2018 might not demand seismic shifts in business practices and technologies that govern an industry, but will push decision makers to chart a systematic journey to improve their efficiency.

Customer expectations are soon going to be sky-high for excellent experiences, and companies have to evolve continuously to meet their demands to remain at the top.

Here are the top 10 business trends in 2018 that will surely matter to diverse businesses-

1. Department silos would soon merge

Traditionally, with three branches: sales, service, and marketing doing the needful, the duties were divided. But now customers want more, and irrespective of the professional they’re interacting with, they are keen to accomplish their tasks efficiently.

Kate Leggett, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester research states that nowadays customers want to interact directly with a company, for research, product purchase, support, or something else, with all tasks completed in one go. Hence sales, service, and marketing professionals are forced to take on functions that might not be their immediate responsibility but would have to venture to improve on their sales. A marketer might have to attend to customer service inquiries through social media channels. Sometimes sales guys might need to follow up on service and support after the sale too.

2. Convergence of technologies and processes within organizations

When organizations cannot pool data from disparate systems together, one can expect businesses to look out for vendors who are keen to offer integration-ready partnerships, technology ecosystems, or one-stop solutions. Companies invest in IT infrastructure with separate systems for different departments. For better management of processes, there should be convergence of both technologies and cross-pollination of data for better organizational efficiency in today’s times.

A 2014 survey of 150 business leaders at the annual SAPPHIRE NOW event in Orlando, provided the future of technology convergence that could benefit businesses. 90% of the respondents opined technology convergence will change business trends, while 59% of those people thought convergence could drive innovation faster. 29% of organizations agreed that a drastic boost in revenue would be a key business driver to implement a converged solution across mobile, social, the cloud as well as big data systems.

2018 will surely push organizations on a couple levels towards convergence of technologies as its proper implementation will not only present opportunities for innovation but will also enhance operational efficiencies enabling them to connect with their prospects better than before.

3. Bigger role of customer intelligence in assessing target audience

Customer intelligence has evolved into a vital tool in customer experience management, delivering insights into shopping behavior patterns, market product preferences and even the assessment of probability of sales. All marketing strategies dependent on consumer preferences are enabled, owing to the evolution of customer intelligence.

According to SiriusDecisions, customer intelligence management and business intelligence tools are top technology investment priorities for CMOs in 2017.

 

CMO top tech investments for 2017Figure 1: CMO top tech investments for 2017

To augment customer intelligence efforts, organizations now have to

  • Incorporate social media channel feedback and responses for reaping social intelligence while making strategic decisions.
  • Compile insights generated through constant customer interaction so that the company decisions are aligned with market needs on a timely basis
  • Include online reviews and surveys for genuine assessment of customer opinions about your offerings based on specific product pages.

Data privacy concerns have been the stumbling block in utilizing customer intelligence for devising marketing strategies. However, the advent of machine learning and predictive analytics in assessing customer’s social behavior can aid organizations to introduce campaigns with better ROI and improved customer response rates.

For instance, NewsCorp Australia, runs many studies engaging 5000+ media consumers, gathering prompt feedback on advertising, content and even its product ideas. One such insight attracted local media attention along with potential clients, driving $500,000 in advertising sales and more than $3.2 million worth of open opportunities.

One can utilize customer intelligence platforms like Salesmate to incorporate analytical features with a diverse set of CRM functionalities.

4. Small Business Setup for Lower Complexity

With the advent of cloud-based technology, enterprise class business software is now available for small businesses, which was only restricted to large companies with gigantic technology budgets.

With SaaS and its implementations ruling the roost, more small businesses are able to embrace modern technology. The increasing affordability of computer systems, hardware, mobile devices as well as cloud-based services has led to the surge in modernization. A Brother International Corporation-initiated survey recently revealed an 18% boost in small business spending in technology since 2010.

North American Spending by SMBs Figure 2: North American Spending by SMBs ($ billions), 2011–2017 Courtesy of Deloitte University Press

As per above Figure, Gartner revealed a CAGR of 4.8% in IT spending amongst Small to Medium Sized Businesses in North America for the period 2011-2017. IT spending increased from annual expenses of $534 billion to a staggering $686 billion per year in the realm of Hardware, Software, and IT services.

Previously, big-ticket spenders like IBM, Oracle, and SAP could focus on delivering high expense solutions to the biggest firms worldwide including Fortune 500 companies. Today, small businesses with few experienced professionals can leverage cloud-based intelligent software to run their business, lowering complexity and costs, clearing the space for more innovation. The main reason behind the popularity of SaaS based software is cost effectiveness along with the security. Software like CRM systems are used for streamlining the sales process and providing complete visibility of customer behavior.

Salesmate is one of the leading CRM software that many small businesses are using for smooth sales process.  Salesmate is a cloud-based sales CRM helps sales reps be more productive and increase their sales. Salesmate help businesses close more deals in lesser time with sales intelligence features like workflow automation, smart sales pipeline management, smart email templates, and tracking, etc.

5. Cloud Services Will Dominate Considerably

As mentioned in the previous point, cloud services have encouraged startups to offer services to big-ticket firms too. 92% of small businesses now use at least one or more cloud-based solutions and the adoption is expected to receive a boost too.

Hybrid and private cloud computing are popular with multiple enterprises adopting multi-cloud strategies than every before. As per a recent Rightscale survey held in 2015, 82% of enterprises mentioned opting for a multi-cloud strategy (an increase of 9% since 2014), while 10% admitted they use a single public cloud while 5% had opted for a single private cloud. 14% of enterprises, which have opted for a multi-cloud strategy, use multiple private clouds, while 13% use several public clouds, while a whopping 55% use hybrid clouds.

Also, Cloud-based services like Dropbox and Google Drive are favorites in small business arena to preserve records, manage spreadsheets, analyze data, share files and documents, presentations, and the like. The cloud services help organizations to update projects remotely, and also reduce the need for any physical file-storage. One can also share files with clients or associates by invitation rather than the traditional email.

Cloud-based CRM solutions are now gaining traction in the mid-level enterprise sector, with solutions like Salesmate getting immense attention. The sales intelligence platform incorporates features like pipeline management, goals tracking, smart productivity attributes like contact management and data entry automation, visual sales pipeline, sales forecasts and custom reports in its offerings. An all-round cloud-based solution like this, aids companies to have meaningful conversations with intended audience.

6. Rise in Mobile Interactions in commerce

 The proliferation of online chatbots, offline chat windows, in-store interactive experiences and launch events, commerce is prevalent in myriad avatars. Brands are leveraging the mobile trends to prioritize new channels for reaping advantage. eCommerce now accounts for less than 10% of sales in the US although the percentage is bound to increase. Most purchases are also guided by Chatbots, which continue to receive a major boost while countries in Asia have made the most of interactive apps like WeChat and WhatsApp, leveraging them for e-commerce functionality.

Communication has now drastically changed with previously involving some messages being exchanged to a multifaceted system that revolves around live online chats between owners and buyers. 60% of millennials are even keen to send and receive a number of text messages.

Startups need to deliver a full value proposition and optimize their strategies on every consumer touch point, since each of them add value. Embracing the new commerce channels is highly important for organizations to progress further in diverse domains.

7. Higher spend on digital medium and marketing

A 2016 study by research firm Magna Global revealed the increase in digital media sales in 2017 by 13 percent, with a small drop in TV ad sales of just 0.1 percent. The budget for advertising on social media channels is also expected to receive a fillip by 26 percent. An eMarketer study also revealed that digital ad spending has now scaled past the sales in TV ads in late 2016.

Digital ad spending

Figure 3: Digital ad spending – eMarketer

But advertisers need to plan the new strategies thoroughly without blindly directing marketing dollars only to the rising trend of digital advertising. Marketers need to see significant ROI from tailored campaigns, with innovative ads that reflect on the aspirations and needs of their target audience irrespective of medium used.

8. New-found acceptance of millennials for sales

The 2016 Vision Critical study revealed some insights about the millennial generation revealing 75 percent of them tout ads to be disruptive, a statement also agreed by nearly 69 percent of Gen Zers. An estimated 80 million millennials live in the US alone, and hence marketers need to target campaigns specifically for them

The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation report revealed that the millennial generation and their ambitions revolve around creating a great working environment, with defined leadership models and a huge scope of work, modeled across diverse teamwork mechanisms, loads of transparency, and timely accountability for success.

Up to 86% of new generation can report observations through online questionnaires that are posed to them in the form of opinions, and collected with every purchase of product and service. They are also in the lookout of people with workplaces that share their sense of ethics and ideals. Interactive virtual websites can rope in their interest quickly, as witnessed with the success of ClickMeeting and Memit.

9. Focus on customer engagement more than traditional sales

People are literally tired of the salesy stuff and millennials can easily point out if they are being convinced for a sale or not. Salesy stuff nowadays puts off prospective buyers and they usually move on to the next vendor.

The approach of using apps and services to connect people works, as the passive marketing nature of the offerings gives them the freedom to do what they want. Companies like Postmates are known not to make any sales pitches for their products, but allow delivery of the product to any location you want it to be delivered.

The connection economy necessitates that businesses connect and compile services so that their customers can get what they need under one roof. Uber is the world’s largest taxi company, but with minimal physical assets with a connection structure that deliver easy rides to its customers. One can even expect companies like InstaCart, FreshDirect, and AmericaGrocer ruling the roost, connecting services under one site or business.

10. Rise of Artificial Intelligence in multiple business domains

Forrester in a new report, “Predictions 2017” published in Forbes in November 2016 revealed that businesses now rely on artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) to reap new insights for their business. With the new technologies, each of these businesses have the capability to steal nearly $1.2 trillion per annum from those who are yet unaware of their market trends, by 2020.

The drastic rise of cognitive interfaces, advanced analytics, and machine learning will provide business users brilliant insights for business, thus driving quicker business decisions in every sphere.

The combination will enable businesses implementing them to overcome several barriers to data accessibility to mine useful business insights. They will also broaden types of data for analysis. Forrester predicts a huge acceleration in democratization of data analysis. One can expect maturity in Big Data technologies and their integration with traditional analytics platforms to facilitate their use in diverse organizations.

Conclusion

When it comes to business applications, company leaders will soon be inundated with different technologies and their USPs. With a world of choices, from experienced companies to unfamiliar start-ups, business leaders will have to be aware and be clear enough in their objectives before making the decisive move to new technologies.

By targeting millennials, retaining focus on customer engagement, converging technologies as well as department silos, leveraging digital medium and mobility for sales, and by embracing AI, customer intelligence and cloud services for better scalability and insights, organizations can get ahead of the curve, and assert their identity in their domain in 2018.

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Sruti Raizada

Sruti Raizada

Digital Marketing Manager