Collaborative customer interfaces, social co-browsing, mobile virtual worlds, and social TV – these are all trends to watch for the next five to 10 years, according to a report from Stamford, Conn.-based IT research firm Gartner Inc.

Haven’t heard of these? No worries – many of them are new and just starting to dawn on the popular consciousness. Gartner groups these under “social software,” listing them all as concepts that have just reached the beginning of what it calls the “hype cycle.”

Every year, Gartner releases its hype cycle graphic, showing clients the maturity of emerging technologies. It also demonstrates how those technologies can potentially help them solve business problems or unearth new opportunities.

Click to enlarge image.
Click to enlarge image.

New technologies typically go through five stages, according to the hype cycle. First, it starts with a “technology trigger,” when the technology first reaches the radar of early adopters and the media. But at this point, no real products exist just yet – just the ideas. It then swoops up into a peak of “inflated expectations” as people begin hearing more and more of its potential.

But at some point, a technology will drop down into a “trough of disillusionment,” as experiments fail. However, early adopters may continue to support the concept. The technology may then pick back up and reach the “slope of enlightenment,” as people realize there are potential uses and benefits of the technology. Things finally come to a head at a “plateau of productivity,” when people generally recognize the technology is relevant and can be broadly applied to the market.

For example, right now, gamification, social networks, social media analysis, social media metrics, and crowdsourcing are at top of “peak of inflated expectations” on Gartner’s hype cycle. With all of those huddling around that peak, a lot of companies are indeed offering products and services around those trends, with media fueling much of the excitement as well.

For comparison’s sake, mobile social networks and social media monitors have already reached the “plateau of productivity,” Gartner says. That means they’ve passed through the fires of criticism and disillusionment and have demonstrated in fact, they can make money.

In the meantime, here are some of the new trends Gartner expects to take off within the next decade:

1. Collaborative customer interfaces
While this almost looks like customer relationship management software, it does one better by connecting a customer service agent and a customer directly. The two share the same live business application, meaning their interaction becomes extremely personalized and customers feel as though they’ve truly taken part in resolving their issues.

2. Social co-browsing
At some point, one or more people will be able to share the same Web space on a social network. People can be in any physical location, but they can look at a browser at the same time.
The idea is that companies can eventually allow happy customers to show other potential customers a site, helping them explain their own experiences by sharing their screens.

3. Mobile virtual worlds
Gartner describes mobile virtual worlds as simulated environments, with people using avatars on their mobile devices to interact with each other. Right now, it’s mostly tweens or teens playing games like The Sims, but Gartner predicts marketers, advertisers, and customer service as being areas where companies could take advantage of this innovation.

4. Social TV
In many ways, viewers are already using this now through broadband-connected TVs, or by using companion screens like media tablets. Viewers can either watch linear TV programming in real time, or they can get on-demand content and add on social features to what they’re watching.

Broadcasters may not get any revenue directly from social TV, but the idea is disruptive. Already we’re seeing social TV being used for measuring TV metrics and ratings, but what it really does is allow for viewer interaction with content. Gartner calls it “unpredictable,” but open to innovation and open for people to find ways to monetize it.

While a lot of these predictions are just theory and speculation for the present, it may be wise for businesses to think about where the ball is rolling.

“Given the rapid advance of social software in terms of adoption and sophistication, CIOs and other IT leaders in all organizations — irrespective of size, industry and region — should frequently review their assumptions, strategies and competitive positioning,” said Jeffrey Mann, Gartner’s vice-president of research, in a statement.

Mann added companies need to constantly evolve their strategies if they expect to stay relevant and successful. After all, we need only look at Kodak Inc. or Blockbuster LLC to see companies that failed to innovate and keep abreast of new trends.

Analysts are slated to discuss the future for social collaboration at the Gartner summit in London, from Sept. 16 to 17.

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+
More Articles