Thanks to the proliferation of high-tech consumer services like Uber and Apple Pay, the business world is trending toward improving customer experiences using automated technologies. But how will these developments advance the business world one year from now? How about five years down the road?
To find out which trends are top of mind for business professionals, I asked 11 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to explain which consumer trends they believe will change the way we do business over the next five years. Their answers are below.
- Retail will become more service oriented
We are a brick and mortar company, and over the years we’ve watched many neighbors lose to the Internet. You can buy just about anything online now. You better have a really good trick to beat buying in your PJs. Customer service has become everything to retailers, and for those who are more strictly service oriented, the bar has been raised even higher. The consumer wins because restaurants, spas and fun spots are becoming more desirable tenants to landlords as many retailers die away. It’s no accident that the foodie movement has coincided with the rise of retail on the web.
- Texting will become more popular for companies
As more and more young folks enter the working economy there will be a larger focus on texting as a means of communication. College students are using email less and less for personal communication and see texting as their primary means of communication. I think customer service will be enhanced with the use of text messages as well as communicating upcoming sales, deals, etc. Utilizing text in marketing plans will help attract a younger customer and employee base. Companies that adapt to texting as a valid communication channel will have a better shot at attracting new talent and customers.
- Visual communication will be the best way to communicate
The average consumer has an attention span of five seconds (a goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds!). In a world where brands are competing for that limited attention, the best tool to cut through all the noise is visual communication. In fact, visual information gets to the brain 60,000 times faster than text and 90% of the information we retain is visual. To engage their audience and impact results, entrepreneurs need to focus on their visual strategy today to identify ways to incorporate infographics, motion graphics and interactive content into their content plans and brand messaging.
- Authentic craftsmanship will return
We have cultivated an economy of sameness where there are distinctions without differences. Cars, phones, tablets, franchises, etc. all look alike. The uniqueness of the offerings has become a thing of the past. In this environment, people will begin to praise and value a return to authentic craftsmanship. If you want to succeed in tomorrow’s marketplace, you’re going to have to create a product or offer a service that is novel, beautifully made or superbly delivered.
- Mobile payments will change everything
The barrier to mobile shopping has always been in payment processing. It’s tedious. Success of mobile apps like eBay, Amazon and PayPal have come, in large part, from their ability to ease this burden. Mobile payment processing is going beyond platform solutions, such as security pins and saved user info. Technologies like Apple Pay and CurrentC allow people to buy anything now, using information on their mobile devices. This technology will soon be accepted across all digital and brick-and-mortar retailers and will change everything. It is not unreasonable to envision a complete replacement of credit cards toward the end of the next five years.
- Consumers will gravitate more toward the sharing economy
In time, consumers will begin to lend and borrow more frequently — from living spaces to cars and small electronics, the sharing economy is going to infiltrate all aspects of life. That will require businesses to shift their business models, possibly by offering rental options, in addition to purchasing options. Also, you will finally see consumers fully abandon businesses with poor customer service — businesses will either need to improve their level of service, or they won’t survive for long.
- The consumerization of B2B services will proliferate
CMOs, CIOs and, of course, CEOs all use smartphones now, and they are beginning to expect their B2B tech to work as well as their consumer apps. This is a huge opportunity for legacy B2B service providers to step up and improve their apps, and it’s creating an opening for new companies to emerge.
- Website responsiveness will increase
Online activity is increasing more and more over the years. Entrepreneurs need to understand that the customer experience is becoming more valuable but at the same time less impactful, so it is important to make a lasting first impression when customers visit your site. A great way to do so is to make your site extremely responsive: for instance, make sure your contact information is prominent on your homepage, or even create a live chat feature if your customer has any immediate questions.
- Everyday services will become digitized
Thanks to smartphone proliferation, consumers are actively embracing apps that make it easier for them to hire vetted professionals for essential everyday services (house cleaning, laundry/dry cleaning, auto repairs, gourmet meals etc.), creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs in high-growth, two-sided markets worldwide. While entrepreneurs can choose to verticalize (thinkhomejoy) or offer a broad range of services (e.g.thumbtack), it’s critical to 1) Vertically integrate so you own the end-user experience and not just your product and 2) Validate whether or not the unit economics in your vertical are conducive to a sustainable business model.
- There will be a renewed focus on privacy
Fast forward five years and you’ll see a huge number of consumers who are interested in preserving their privacy: from consumers who will go “all out” to remain anonymous, to those who will just want to limit the information companies use to market more effectively to them. As a result, these privacy conscious consumers will demand products and services designed to keep their buying patterns, online browsing habits and travel patterns more confidential. This will cause all sorts of legal concerns (think Bitcoin) and hopefully meaningful debate. But the one thing I’m betting on is that we’ll look back at those early photos we uploaded to Facebook and say “What was I thinking!?”
- Virtual reality will become a platform
We have seen three major platforms emerge thus far in the information age: computers, the Internet and mobile. Virtual reality is poised to become the fourth. In the next five years, we will likely see massive growth in hardware sales such as Oculus Rift and a large number of applications within advertising, commerce and entertainment being built for it. Just as someone today is able to use their phone to order car service, food and items from Amazon with a click of a button, they will soon be able to do all of the same things in a virtual world powered by a headset. Entrepreneurs have a great opportunity to create new forms of advertising and entertainment that appeal to the masses.
Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, author (Never Get a ‘Real’ Job), TV commentator and founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneur…more
Wishing you every Success in your Business