Each year brings new challenges and opportunities for business owners. So you can hit the ground running next year, we’ve put together an overview of four key business developments and what to look out for in 2019.
#1. Move over Millennials
The oldest Millennials are now 35 years old and are moving up the career ladder. This makes way for Generation Z, the next tribe entering the workforce. These people are best known as being the first generation born with technology in their hands. As a result they are very quick at learning new software, tools and techniques. For this generation it’s all about getting work done anywhere (leveraging technology). However ‘anywhere’ isn’t defined as working remotely. Rather, it’s about flexibility of hours and the ability to blur personal and work life. And you thought Millennials were a handful!
#2. Technology vs Security
We continue to see technology develop to support both the need for smarter gadgets (smart TVs) and unmet needs (Airbnb). Regardless of which category it falls into, the pace of change is accelerating and this is definitely an area that you need to watch from a competitive advantage perspective as well as business efficiency. Check out:
IoT – Internet of Things: this refers to computer devices that connect to each other such as smart watches, smart homes, smart glasses etc.
Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning: capturing and analysing data enables machines to react, predict and respond. Examples include Hello Barbie that listens to a child speak and after transmitting this data to a server, comes back with an appropriate response.
3D Printing: This continues to evolve in terms of the materials and applications. We are starting to see the first bio-printing of organs, skin, tissues, bones along with dental products, bicycles and construction material – just to name a few.
Virtual Reality: this media is being used primarily for education and entertainment purposes.
Cloud-based Software: with low capital investment, and accessibility this is becoming the software solution of choice.
Chatbots: these are increasingly being used as a first customer touch-point and utilise machine learning to provide a rich experience for online visitors and users of mobile apps.
While all these developments present fantastic opportunities, it does mean that privacy issues, data sharing and cyber crime move into the spotlight. Cyber criminals use a variety of techniques such as ransomeware, viruses, phishing emails and webcam blackmail scams to frustrate users or extract money. In New Zealand we are seeing more than 39,000 attacks every year costing businesses $250m - $400m. Make sure your business has a policy for managing and using technology (including authentication), appropriate insurance and check out CERT NZ if you have any questions or need further resources.
#3. Using authenticity to engage prospects and customers
The purchase-making process has become increasingly complex as a result of technology and how people socialise. Gone are the days when marketers could rely on prospects to move through a logical process of gathering information, assessing it, making a purchase and then evaluating the purchase. We now see people gathering information about a brand, product or business through social channels such as social media and social groups and clubs long before any purchase. In addition, we are seeing a massive uptake in live video as people seek out more authentic offers in the crowded media. Real-time connections are more engaging as they give a business a face and a soul. Have a think about how you can use video to show the human side of your business. Alongside this drive for ‘real’ connections is the rise of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Aligning your brand with industry experts, or creating your own in-house ‘gurus’ helps consumers filter marketing hype from genuine knowledge.
#4. Employees before customers
This is a hard one for business owners. For years we have heard that the customer is king. It’s an easy one to accept given the link between customers, sales and profit. Research has now positively linked employee satisfaction with customer satisfaction. In other words, if you look after your employees and provide good leadership then improved productivity and sales will follow. We use the phrase ‘the customer is king, but employees are the kingdom’. Use this free online employee engagement tool to find out how your business performs.
Whether you are excited or anxious about these trends, one thing we know for sure is we can’t stop change. The best thing you can do is remain curious.
“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.”