The year 2018 was a rollercoaster of changes and developments in key sectors such as technology, finance, healthcare, retail and corporate. For this year, here are the 10 business trends that will be tracked.
1. Marketing will get more personalised
Business is becoming more customer-centric, so marketers will need to think about newer and unique ways to attract and engage customers. Campaigns will need to be customised for different target groups. This can also be done at an individual level with mass personalisation. Marketers will need to think of ways to create personalised experiences to deliver more value to the customer.
Influencer marketing will become common and customer reviews and testimonials will be significant this year.
2. Online retail will be complemented by offline
In 2018, we saw ecommerce companies experimenting with (small) retail stores and setting up experience zones. This year, retailers will give customers a larger offline experience. Customers will be able to visit brick-and-mortar stores, examine and try products, and talk to salespeople. They can then order products online. So, physical stores will be about getting closer to customers.
3. More business collaboration and integration
The business ecosystem will further open up to partnerships and collaborations. For instance, banks are collaborating with fintech companies. Banks, insurance companies, and financial institutions are opening up their tightly-controlled systems to startups, sharing APIs and data. Going ahead, competitors will collaborate more, and even market or sell each other’s products for mutual benefit.
Look around for businesses with which you might share synergies, common markets, and common customer profiles. Can you complement each other for mutual benefit? For instance, you may not be strong in logistics or lending. Why not partner with someone who has those strengths? That will give you more time to focus on your core business.
4. Online lending will get simpler, more personalised
Entrepreneurs are wary about approaching lending institutions for a loan as many feel the process is cumbersome and there is a lot of paperwork involved. It’s also a challenge for a small business to get a bank loan. A new wave of P2P lending services came up in 2017-2018. These services were easy to use. One could get a loan within a few days (or a few hours) with minimum effort, even if they had a low credit score. This year, lending services will get simpler and more personalised. Expect to see more cloud-based services backed by powerful analytics technology. One will be able to use these services effortlessly from a mobile device. Also, the loan limit and payback schedules will be personalised based on the borrower’s earnings and past transactions.
5. Traditional players will enter online lending
Learning from the success of non-banking financial institutions in the banking space, traditional financial institutions will also enter the P2P lending space and target small businesses. They will partner with fintech companies for technology innovation. Banks initially invested in P2P lending platforms of alternative lenders and got access to their customer base. But this year, banks will invest in sophisticated analytics technologies to check the credit history of borrowers – and attempt to emulate P2P lending companies.
This means business owners will have more options for borrowing.
6. Payment service companies will evolve to offer more business services
Tracking payments through bank accounts has not been easy for merchants. That’s how a new set of companies emerged. These tech-savvy companies operate in the cloud and simplify the visibility of payments. What’s more, they offer options such as payment links that merchants can share with customers through email, SMS, or WhatsApp. They also support traditional payment methods like credit cards, NEFT/RTGS, wallets, net banking etc. These payment companies want to evolve to become a one-stop shop for merchants.
7. Employees will work from outside the office
Long commutes to work, bad roads, traffic congestion, and the occasional bandh are bad for productivity. That’s why employees are increasingly opting to work from home, cafes, or coworking spaces, and companies are tweaking their policies to build in flexibility to make employees more productive. This also results in cost savings for both employers and employees. Expect to see more companies adopting work-from-home (or work-from-anywhere) policies. A two-year Stanford study shows an astonishing productivity boost in working from home. If you plan to introduce a work-from-home policy, start preparing now.
8. Businesses will focus on employee happiness
Good talent is hard to find and curbing attrition rates will remain a major challenge. And that’s why organisations are beginning to show more empathy and flexibility. It’s not just about salaries - some go to the extent of funding the educational aspirations of their employees. This is in addition to the in-house training and skills development. Keeping employees happy means fulfilling their career aspirations, supporting growth and allowing them to apply their knowledge and skills. This would be another trend to watch this year.
9. Voice search will become popular
A report by BBC estimates only 10 percent of the Indian population (approximately 125 million) can read, write and speak English. This means the rest 90 percent miss out on the internet. And that’s why there is huge potential for voice search. Voice assistants equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) will become standard in mobile phones this year. Business websites are already thinking of introducing voice search as a step beyond chatbots. Imagine speaking to an ecommerce site in your mother tongue and searching for products. This would bridge the digital divide and open up online shopping and other services to the non-English speaking populace.
10. Focus will be on data, analytics, and algorithms
Marketers are keen to know more about customers and go beyond demographics. What is their online behaviour? Why do they abandon shopping carts? What are their preferences? What do they usually buy and when?
The answers to all these questions can come up with good datasets and advanced analytics solutions. Hence, businesses are now developing algorithms and investing in AI. Expect to see a lot more AI and analytics in 2019.
There are other related trends that tie back to these 10 business trends. Here are some questions you could ask yourself - What kind of investments do you want to make in technology such as data analytics and voice search? How will you be a disrupter and try something a traditional player has never dabbled in? And what kind of synergies do you see in potential business partners?