Businesses are not immune to evolution; it comes in a subtle way and primarily through trends discovered as a result of innovation and changing times. This need for innovation calls for the awareness and understanding of major trends that will become imminent for businesses to follow globally. A business’s viability will eventually come down to its ability to follow these trends.
Technology and Innovation
Technology and innovation are the real game-changers in the present age, and this trend will continue to revolutionise not just businesses but the whole world in 2021 and decades to come. Technology has redefined several traditional business concepts, such as the concept of business premises which has been radically changed through virtual interfaces. An employee can be a continent away from the business’s headquarters and still be able to participate in meetings; a customer can be at home while still being able to try (virtually) outfits before buying.
Similarly, automation has shattered traditional bottlenecks, with machines performing repetitive tasks at a much faster pace than humans to take production and efficiency to unprecedented levels. Moving forward, technology will be continuously influencing other business trends through its vitality and ability to change the dynamics of doing business materially. Cloud-based software has introduced businesses to a new form of agility; this allows businesses to process and store data online that can be accessed from anywhere, thus reducing costs of storing data and reducing complexity levels to a bare minimum.
Innovation will keep on catalysing the evolution of technology, introducing efficient ways to handle tasks, sometimes completely changing them, and the businesses that will adapt at a faster pace will eventually emerge as leaders.
Intensified Drive of Automation
Automation, chiefly influenced by technology and innovation, will continue to affect how businesses operate businesses will be adopting this trend wherever possible to reap its benefits. Companies will analyse processes where the human presence can be replaced with machines and robots; this will help them not only with efficiency but will also minimise biases across the organisation resulting from limited human to human interaction.
Where it is not possible to completely shift a process to machines or robots, companies will identify the parts of processes that can be automated, such as negotiating a deal still has to have human involvement, but the admin work can be automated, and the machines can be tuned to work in synchronisation with the human counterparts.
The shift towards automation has also been intensified because of the prevailing pandemic, where much of the workforce was restricted by nationwide lockdowns, and eventually, the global economy suffered. This has moved employers, across the globe, towards automation, leaving minimal responsibility to humans where possible. This doesn’t mean that humans will be made redundant, some might lose their jobs, but the future is for those who will carve skills to work alongside machines.
Managing Social Engagement
Social engagement has always been crucial to expanding a business’s customer base, but the introduction of social media and its wide reach among the masses has provided a new way that is far more productive than any other to connect and converse with potential clients.
Social media has many benefits for businesses as it not only delivers its huge number of interested users to a business but, also, with every user engaged and served, the business gets free access to their network, with whom they are likely to share their positive experience thus generating further clients. This continues as a chain reaction, i.e. from network to network, generating more customers and driving revenues up.
The increased attention directed to a business through social media can also help it with brand recognition, therefore empowering it to dictate product price to a dedicated customer base.
Businesses will also focus on effective content marketing through social media to generate more leads, and in doing so, they will focus more on brand personality content, i.e. associating human characteristics with the brand that can help potential customers to relate with the brands thus making the engagement stronger and realising the chances of converting a lead into a customer.
Data: The New Gold
Companies in the future will be focusing more on data as it has turned out to be one of the most rewarding assets. The increase in data’s importance stems from its status of being more realistic and not wholly based on assertions. The Internet and social media have made it easier to study data coming in from multiple users; being originated from the potential customer himself is what makes it superior to what companies estimate on their own.
This data then drives targeted marketing, i.e. tailored marketing campaigns for people with different inclinations; this helps organisations better plan their resources and generate more sales from fewer resources.
Businesses will collect data to analyse it and identify patterns of customer behaviour; this information will then help companies plan and produce commodities that might be fine-tuned at different levels to serve potential customers that might belong to different sexes, age groups or geographical areas.
One thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has asserted is that work can be done remotely with much more productivity. Employees that were told to work from home during the period of enforced lockdown worldwide may continue their pandemic routine. Companies like Google, Facebook, HSBC and Salesforce etc., are considering a hybrid working model, i.e. employees will attend office 1-3 days a week.
Remote working will completely transform the future of work, and companies understand that it might be difficult for employees to set up an apparatus to work from home, which is why employees are getting financial support from their employers. It is now being estimated that 70% of the employees will be working remotely by 2025; Twitter, the US-based social media giant, has informed its workers that they may continue to work from home indefinitely. Facebook also has plans to shift a significant chunk of its workforce to remote working conditions. Remote working is the new normal, and more companies will follow suit in future.
Evolving Business Models
Businesses have had setbacks in the past, too, like the 2008 Financial Crisis and the Great Depression of 1929, but the pandemic was much more worse in magnitude than any of its predecessor calamities. It disrupted supplies, enforced lockdowns, instilled fear in society as a whole, leading to voluntary social distancing.
All of these events were unthinkable in the pre-pandemic world that was referred to as a global village, but the Covid-19 led unpredictable events that urged businesses to look beyond the horizon and adapt. Some companies got permanently shut off, but the smarter ones got a hold of the changing circumstances and acted accordingly to adjust.
The remodelling that took place in the hospitality industry is the most noticeable, i.e. some restaurants have resorted to catering for just the online orders; this resulted from the fact that half-full restaurants, due to coronavirus SOPs, cannot cover rental expenses. Some restaurants that couldn’t afford to go online due to the composition of their dishes have placed mannequins dressed in clothes from different brands, i.e. generating additional income through cross-industry cooperation while ensuring social distancing.
In Italy and Austria, some of the clothing and textile companies have shifted their operations to help alleviate the shortage of PPE, such as masks, while Amazon, an online movie watching platform, had to shore up the technical side of its operations as the demand surged. Businesses in future will try to increase their readiness to adopt the changing trends after experiencing the unpredictable events amidst global lockdown.
Shift Towards Local Supply Chains
Global supply chains were jolted as the world went through rigorous lockdowns; the disruption has led many businesses and countries to source supplies locally. The situation worsened as the world went through a severe shortage of essential PPE and medical supplies, mostly coming from China. The ongoing trade war between the US and China (the world’s production house) has also discouraged businesses to source supplies globally (from China, in most cases).
Despite the vulnerabilities of global supply chains, it would be impossible for businesses to shift all the production from Asia to more developed and expensive European and American markets. This doesn’t mean that supply chains will be left untouched, exposed to a potential threat in the future; businesses will shore up against the weaknesses highlighted in the process and look for more reliable sources.
If the supplies are mainly based on exotic and high-end products, it will be further challenging for the businesses to replicate such products at home as the technology is not so widely available and only a select few countries are capable of producing tech-savvy products, such as China, Germany, Japan, and the US. In such cases, businesses might look for further diversification to tap a secondary resource if the primary one, for some reason, can’t deliver.
Sustainable Growth and Green Energies
Economies around the world are primarily fueled by fossil fuels that have an alarmingly dangerous carbon footprint. The excessive CO2 and other greenhouse gasses have triggered global warming even further, leading to disastrous climatic conditions just like the recent cold wave that hit Texas in the US; the loss inflicted by the calamity is estimated to be around $50 billion.
The environmental costs associated with the use of conventional fuels is too high, and the world is realising it fast. This has already made countries pledge to quit using fossil fuels and shift to green energy, making growth sustainable and not at the expense of nature. China, for instance, the world’s largest carbon emitter, has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint to zero by 2060. Similarly, under President Biden’s leadership, the US has pledged to invest $2 trillion to push green energy programs.
The required momentum for green energy generation has already been set, and more countries and businesses will flock under its banner for two practical reasons, one, to reduce the global warming that is making earth unlivable with each passing day and, two, to enjoy goodwill in markets that value responsible attitude and sustainable development approach.
Rising Middle Classes
The middle-class population of the world, i.e. people who spend between $10 to $100 daily, is on the rise, and much of the rise can be attributed to the Asian countries of China and India. According to some estimates, by 2030, Asia will be home to some 3 billion middle-class people, i.e. ten times more than North America and five times more than Europe.
A rise of this magnitude among the consumer class of the developing economies will drive disposable income to unprecedented levels. Businesses worldwide might look for expansion to such nations; capital investment will surge over the years to cash in on the rising middle class. The technology spillover might also happen due to the relocation of operational facilities by tech firms to such countries to benefit from the cheap labour and the ripe markets. This will undoubtedly intrigue businesses to act fast to catch the boat.
Defining a Purpose
The rising middle class and eradicating poverty has made education accessible to the masses around the world. The young graduates who are making their way up the ladder are more driven to work for a cause, a purpose that can keep their motivations high and their energies channelised.
Businesses that have defined purposes and clear goals in sight will attract ambitious and more talented people. This will develop goal congruence in the organisation, thus improving the overall focus on targets.
The world has witnessed a reflection of these trends as they are all driven by scenarios already taking place at a limited scale; this makes it even more critical for businesses to learn about them and ponder as to how they can introduce these trends to their business. Time is short, and the circumstances are changing rapidly; those who will resonate with the changing tides of the business world will reap the benefits and will be in a better position to adapt to any future trends.