Belfast Telegraph

What does 2013 hold for the tech sector?

We asked e-commerce specialist Export Technologies and business data firm 23sparks what they see in their crystal ball

Daniel Loughlin of Belfast-based e-commerce platform provider and consultancy Export Technologies said:

2012 was another record year for ecommerce.

In the UK round £75bn was spent on online retail, with £4.6bn spend during the peak Christmas shopping week December 3 to 10.

An interesting headline that hit the news was the nature of the sales of John Lewis. Many of the big players in e-commerce like Amazon have been 'pure-play' online having no high street presence.

However, John Lewis is a traditional high street brand, and this year it revealed that 44.3% of its sales on the run up to Christmas were online - with overall the internet accounting for 25% of its sales in 2012.

In our view this represents an interesting shift.

From 2010 onwards we increasingly noticed high value brands becoming much more interested in who is selling them online, and internet trading agreements from brands becoming mainstream and stricter.

'Pureplay' online retailers potentially add less value to a brand than the retail and online (multichannel) seller. Brands in our view will likely set increasingly stricter criteria of who can sell online, and having a real high street presence will play an important part in accessing these key brands to sell. This will lead to a rise in multichannel selling.

For our own clients in online retailing, we saw growth rates from Christmas 2012 vs 2011 averaging round 35% growth. Like all retail, online success in 2013 will depend on the market, the strategy, the internet trading agreements, the people and the technology employed in an increasingly multichannel and complex retail world.

Diarmid Sloan, co-founder of 23sparks, a business data solutions consultancy in Warrenpoint, Co Down, said:

Last year saw the introduction of the term "big data" which is a phrase for data which is too large to be dealt with using traditional methods such as databases.

The term big refers not just to the huge volume of information, but the velocity at which it is being accumulated, the wide variety of formats and sources, from which it originates, and the veracity or accuracy of that data.

For years businesses have been collecting more data than they know what to do with, and quite often business owners aren't even aware of the sheer scales involved. A recent report by technology trend consultants, IDC/EMC estimates that a mere 0.5% of the world's data is being analysed, it appears that most businesses are data-rich, but information-starved.

This year will see the mainstream adoption of the trend of mining information from the ever-growing pit of raw data in a bid to help businesses gain competitive advantage. Almost half of companies that out-perform their peers have well defined business data strategies focussed on their core business goals, coupled with the skills to help them collect all relevant data, organise it and unearth the nuggets of information held within.

The challenge for small to medium-sized enterprises in 2013 will be to step beyond conventional business intelligence solutions which only allows them to analyse what has happened, and move to the next level where it will aid decision making and real-time predictions of what might happen in the immediate future.

By deriving informed insights it will help businesses take innovative steps to save costs and increase customer loyalty which will ultimately lead to a growth in sales.