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Michael Schinelli, CMO, Kenan-Flagler Business SchoolITS Guest Blog: Michael Schinelli

Throughout history, agile organizations have adapted to disruptions that have affected their customers and, ultimately, their brands. Others have fallen behind or collapsed. Yet, digital disruption is proving to be a uniquely unprecedented accelerator for creating winners and losers in today’s warp speed, often volatile omni-channel marketplace.

Want to stay ahead of the curve? Consider these six trends that are just around the corner.

1. Thing 1 and Thing 2

There are about 14 billion connected devices in the world today – and that number is projected to grow to 42 billion within the next five years. The growing ‘Internet of Things,’ or ‘IoT,’ will be transformational, with sensors becoming commonplace across entirely new classes of devices. Those sensors will elevate some of these devices into marketing channels.

Through the IoT, consumers will soon be interacting – both knowingly and unknowingly – with hundreds of sensors each day, creating new opportunities for brands to deliver tailored offers in real time.

Imagine receiving a coupon code for a cashmere sweater from Macy’s while turning up your thermostat. If this sounds like a stretch, consider this: 15 years ago, few would have believed that we’d be shopping on our phones.

2. You are what you wear

As technology becomes more human, humans are becoming more technological. With wearables, our bodies will become both the controller and the interface for countless applications.

Wearables are accelerating the “oversharing” phenomenon spawned by social media, where consumers constantly self-report on their most minute, mundane activities and preferences.

Through a constellation of connected sensors embedded in wearable devices, brands will gain an array of customer insights, from the distance, duration and route of your latest run, to your peak heart rate, to how tightly you laced your Nike’s.

And while the data stream we have today will soon look like a leaky faucet compared to the Niagara Falls, ideally, consumers and brands alike will benefit from better products and more relevant offers derived from these data.

3. Don’t show me the money

As the iPhone 6 series achieves critical mass, consumers, banks and brands will increasingly adopt Apple Pay for both security and convenience.

Biometric data – validated by the device’s fingerprint sensor – verifies the user’s identity. And because Apple Pay transactions use near-field communication (NFC) and a dynamic security code, payment card data never leaves the device – it’s not sent to Apple or the retailer – and purchases can’t be transacted more than a few inches from the phone.

But Apple Pay won’t just disrupt how transactions are made; it will create a new front for giant retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, which are already developing their own app-based payment systems that process mobile payments directly from customer checking accounts, cutting banks out of the equation.

Expect retailers around the world to come on board as they look to minimize exposure to the liabilities of massive credit card data breeches (à la Target and Home Depot).

4. Phone, home

There’s a long history of change caused by new channels and technology. Yet, most cycles took decades and the preexisting mediums greatly influenced the format and design of the newcomer. Because of that, change was often more evolutionary than revolutionary. For example, in the 1920s, commercial radio was designed to emulate plays. Early TV emulated radio. Internet 1.0 emulated libraries and newspapers. But the unprecedented pace of Web innovation soon disrupted everything. And today, mobile is disrupting the disruptor.

Mobile has quickly become the connective tissue in today’s omni-channel, always-on world. It’s the lens through which all other channels are being viewed and redesigned. Beyond responsive and adaptive websites, brands must adopt a real-time mindset to keep pace with consumers, who measure everything against the yardstick of the mobile experience.

5. We’re all publishers now  

Social forces typically drive market forces – rarely the other way around. For example, the diet soda category (which spawned the healthy snack segment) was born from baby boomers’ desire to shed the 20 pounds gained during their 30s and 40s.

Similarly, social media and the technologies behind it, didn’t drive our innate desire to communicate and bond, they merely exploited it.

Social media’s true disruption lies in how it’s enabled an entire generation to create expansive, real-time multimedia auto-biographies and reviews. This constant, public sharing of personal information has led digital natives to largely abandon the privacy filters of prior generations. How these privacy – and even security – trade-offs fully shape culture and commerce remains to be seen. What is likely, however, is that “opting out” or choosing not to participate may, over time, be viewed well outside the social norm.

6. Baby, you can drive my car

Self-driving cars are in our not-too-distant future, and they won’t just transform roadway safety – they’ll trigger a wave of just-in-time, location-based commerce.

With windows made of Google Glass featuring augmented-reality ads and entertainment options, the smart cars of the future will transform vehicles into personalized, mobile malls. And while today’s wearables may be designed to simply monitor our biometrics, it may not be long until the Mystics of Mountain View and the Carnaks of Cupertino figure out how to send us inputs through our devices that trigger sensations.

Is it really too far-fetched to imagine receiving a transmission of cravings for Chinese food – coincidentally, of course – as your Google smart car approaches Golden Wok – which, as your windshield informs you, has 275 four-star Zagat reviews, is 500 feet ahead on the right and has four Google Earth-verified parking spots available?

I think not. Buckle up – it’s going to be one wild, disruptive ride.

Schinelli can be found on Twitter at @mschinelli and on his blog at


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