Last November, I read an article in Business News Daily that attempted to foresee some of the trends that lay ahead for small businesses in the coming year. Now that we're halfway through that year, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take a look at some of their predictions, and offer my own perspective based on what I've seen so far. (Please feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section, too!)
- Businesses will further adapt to the modern customer. "Customers today have more choices than ever, and they have shown they will gravitate toward those who prioritize the delivery of fast, seamless and personalized service. This is true whether they are ordering lunch, getting their car repaired or making a financial transaction." One need look no further than Amazon to see the truth in this statement. But it's not just e-tailers that are proving it so. Services providers, wholesalers, manufacturers, brick-and-mortar retailers – all types of enterprises are trying like never before to accommodate customers who have never had more on-demand options at their disposal. The companies that can adapt will survive, and those that can't, won't.
- Technology will not replace the human touch. "Technology is always improving, and with the latest and greatest tempting every organization, we need to keep in mind that AI and predictive analytics will not replace the human when it comes to delivering the customer experience. While there are great opportunities ahead for AI … it will not be a true game-changer, at least in the next year.” When it comes to everyday banking and investing, we in financial services have seen customer habits shift dramatically toward online/mobile portals. However, when it comes to more complicated transactions, they still want to sit down with someone who can guide them through the process. I see this with mortgages, business loans, financial advisory, and wealth management, especially. The larger transactions in people's lives still require that traditional face-to-face interaction.
- Genuine relationships trump technology. "Technology runs our lives more than ever, but it is relationships that drive business and commerce, so people will find more ways to connect in person to build trust and strengthen connections.” Businesses are built on relationships. I realize this especially when dealing with entrepreneurs: The more I know about their model, their preferences, and their goals, the more I can help my small business customers achieve success. I aim to be a trusted partner to every client, and that true-life relationship simply can't be replaced by tech.
- Marketing will continue to grow more personalized. "Marketing is becoming increasingly personal, and this trend will keep going as we move into the new year. No longer will stock images, generic nurturing campaigns or impersonal calls to action convince consumers.” With Facebook, Google, and other platforms armed with a staggering amount of our personal information, this is inevitable. If you search for something online, you'll see a number of results tailored specifically to your browsing/purchase history. Same with advertisements. You may notice that pair of shoes that you were checking out last week suddenly appearing on a number of sites you frequent. It's not coincidence, and it's not going to stop any time soon.
- Big shifts could be on the way for banking. "The banking industry is already undergoing significant changes, and we'll no doubt see this play out in the coming year with massive disruption in how you can make payments. Big players such as Google, Facebook and Amazon will start thinking about offering their own payment services, which will likely trigger the need for their own regulations." Many banks already have excellent online banking and payment systems – you don’t have to bank with a large institution to get these services. Once these tech giants see all the regulations that come with offering them, they will understand what banks have been dealing with for years.
I don't think that anyone would argue that this has already been quite an eventful year. Next month, I'll be selecting five more predictions for 2019, and examining how they're shaping up thus far. Stay tuned!