Image by Brian J. Matis via Flickr.

Image by Brian J. Matis via Flickr.

It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all.

– Henri Poincare The Foundations of Science 1913

With 2015 on the horizon, here’s a look at the ideas, trends and technologies that will shape how marketers practice their craft in the coming months.

Welcome to the era of unbundling

Last year, Google split up its Drive app, Facebook forced users to download its messenger app and Foursquare spun off its check-in service into a separate app. In other words, the era of unbundling is upon us and is set to influence digital strategies in 2015.

Lo is a single-function app that let's people communicate their location.

Lo is a single-function app that let’s people communicate their location.

Looking at Foursquare, the creators took a step back and concluded that in trying to make a single-purpose app that actually had two purposes (finding people and finding places), they were damaging the experience of both.

“It’s like we were in a three legged race and each side was slowing the other side down,” Jon Steinback, Foursquare’s VP of product experience told The Verge.

By overhauling the Foursquare app and creating Swarm, a separate check-in app, they produced a far more useful, pleasing and simple experience for both purposes.

Stienback continues, “you open an app to do a specific task and not as a gateway to a large complicated experience.”

It’s this key idea – the process of streamlining the user experience and focusing on the app’s core functionality – that will not only lead to a flurry of app unbundling next year but also to a greater focus on designing apps with a single function in mind.

More and more single-function apps, like Yo, are beginning to appear and they are very much driven by a paired down user experience.

With their success and that of unbundled apps like Facebook Messenger, it’s easy to see how this shift in emphasis could be huge for tech giants and startups alike next year.

Apple Watch will make wearables mainstream

Apple Watch is set to launch in 2015.

Apple Watch is set to launch in 2015.

It feels like every year there’s a new device that grabs the tech world’s attention, leading to all manner of fanciful (often incorrect) predictions about the future of mobile, and with the Apple Watch coming to a store near you, 2015 will be no different.

Despite being worth an estimated $2.8 billion, the wearable technology industry is still very niche. Much of the public considers wearables to be futuristic gadgets appealing to the inner nerd in us, but not a mainstream attraction.

The Apple Watch will change all that. It’s not a sports band, a smart watch or health monitor: It’s all of the above. And because it’s Apple, it both normalizes and makes the world of wearable tech desirable and fashionable.

Of course we know little of what developers are working on to expand the watch’s capabilities, but Apple’s descriptions about some of the features point to fascinating ways digital marketing could develop in 2015.

Instead of cramming information onto its tiny screen, built-in apps simplify the experience. Think short replies, single emoji messaging and even communication via heartbeat.

If wearables are designed to be the first point of contact in digital communication, chances are that simplified modes of communication will jump from the wearable space to the wider digital world.

And to a degree this is already happening. Given that single function apps like Yo, Lo and Jam have been making waves, how soon before this thinking extends beyond mobile devices?

From endorsers to content creators

Celebrity endorsements are by no means new, nor are they new in the social media age, but going beyond the dodgy aftershave commercials or thinly veiled sponsored tweet, brands will really push the notion that creating content should be at the cornerstone of sponsorships agreements heading into 2015.

Looking at the world of sport, brands have begun to tap into the rich content at their fingertips. For example, Ernst Young’s Ryder Cup blog went beyond mundane golf clichés or news you could find on any outlet, to include management and leadership tips from winning captain Paul McGinley.

And whereas in the past brands may have been cautious to associate themselves with the more controversial content athletes create via social media, brands like Puma have been actively embracing it – creating various, often informal, pieces of content that star controversial athletes, such as soccer star Mario Balotelli.

It probably comes as no surprise then that Puma recently entered an active partnership with singer Rihanna, launching on Instagram under the brash tagline “Calling All B**ches.”

It will certainly be intriguing to see how this approach pans out next year.

Innovative iBeacons

iBeacons, Apple’s Bluetooth-enabled platform (active since 2013) that precisely pinpoints a user’s location and can synch up with apps to push relevant content to smartphone users, has various industries excited, especially retail.

Still, despite countless trials by retailers, often to push promotions to a shopper’s hyper-specific location (it’s more accurate than GPS), nothing has really taken off in 2014.

This stands to change in 2015, and not just because of infrastructure and implementation improvements. Creative developers are actually starting to make interesting and useful services out of iBeacon technology.

Rubens House, a museum in Antwerp, trialled the technology this year in conjunction with its tablet app to push additional content (both interactive and passive) relevant to the artwork being viewed at any particular moment.

Major League Baseball’s At the Ballpark app, already offering iBeacon check-ins and offers, gave spectators at this year’s All-Star Game the ability to access location-specific content and interactive features.

And dating app Mingleton uses iBeacon technologies to match people in immediate vicinity of each other.

Although only brief examples, they indicate that developers are figuring out how to implement the technology in unexpected ways and it’s these more innovative uses that will be the key to iBeacon’s mainstream penetration over the next 12 months. That, or we’ll have to go back to talking to people in the flesh at bars…

Did we miss anything? Share your 2015 predictions in the comments!

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