I spent a bit of time over my extended New Year break (it seems like years ago now!) thinking about what the business of the future might look like. That prompted me to put pen to paper and look at what business owners could be thinking about now to set themselves up for the future. The following tips are designed to give you food for thought as you start to wrap up Q1 and really get stuck in to 2011.
1. Digital, connected and mobile. We’ve already seen the exponential growth of information in digital format being shared via the internet on mobile devices. As the use of smartphone technology reaches 100% saturation in Australia, the next step will see businesses starting to realise that the old analog way of doing things has changed forever. Businesses of the future will be looking for ways to incorporate digital processes, whether that is menus on iPads, encouraging customers to use popular review sites or opening up the choice of access to new products from around the world.
2. Competition gets global. Because of that connectivity, global competitors will now be able to reach your customers directly. For resellers, lines of supply will shorten as savvy customers will start to go to the source, wherever it is, for price savings. Distribution systems that take months to process orders will become redundant. Different pricing policies between countries won’t survive the digital crush. Service industries of the future will need to rethink their offerings as clients can get the world’s best advice from the top international players at the touch of their smartphone. Travel agencies will be competing with Government tourist boards to provide travel information to customers. I know who’s likely to win that competition. So thinking globally and being easy to find online will be essential characteristics of future businesses.
3. Listen and empower your customers. Word of mouth recommendations have always been worth their weight in gold but with social media going mainstream, empowering your customers to talk about how great you are, will bring in your next sale. The more those conversations spread, the more business you’ll do – not just here but around the world. The same is true with bad experiences, maybe even more so. Businesses of the future will pay closer attention to what their customers are saying – they’ll even tell you what they want!
4. Use the right tools. Just like using a hammer to screw in a nail will result in a messy job, so too will the wrong tools hamper your ability to compete in the digital economy. Hybrid systems will become the buzz word of 2011 and 2012 as business owners add internet functionality to their current desktop systems. Just like internet banking has taken off, the next step will see smart software allow you to rationalize your financial accounts from the till to the invoice, to the books, to your bank account automatically. This will not just save you time, it will give you far more financial power to drive your business growth.
What do you think? How futuristic is your business?