It’s a new year.
That means it is a good time to look ahead and try to predict what businesses will need to focus on in order to stay ahead of the game.
As I was thinking about this post, a few things occurred to me.
First, many of the things that I have on my list are things that people have been talking about for a few years. This may be due to the fact that technology is finally catching up to the hopes and dreams of innovators around the globe. This could also be due to the fact that smart people try to think in terms of what the world will be like 10, 20, or 30 years from now, and plan their short-term goals so that they are meeting the needs of consumers now and in the future.
Second, the lists that we make each year don’t only apply to the year ahead. They build off the past and hopefully look to the future. Therefore, it is not surprising that the items on last year’s list could easily be on someone’s list for 2014.
Third, although now is a good time to look ahead, smart businesses need to be doing this all year long. Because technology is advancing at such a fast pace, something new could be invented or released mid-year that could change the direction of business.
The List So Far
As I mentioned, the things I was watching in 2013 are still relevant in 2014. Therefore, instead of creating a whole new list, I am just going to add to it. For review, here is the 2013 list:
1) Rapid Advancements in Technology
2) Mobile (User Experience and Marketing)
3) Mobile Payments
4) Mobile-Influenced Merchandising
5) Privacy Issues
6) The Evolution of Marketing and Public Relations
7) Emerging Markets
Note: As I do each year, I suggest checking out the “100 things to Watch in 2014” list published by JWT Intelligence. As was the case in the past, this year’s list has some very interesting predictions.
Additional Things I Will Be Watching in 2014
While this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are some additional things that I think businesses should be watching this year.
8) Internet of Things The definition of the Internet of Things is not completely agreed upon. That said, my definition is most aligned with the definition provided by SAP. According to Wikipedia.org, SAP’s definition of the Internet of Things is, “A world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, and where the physical objects can become active participants in business processes. Services are available to interact with these ‘smart objects’ over the Internet, query and change their state and any information associated with them, taking into account security and privacy issues.” This will not only change business, it will change how we live. (The most common example that I have heard about is the refrigerator that can tell you when you are out of milk. This technology can and is being used to help companies meet the needs of consumers in all areas of life.)
In the short-term, the use of this type of technology can help companies gain a competitive advantage over the competition. In the future, this type of technology will be table stakes.
9) The Evolution of Retail It is inevitable that advancements in technology will change the way people shop. In order for brands and retailers to compete, they are going to have to take many variables into account and offer creative ways for consumers to purchase products and services from them. Last year, I pointed out that mobile phones are influencing the way people shop at brick-and-mortar stores. But the changes don’t stop there. Innovative companies have found ways for consumers to purchase products from them in ways that we never thought possible. Need some examples? Look at number 11, 14, 59, and 79 on the JWT Intelligence “100 Things to Watch in 2014” list.
10) Omni-Channel Retail Although this is part of the evolution of retail, it is important enough to be included by itself. According to Wikipedia.org, “Omni-Channel Retailing is the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Retailers are meeting the new customer demands by deploying specialized supply chain strategy software.”
As Wikipedia points out, “With omni-channel retailing, marketing is made more efficient with offers that are relative to a specific consumer determined by purchase patterns, social network affinities, website visits, loyalty programs, and other data mining techniques.”
Note: Some people have used the phrase onmi-channel marketing. However, it looks like more people are going with onmi-channel retail. It seems like they are basically talking about the same thing (i.e., not only having the brand reach consumers via multiple marketing channels, but having each of the channels know how the customer interacted with the brand in the past.)
11) A Global Marketplace Thanks to the latest technology, we have access to and can sell products to consumers located in all areas of the globe. However, the Internet is not making us homogeneous. In fact, as I pointed out in a post last year, research has shown that the Internet may reinforce regional differences. The key is knowing what customers want and filling their needs. This is going to call for increased awareness of the needs of each demographic group (region, political affiliation, income level, educational attainment, etc.) in the market(s) that you are selling to.
The flip side of the coin is that businesses around the globe can now compete for your local customers, increasing the need for improved efficiency and quality, not to mention having an effect on how you price your products and services.
12) 3D Printing Wikipedia.org defines 3D printing as, “a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.” The rapid improvement of this technology has made it economically feasible for people to use it to create a wide variety of products. With it, the technology brings a host of legal and security concerns that need to be addressed. If 3D printers become inexpensive enough, this technology has the potential to change business as we know it today.
13) Cyberattacks By now, everyone has heard about hackers attacking companies and getting access to customers’ personally identifiable information (PII). When this includes customers’ financial information, it can cause a public relations nightmare. However, now that we are connecting things that we use in the terrestrial world to the Internet (see #8, The Internet of Things), just think about the problems that could arise. This is something that all businesses need to think about. This is even more important for companies that are helping bring the latest technologies to our homes and offices.
14) Ethics This is something that all businesses should be thinking about. In fact, it is going to become more important as time goes on. Businesses that deliver a quality product while being friendly to employees, customers, and the environment are going to win in the long term. And, when it comes to using the latest technology for business, companies that push the envelope are often going to be rewarded. However, businesses that go too far and make customers uneasy or upset could feel the financial impact. While I am often an advocate for using the latest and greatest technology, I am also aware that sometimes just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should. A little forethought can go a long way.
So there you have it. My list of things that I will be watching in 2014 and beyond.
Is there something that you think that I should have included? If so, please let me know…
Photo credits: Zach Copley and Samuel Mann on Flickr.