We took a look at business trends for 2016 last year, but what new developments should businesses be aware of in the months ahead? And are they worth implementing? In an increasingly competitive marketplace it always pays to stay ahead of the curve and there are some notable trends on the horizon for 2017.
Whether it’s making sure you’re using customer details in the most efficient manner or putting in place an automated assistant for tedious tasks, business trends in 2017 are set to have a technological slant, but some of the more traditional ideas about doing business are still set to be adapted over the year.
The march of technological progress is showing no signs of slowing down in 2017, but as well as having standalone applications, robotics and automated programs are increasingly being incorporated into everyday operations for big and small businesses.
As well as Amazon using robots to shift stock around its vast warehouses and ‘driverless’ cars being tested on the world’s roads, automation also has less noticeable applications that are becoming increasingly common among businesses.
These can include human-imitating chat bots and simple automated email programs.
Offering a summary of how this can help out a business, Creative Click Media founder Adam Binder says;
‘Taking the manual labour out of essential marketing functions, such as email blasts and social media posts…will help companies reclaim valuable time. It allows marketing teams to refocus their energy on bigger projects’.
This trend hasn’t been without its controversy, however; in early 2017, a Japanese insurance company made headlines when it replaced staff members with artificial intelligence in a cost-saving measure. This story represents one of the future problems that may crop up with automation – the balance between keeping more people in work at a higher cost or reducing staff numbers and potentially seeing a reduction in creativity and innovation.
Our Verdict: Automation is a balancing act. It may be better to automate minor tasks and the ordering systems of your business instead of jumping in the deep end and swapping human employees for lines of computer code.
One of the great challenges for businesses in this period of mass communication has been customer retention – making sure that a one-time visitor or spender turns into a life-time customer through positive interactions with a company or business.
One method of retention that is already taking off in 2017 is personalisation – making sure that any messages sent to customers are as individual as possible.
This trend goes hand-in-hand with making smart usage of customer data, just as shops offer vouchers based on what you regularly buy and online stores can recommend items based on your purchase history.
That means that while email marketing is still a viable option to keep customers coming back, the mass market mailshot is gradually being replaced with more specific, targeted emails based on a customer’s history with a company and their routine habits.
Summarising the situation at present, Information Age Editor Ben Rossi says;
‘2017 will see a growing maturity in the personalisation activities of businesses as they draw on past experiences, not all of which were positive, and new technologies to [filter] their marketing and customer communications down to a market of one’.
Our Verdict: Personalisation can be highly effective when done right, but it takes testing and research beforehand to make sure that marketing messages are seen as friendly pointers, rather than implicit demands from ‘Big Brother’.
Unfortunately for business owners, with every technological innovation there seems to be someone in the shadows prepared to undermine or exploit it. 2017 is sadly expected to be no exception in this regard, with cyber invasions and data ransoming methods becoming increasingly refined. As Level 3 Communications Senior Vice President of Global Security Services Chris Richter points out;
‘It is becoming easier for hackers to make use of big data tools to assimilate details about their targeted victims. Retailers, small and large, need to protect their data; no one is too small to be a target’.
An increasing focus on the ‘paperless office’ has only raised the stakes for business owners, as well as increasing the need for proper cybersecurity measures.
Our Verdict: Hackers, viruses and malware are always going to be a danger, but by investing in some effective antivirus software and not takings risks online, the danger to personal and customer data can be minimised.
Something that really increased in popularity in 2016 as winter approached was a novel way of managing home heating without even being in the house – the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).
The basic principle is to implement wireless connectivity throughout the home as well as within objects and equipment, so you can ‘tell’ a heater to start warming up the house before you get in, or turn off the lights without getting out of bed.
Other applications include putting analysis technology inside sporting equipment like tennis rackets, so that player performance can be recorded, analysed and worked on.
This technology has had varying success so far, with a few missteps causing some to label the trend as a gimmick. Redis Labs Vice President of Product Marketing, Leena Joshi, has a more optimistic outlook, however, predicting that;
‘2017 will be the year we move past the “wow” phase and into [questions of] how we securely and effectively bring IoT to the enterprise, how do we handle the high speed data ingest, and how do we optimize analytics and decisions based on IoT data’.
Our Verdict: This trend bears approaching with caution; the IoT is still in its infancy and making a wi-fi toaster or a cloud-streaming pair of trainers runs the risk of not seeing a return on the investment.
With businesses taking a more cautious approach to hiring these days, it should come as little surprise that employees are increasingly returning to familiar haunts in the hopes of reemployment.
Assuming that an employee left under favourable circumstances, welcoming them back into the fold can prove a highly beneficial move, as LinkedIn Vice President of Global Talent Acquisition Brendan Browne says;
‘[Boomerang employees] bring with them new experiences, connections, points-of-view and even potential customers’.
Our Verdict: Letting a star employee go can be difficult, but if they return there’s a double advantage of prior experience in the field as well as direct knowledge about company operations, which raises their potential contributions tenfold.
Reading through a text-heavy email is alright for some, but the trend is increasingly turning to consumers looking for videos to learn more about a business or company in a concise way.
This trend ties into others that will crop up in 2017, such as personalisation and data management; if a customer is only interested in a certain business aspect or service, then a focused video in an email will have a much greater effect.
Increased video content comes into play when people visit company sites as well; Forbes Contributor and Business Speaker Ian Altman points out that;
‘Providing video as a source of valuable content to address issues or answer questions helps the consumer feel like they know you better than if they had just read an article’.
Our Verdict: A catchy jingle or a slick presentation can stick in people’s minds, but it takes real consideration for an advertising or informational video to win over the audience. Practice makes perfect, so it might be best to try different presentation ideas that reinforce your brand before settling on the best one for your business.
With a new US President in place and the UK ready to start leaving the EU, 2017 is set to be a busy one when it comes to changing and possibly challenging business conditions. Stay up to date with all the latest news that could affect your business in 2017 on the TorFX Blog.
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