As time races ahead and we move into another year, it’s valuable to look at what we can expect from the new innovations and advancements that are coming our way.
As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to keep on top of these trends so that you can future- proof your business and tap into real opportunities that will inevitably affect your business.
If you know what’s going to be hot 3-5 years from now, you can start pivoting your products and services to meet those future demands.
At the very least, doing a little research into what the futurists predict, means that your better educated and prepared, and potentially one step ahead of your competition.
To make it easy, I’ve done a lot of this research and reading for you.
Below I’ve highlighted what I think are five of the most topical trends for small business owners.
1. You’re Holding the Future in Your Hands
I bet you didn’t realize that, did you? That smartphone you’re addicted to and can always be found on is, in fact, going to replace even the smartest of laptops. Everything is going mobile baby! There are already android phones that are as powerful as laptops, and you can just hook them up to a monitor and keyboard and use them in the same way.
The number of useful free and paid apps is going to continue to rise. You can already use your mobile as a merchant point-of-sale terminal, as a scanner, GPS and personal assistant (if you have voice command prompt tool `Siri’ enabled).
2. Power to the Internet and Cyber Hackers
As Thomas Malnight pointed out in the Economist, we have more digital freedom than ever, but with that comes a `big brother’ society. As you know, information and knowledge is power and now, more than ever, we have such a vast amount of both at our fingertips.
Personally, you can use it as a competitive advantage, especially if you adopt a `first to market’ approach by taking this information and making it dead easy for your clients to consume that saves them time, money or makes them smarter, happier or less overwhelmed.
But with that comes a new breed of cyber crime, and even cyber wars as security becomes paramount. The more you make available, using the cloud tools, social media and through remote learning sites, the more they will want to tap into what you’re doing. Expect security measures to tighten up a lot as a result, and be prepared to invest in protecting your digital footprint. If you’re interested in learning more, I wrote about how to protect your private parts on social media and also how to avoid your blog being taken prisoner.
3. Simplifying Information Overload
Face it, we live in a world where we are constantly connected, and the average American consumes, on average, 11-12 hours of information a day! No wonder we get overwhelmed and stressed out. That’s why I highly recommend going on a digital sabbatical regularly during your week and definitely taking weekends off.
The plus side is that services and brands that remove some of that clutter, offer the chance to disconnect, and give consumers some space will be in increasing demand. So if you’re launching a product or app to help simplify someone’s life or the daily tasks they undertake, then make sure you ship it. If you’re in the business of (or thinking of) running off site retreats or getaways, then think about how you can make these even more relevant to those in dire need of looking after their mental or physical well-being.
4. Quality Over Quantity
Driven by environmental, economic, and social concerns, people want more out of everything they buy. That will come through not just in what they purchase, but how as well. Expect to see more bartering, renting, and swapping. So does this mean you have to provide more for less, or discount heavily?
Personally, I think quite the opposite. While you should always look to provide incredible quality in whatever you do, there’s a return to providing boutique services and offerings. In an age where people can get most `how-to’ information for free online, your strength will come in packaging it in a way that adds value to your customer’s life and enriches what they do. It’s like the return of the boutique travel agent who give superior service to you and customize your entire holiday, even though you can spend hours yourself researching and booking it all online.
5. The New Digital and Mobile Bank
As a Suitcase Entrepreneur I hate checks, deposit slips and physically going into banks. Every time I call my bank, who’s put my card on hold for suspicious activity (namely me using it in too many different countries), they ask me for my address, landline and all those things I just don’t have as a digital nomad.
Luckily the financial systems are changing (but not fast enough in my mind) to recognize the online nature of all we do, and our location independent tendencies. Digital wallets like Google Wallet and mobile banking like Chase bank’s cool smartphone app (where you can bank checks through your phone by taking a photo), are opening the door for us to manage our finances from anywhere and make payments from our hand.
As consumers become more trusting of using tools like PayPal’s mobile payment app, we will find ourselves in an increasingly cashless society. Banks are so last year. We are the new face of the financial institution.