In the United Kingdom alone, the total number of business companies (private) was 5.5 million, at the start of the year. Interestingly, nearly 1 out of every 6 of these companies were small businesses. Move on to the United States – and the business scenario over here is even more robust, with more than 18.5 million registered companies. As the number of companies surge and individual revenue/profit figures spike, new trends are being detected. Individual players are gradually adapting them as well – in a bid to gain one up over their competitors. In 2017, we expect these business trends to really gain momentum:
Millennials to phase out Baby Boomers
Irrespective of what domain they belong in, companies need to constantly improve their work processes, adopt more efficient approaches to the way they do business. Millennials are, in general, a creative lot – and they seem the most suited to take up this challenge. By the end of 2017, a large chunk of entrepreneurs around the world will be millennials, while the older ‘Baby Boomers’ will be pushing ever closer to retirement. The presence of relatively young people in different positions will also help in more innovations in workplace.
Rise and rise of e-commerce/m-commerce
Shopify, Vend, 3dCart, Magento – there are lots of excellent web-based tools available, that can be used to create and launch ecommerce platforms for business. A recent worldwide study found that, nearly 59% of all customers were more than willing to buy stuff from the web. With smartphone usage going up at exponential rates and mobile payments becoming more and more mainstream (think: Apple Pay), m-commerce will also be surging in 2017 and beyond. All that the businesses have to do is offer interesting perks and offers to motivate buyers…and sales figures will soar.
App addiction to grow further
The demand for mobile business apps is not an entirely new phenomenon. Over the last 2-3 years, entrepreneurs from all around the globe have launched company apps – convinced by the potential sales/exposure benefits that mobile technology would yield (many of these apps were not of particularly high-quality, but that’s a different matter!). In the next year and beyond, it is expected that practically every business will have their own mobile application. There will be greater emphasis on quality as well, and companies will be contacting specialized mobile app agencies to develop their apps.
Business Intelligence for big data
Companies, tech or otherwise, will become increasingly dependent on advanced business intelligence software tools – including digital dashboards and OLAP systems – for handling big data. These BI tools will go a long way in transforming random data sets into neatly organized, actionable information subsets (e,g., the buying habits of customers, or the latest market demand trends). Right from data curation and secure storage, to ready accessibility and visualization – the new-age BI tools will do them all, and companies will benefit hugely from that.
Thinking beyond email for internal communication
Emails are steadily losing ground to newer collaborative tools for internal communications within a business. By October this year, the total number of daily users of Slack had moved beyond 4 million, and this figure would continue to rise in 2017. The arrival of Slack (and similar other tools) in a big way has done away with the need for employees to pay close attention to their email inboxes and chat boxes for messages from the peers/seniors. However, Slack won’t be totally replacing business email anytime soon – and email will still be the primary medium of interaction for external communication (with clients, stakeholders, other relevant people outside the company).
Note: The importance of social media channels for external communication. With mediums like Facebook and Twitter, precision targeting will be easily possible for businesses – and interactions will become more personalized.
Technology to be used by non-tech people
Not every entrepreneur is a tech wizard, neither can they hope to hire the most skilled tech geeks in the world. However, the need to implement technological tools and solutions in business operations is higher than ever before. In such a scenario, it is only natural that user-friendly, not-too-technical platforms will be launched – to make it easy for those who have minimal technical knowledge to be able stay afloat with the competition. A classic example of this is the ever-growing popularity of WordPress – a content management system (CMS) that enables people to launch websites, even without the required technical knowhow.
Need for responsive business websites
If you think that almost every company worth its salt already has a web portal…well…think again. According to a LSA survey conducted earlier this year, it was found that around 45% of small businesses did not have any websites of their own. From the rest, many websites were not optimized for mobile-viewing (i.e., not responsive). Given that 97% of customers tend to look up products online and check features/reviews before making a purchase-decision, the unavailability of an informative, mobile-friendly website can seriously hamper the development of a company. In 2017, more businesses will avail the services of web design and development companies to create dedicated web business portals. It’s no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ option, websites are now a ‘must-have’.
Online videos to draw in audience
Blog posts are good, updated interactive articles are great – but in the next year, online videos will become the single most most important channel to get potential customers/clients onboard. On average, nearly 65% of all visitors arrive on a company portal after watching short online video clips. Businesses will also start to share messages with users through videos more – given that the latter are likely to be viewed till completion, unlike full blogs and interactive posts (56% vs 28% and 34% respectively). On a YoY basis, there has been a 80% spike in video-watching stats on the web in 2016.
Business communications and markets to become more segmented
Entrepreneurs are gradually coming round to the idea that generic, one-size-fits-all solutions do not work well at all in the business domain. In future, corporate communications (primarily, email correspondences) will become more personalized – with the recipient’s name in the top and other customized information, while those (rather irritating!) mass mailers will become less frequent. In terms of market segmentation too, businesses will start to target more niche markets in 2017 and beyond. This strategy will help them to fulfill the precise requirements of target customers, instead of trying to satisfy larger segments – where the needs of users would vary greatly. Till recently, business owners were wary of targeting segments that were seemingly ‘too small’. That fear is slowly dissipating.
Note: Physical stores that merely deliver products, without any related domain expertise or support, will lose value in future. In order to survive and thrive, these brick-and-mortar stores will have to start providing expert advice, 24×7 consultancy, grievance redressal, and other such add-on services.
10. On-demand services will grow
By the time 2017 is done and dusted, there will be many businesses that will not have any particular products of their own – but will simply connect customers with the things/services they are looking for (establishment of this connection will be their core business). Already, there are food delivery apps like Swiggy that do business in this manner – and have already become fairly successful. On-demand services, like the transportation services Uber provides, will be more and more sought after by users across the globe. It will be all about customer-convenience.
11. Rise of cloud employees
Over the last 5-7 years, geographical boundaries have continued to shrink, at least in the business domain. Tech companies, in particular, will lend strength to this trend further – with the recruitment and management of ‘cloud employees’. The way in which this will work is simple enough: a company will contact a cloud-employee service provider (in another country) and share job descriptions. The latter company will hire workers accordingly, and projects will be completed at these ‘remote offices’. Such offshoring would a go a long way in enabling companies take up more work simultaneously, ensure high quality standards, and ensure that all projects are delivered on time. With communication tools like Skype being used on a regular basis everywhere, entrepreneurs would be able to monitor remote offices and the performances of cloud-employees with ease.
12. Crowdfunding as a big help for startups
By the latter half of 2017, crowdfunding should surpass venture capital as the most important source of funds for startups (as well as for new product launches by established companies). Portals like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe are already used by many entrepreneurs (including even mobile app and game developers) to raise the necessary capital for their projects. What’s more – the use of these crowdfunding sites won’t be limited to fundraising either. Business analysts predict that companies will be able to validate their new products on these sites as well – bringing down the overall risk levels.
13. More emphasis on data security
With businesses having to manage sensitive, personal customer information – they can no longer afford to be lackadaisical about data security standards. In the last couple of years, there have been several cases of high-profile data breaches in the United States alone. From 2017, Europay, Mastercard & Visa (EMV) should become an basic standard for making payments. Most credit/debit cards will have microchips, and the Point of Sale (PoS) terminals will be made completely secure. Companies will also start using other advanced data protection tools, to rule out all forms of unauthorized access and hack attacks. If a business does not pay attention to security standards, it might well be hurtling towards failure.
14. Artificial intelligence and bots
Machine-to-Machine (M2M) learning is expected to grow rapidly in 2017 – and with that, many day-to-day business operations are likely to become automated. Bots, powered by high-end artificial intelligence (AI), is likely to play a big role in both logistics/transportation as well as peer-to-peer communications. Most large stores and malls will have sensor systems installed and monitored. For companies that are more into creative fields of work (design firms, graphic engineering, etc.), virtual reality (VR) tools will also prove to be useful.
Businesses have already started to shift their focus from simply selling products/services to customers, to establishing mutually beneficial connections with the latter. Most companies will start to view environmental considerations seriously too, and change up the tools/resources they use accordingly. Employee training will become more comprehensive, and individuals will be encouraged to develop their natural skills – instead of having responsibilities stacked on them by entrepreneurs. The trends highlighted here – along with many other new ones – will completely revolutionize the concept of business in 2017 and beyond. It’s going to be a fascinating watch!