I usually like to play it safe and not make grand internet predictions every year. But this year, I thought I should share some of my insights based on the momentum I see in certain areas of the internet.
1. Facebook Becomes More Worthless for Jewelers
Facebook will become more worthless for jewelry stores that are unwilling to pay for ads.
Even through the 2013 Holiday Season, I noticed a continuing drop in the organic reach of all Facebook posts. Facebook is doing this to force you to pay for more sponsored posts.
As you consider the benefits of sponsored ads, you will also need to take into account the negative reaction that Facebook users will have as their personal news feeds are swarmed with those ads. Your Facebook ads will have good results only if you fine tune who you target.
2. Email Marketing on the Rise
As Facebook loses more of its luster as the supposed marketing method of choice, jewelers will hesitate to get involved with something new. My belief is that jeweler should get more deeply involved with Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+, but I don't foresee a mass adoption of these systems. Instead, I believe jewelers will turn to email marketing.
From an online marketing point of view, this will seem like a return to an older marketing method when it will more realistically be a new form of marketing for most retail jewelers. There will be a learning curve for jewelers doing this, but they will appreciate the results.
3. Good Online Reviews
We'll see a further evolution of how online reviews are used for good. In 2013, Yelp started hiding reviews they felt were not purely organic. In some cases this resulted in a new level playing field for local competitors and it also helped consumers identify those local stores that had better, honest reputations. Overall I feel that the trustworthiness of Yelp reviews will increase.
4. Bad Online Reviews
We'll see a further evolution of how online reviews are used for bad. I already saw several cases in 2013 where disgruntled customers were able to incite a proverbial review riot against retailers.
You should never strive for a perfect online review rating; in fact, it looks natural if you have one or two less than perfect reviews. Try to make your customers happy but don't worry too much about the single customer who threatens you with a bad online review.
On the other hand, you should worry if a customer threatens you with bad reviews from their entire family and all their friends. The most drastic case where I've seen this happen was when an angry customer damaged what they purchased and the store offered an exchange, but not a refund. The customer was so angry that they couldn't get their money back, they had several friends post more than 30 bad reviews on Facebook, 3 bad reviews on Yelp, and 4 bad reviews on Google+ Local all in a matter of hours.
For your own protection, you always need to educate your customer about their purchases and do your best to avoid inciting an angry online mob.
5. Surge of Website Redesigns
The last time I measured a large percentage of jewelers upgrading their websites was 2010. I expect there will be another large percentage upgrading again in 2014 as jewelers realize that technology has made their website obsolete.
6. Website Designs Will Flatten
Website designs will transition into a less 3D view and more towards a flat design that's similar to what we had 10 years ago, but with easier to use controls.
This transition will take place partially because of the more boxy look of Windows 8.x and Apple's iOS 7. Both user interfaces have removed the rounded corners, the 3D button effects, and design gradients. Website designs will follow this aesthetic shift.
7. More Attention to Mobile Website Design
Yes, this is my 3rd website design related prediction, but I wanted to split them up. Each of the past 4 years was called "the year of mobile," but the reality of that never really sunk in for more jewelry store owners. Most jewelry websites don't function well on mobile devices at all.
2014 will not be the year of mobile. Mobile is already here. 2013 closed out with mobile usage topping 41%.
2014 will be the year when you start to lose money if you let yourself be left further behind without a mobile website. If you don't yet have a mobile site, then it's time to allocate those holiday season profits towards a new internet plan.
8. Google Will Catch All Offenders
Google will catch up to everyone who has ever paid for link building services.
You might have heard about people getting penalized by the Penguin, or having manual actions taken against them, but felt safe because you never got a notice from Google.
The truth is that you're not safe.
Google will systematically notify everyone who has ever paid for fast link building services. If that's you, then your website will be penalized. The cost of the cleanup will be higher, and take longer than the original link building service you paid for.
Your business will suffer drastically until you get it all cleaned up. Don't wait for the proverbial Google Hammer to drop on you, start cleaning up your old link building work now.
How good will these predictions be? We'll find out a year from now when I revisit them again!