Being able to start a new year with a clean slate is invigorating, and it’s full of excitement and optimism.
That can be optimism for the performance of your business, or excitement for the “next big thing” that could radically change the landscape for businesses across the country.
Here, the experts at Brighter Business look into the future and predict the biggest trends in the business world for the year ahead – and there are definitely a few things to be excited about.
Tech collaboration between large corporates and SMEs
The rate at which technology is developing is, at times, frightening. It’s hard to keep abreast of the latest developments and emerging technologies.
In an effort to remain relevant and prevent themselves from falling behind, larger organisations without technological pedigree are increasingly turning towards smaller, more agile start-up business.
The aim for larger businesses is to understand how these technologies may be implemented, while also giving small business the ability to work with new partners, developing their products and propositions while also having the opportunity to network.
Expect more collaboration, and more opportunities for businesses to partner, as more technologies develop.
Big, bad data: The opportunities and the challenges
According to the MIT Sloan Review, bad data is harmful to companies, costing as much as 25% of revenue.
Bad data is data which is incomplete, inaccurate, or irrelevant. When bad data is used, it can create issues down the line including system inefficiencies (half of your outbound email list bouncing, anyone?), irritated customers, and time wasted through repetitive actions.
As such, data and its importance to successful businesses is likely to become one of the central themes of 2019. With businesses all over the world relying on data to reach new customers and retain existing ones, it’s important that data is “healthy”: accurate, complete, reviewed frequently (and purged, where appropriate, in-line with your own cleansing procedures and with a view to remaining compliant with GDPR).
Additionally, an increase in the amount of data available to analysts means that there is ever more insight and information available to drive decisions. This means that data visualisation will continue to grow in popularity.
Visualisation helps analysts to tell compelling stories and gain insights into vast pools of data, enabling the improved communication of complex information. This, in turn, helps to drive smart business decisions.
Data poses as many threats as opportunities, in particular when it comes to machine learning and artificial intelligence. A recent poll has found that 41% of businesses are concerned that AI represents an existential threat to their business.
Similarly, legal and regulatory obligations around data protection – particularly the introduction of GDPR in 2018 – make this an area of concern for many businesses. Data security, and good practice around data management, will continue to be important in 2019 and beyond.
Improved customer communications
Communicating with customers, both existing and potential, has always been of central importance. The growth of digital platforms has helped to diversify the ways in which businesses are able to communicate; social media in particular has changed the game, making instant communication the norm.
Chatbots are now becoming more and more common – 2018 was a breakthrough year in the automation of basic customer interactions. Facebook now allows business pages to set up automated chat to answer basic customer questions, which gives businesses some scope for experimenting with the format.
We expect 2019 to see more nuanced and capable versions of chatbots being deployed by businesses to help answer customer questions and generally engage with customers in near-real-time, providing depth to the customer experience.
However, this could also drive a shift towards a more “human” angle in customer service. With our days becoming increasingly saturated withtechnology, consumers may wish to experience a more personal service, whether online or in store.
The rise of conscientious sustainability
With growing awareness of the damage – current and potential – to our planet caused by unsustainable practices, those business that put environmental and ethical concerns at the top of their agendas will be the ones which flourish in 2019.
David Attenborough highlighted the very real and damaging effects of plastic pollution when his document Blue Planet II aired, and climate change moved from an abstract concept to a tangible problem as the UK careened from snowstorm to heatwave.
Business have a leading role to play, both in reducing the use of plastics and in thinking how they can reduce their own impact (and by extension their customers’ impact) on a planet which is coming under increasing stress.
It’s not a simple task, nor an inexpensive one, but it is vitally important every business and individual plays their part.
Work perks and wellbeing
As millennials have come to make up a greater percentage of the workforce, businesses have had to adapt and offer something more interesting to employees, including innovative ways of driving engagement.
This means that pensions are out, and ping-pong tables are in. Okay, pensions aren’t entirely out, but the point is that many workplaces are switching to more material benefits that create a distinct culture. Office dogs, flexible working (work from home Wednesdays, anyone?), free drinks on a Friday afternoon, and all manner of other perks are now presented alongside salaries and job titles, framing workplaces as a place to be as much as a place to work.
This shift has been to place a greater emphasis on the workplace as a space which is as much about wellbeing as it is work. Encouraging sustainable working habits and preventing employees from burnout is one of the motivators for this – even the most talented employees can be blunted by an intense, uninviting workplace.
Offering employees a range of benefits will continue to be a prominent trend in 2019. One popular benefit is flexible working; technology enables people to work from anywhere, even on the move, and workplace benefits are shown to improve employee engagement – with a commensurate positive impact on business performance.
Better than caffeine…
Or not, depending on how squeamish you are about electric shocks.
Admittedly it’s not as bad as it sounds. A research department of the US Air Force has been experimenting with ways to improve concentration overlong periods – and they’ve found that stimulating the brain with electrical current has helped to overcome the natural dip in productivity which comes after a period of concentration.
The researchers have found that concentration naturally dips after 20 minutes – but by stimulating the brain with small jolts of electrical current, researchers were able to extend this to almost six hours without a drop off.
That’s certainly one way to energise your 2019. Time for another Christmas break, anyone..?