate, insight into customer purchasing behaviour.
This failure is bizarre, as banks can see where we shop, how much we earn and how much we spend. Online banking website lists our current accounts, savings account and credit card all in one place. So why do they promote the same savings account every time we log on? There are probably a gazillion more appropriate products they could be selling us rather than the same savings product!
Big Data has the potential to help Internet websites get to a point where they mimic the traditional shopkeeper. However, I think the whole process has become too scientific and, as yet, is not driven enough by retailers’ knowledge.
4. Browser upgrades
The current web browser isn’t good enough. We need to see a 3D style environment to visualise the web. The first attempt at this was Second Life. In fact Second Life was a very good first attempt as far as technologies go, and big players such as IBM spent a lot of money in the first virtual world if its kind.
Retailers also opened stores on Second Life because the shopping experience was more natural in a 3D environment, than a single product per page. Unfortunately, Second Life was too far ahead of its time. It was too early in internet adoption. The internet wasn’t as ubiquitous as it has since become. At the time of writing, Google’s Chrome browser is on version 26. It’s sad that after 26 versions, it’s still showing you white pages with text on.
5. Growing focus on trust
Passwords are one of the biggest nuisances of the Internet. Another pain is multiple accounts. The number of accounts we have, and continue to keep creating, has got out of control. We then have security experts telling us not to use the same password on multiple sites.
We need a Single Sign On system across the Internet from a trusted party. It needs to be trusted by both users and website owners – from a bank to the Inland Revenue (whose authentication system is extremely rigid).
Once we have the Single Sign On system, it needs to keep a track of our various reputation scores. So when we join a site such as TripAdvisor, or AirBnB, if users already have an eBay account, their eBay reputation should count for something.
As the internet continues to become more complex, retailers need to know their customers are genuine, and can be trusted. We’ve been using SSL security certificates on the Internet for a long time now, and as a means of ensuring we are buying from a company who is who they say they are. It’s now time for the other way round – for customers to prove who they are.
This type of system is called Vendor Relationship Management. It’s all about making the Internet a level playing ground, establishing trust that we take for granted in the real world, and migrate it to the virtual one. The overall aim of this is to be treated as a real human being - rather than an IP address and cookie jar.