Doing business in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) environment requires business owners to always be one step ahead of the curve and continuously think of ways to successfully adapt their business to the complex, changing environment brought about by emerging trends.
Now, there are a lot of emerging trends that are currently impacting businesses, however, I have chosen 5 key trends that I believe have a big impact and will create opportunities for businesses.
Trend 1 – Rise of the Robots
As businesses seek to improve productivity and quality while reducing labour costs, industrial and service robots will make an increasing contribution to Australian businesses. The cost of robotics is falling rapidly and capabilities are increasing with every new generation.
The robots of the near future will not be like Star Wars’ C3PO or the large industrial robots that are standard in manufacturing and heavy industry (pallet stacking, welding, etc.) but smaller single purpose robots for repetitive tasks and activities like: cleaning, painting, trench digging, roofing, mobile work platforms, spraying, testing, etc., and will also include “exo-skeleton” robots that users “wear” to enable heavy lifting and improve safety.
Driver-less trains and vehicles are already used extensively in mining and we will see a proliferation of smaller, purpose built, self driven machines with functional designs not dictated by the need to “house” a human operator and provide them with sightlines, access, comfort and control. This will enable smaller units as size will not be required to maximise returns on operator labour.
And though many commentators speculate that robotics will eliminate the need for human labour, I see that businesses will use robots to do some repetitive, intensive and/or dangerous tasks so they can delegate and direct their “human” employees to value adding areas where they are most needed. There are many jobs that cannot be replaced in short term by robots and many new jobs that will be created as a result of them – think of the huge numbers of people employed in the IT industry.
Trend 2 – Globalisation is here
Rapidly rising “middle class” incomes in developing nations have driven this trend as demand for consumer items and food creates real opportunities for Australian businesses. This is especially true of emerging Asian markets, where Australia and New Zealand businesses have a proximity advantage over other competitors.
New Free Trade Agreements with China and India will provide options for exporters but will also place our local businesses under pressure from imported products. Your strategies in these arenas will need to be clear.
It also places our skilled workers in the global market and as there is a global skills shortage predicted for 2030 (starting to bite in 2020), our workers will be poached by competing nations. On the flip side, improved communication technology also provides Australian businesses with access to lower cost, high quality workforces and we have already seen the impact of this through off-shore, call centres, data processing and the rise of “Virtual Assistants”
To access global markets and to build a brand that resonates with global consumers is outside of the skills and resources of many businesses. This means that we are going to need strategies that involve collaboration with others or alignment with brands that can make the jump. In some cases, this will mean alignment with brands and supply chains that in turn are locked with specific market channels.
The business of the future will often require different strategies from the business model that has brought you to this point!
Trend 3 – Data, data everywhere
The vast number of powerful, interconnected, low cost sensors, computers and data loggers mean that most businesses are producing huge amounts of data on their finances, operations, markets and people. However, few businesses “mine” this data for the information and insights that can assist them in making better business decisions.
Estimates, analytics, and data-driven predictions — they can all be confusing and overwhelming. But with mobile devices and interconnectivity, data is everywhere and owners should accept that it is now an inevitable part of business.
What information would revolutionise your business? How will you use this?
Trend 4 – Connection at all levels
Customer engagement isn’t a new trend but social media has changed the game by adding a new dimension to communication. Consumers now seek a stronger connection with the businesses that they deal with and whom provide their consumables. Think about the rise of: celebrity chefs, organic food, designer labels and customisation options. There will be a range of businesses that are able to build a brand and connect directly with consumers avoiding traditional market channels. E-commerce will be a critical component of brand building and order fulfilment.
At all levels and across all industries consumers are looking for deeper connections with suppliers and in may cases they have an expectation that this will lead to a more customised offering or product. For example: many high end premium car manufacturers (eg. Rolls Royce, Bentley, Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, etc) have stumbled onto a significant market in allowing buyers to fully customise nearly every aspect of their new car – for a lofty premium.
However, its not only consumers that seek this connection. In a recent global workforce survey, Rainer Strack of BCG, identified the top factors that employees look for in their job and it emulates the results from previous surveys. Surprising for many business owners are that employees are looking for: strong connections with colleagues and their bosses, recognition and feedback on their performance and good work/life balance. “High pay” rated 8th and the focus is definitely on connection and the cultural elements of the business. Remuneration is simply a business “hygiene issue” not a “health problem”. Culture is the real currency…
How will you build better connections with your customers and team?
Trend 5 – Convenience the new currency
In addition to the trends above there is an overwhelming drive for improved convenience. Consumers will often pay a premium for products and services that help them to manage and deal with the trials and tribulations of their busy, time poor worlds. Buyers will often use businesses local to them rather than travel to a preferred supplier – for the convenience.
Similarly, “one stop shop” formats with multiple offers provide the convenience of not having to travel, negotiate and build relationships with multiple suppliers. This trend is particularly evident in the financial services industry with firms now offering a full range of tax, accounting, business, financial planning and broking services under one banner.
In other cases, consumers will forego other attributes of the buying experience for increased convenience. For example: with online retailing buyers forego elements of the usual retail shopping experience for the convenience of “point and click” selections and the delayed gratification of delivery by courier.
This trend doesn’t just extend to consumers, in B2B transactions participants are looking for convenience (and connections) in offers, orders, payment and delivery.
So how can you create a business that picks up on this trend? Think of issues like: packaging, portions, location, access to services, e-commerce, response time, delivery options and information sharing.
How to access some of these trends?
At recent speaking engagements, when questioned about “how to access these trends?”, I am increasingly asked the following question “My business is… too small/under capitalised/narrowly focused/skill poor…to access these trends in a meaningful way. How do we get involved?”
First…for many businesses they will be unable to deal with these trends because of the reason they have stated but that doesn’t mean that they cannot participate. Collaboration and alignment with brands and supply chains will provide access to: strong brands, capital, technology, skills and knowledge, markets and/or information. Seek them out…
These are only five of numerous trends emerging in today’s environment where I see opportunities for Australian businesses to become innovative. Developing clear strategies for these and other emerging business trends will help create competitive advantages for your business.
At SBD, we specialize in helping dynamic small businesses take advantage of their size, scale and agility to grow and prosper. If you’d like to find out more, take our free 30 minute challenge, address some of your key issues and gain insights into what is required to make it happen. Go to www.takethe30minutechallenge.com for more information on how you can start the process now.