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In the business world, the only constant is change. As a company leader, staying ahead of business trends—or in step with them—can make a difference in how well your company performs.
“When it comes to the future of your business, it’s best to understand and acknowledge the inevitable business trends and adapt accordingly,” says Avinash Chandra, founder and CEO of BrandLoom, a digital marketing agency. “This is especially the case with rapidly advancing technological changes.”
The following six business trends are likely to play an integral role in the business landscape this year. Here’s what to expect in 2020 and how to take advantage of the changes.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will continue to evolve and drive change.
“One of the 2020 business trends likely to touch every sector is the continued advancement of AI and ML, which are already commonplace with digital assistants and cloud software,” says career consultant Patrick Algrim. “As a result, there’s a growing demand for individuals with the skills needed to support businesses’ AI and machine learning plans.”
It’s no longer enough to just invest in SEO or PPC or video content. Leverage all of these channels into a single cohesive marketing plan.
—James Norquay, managing director and founder, Prosperity Media.
This year it’s likely that more companies will use the data derived from machine learning and AI to create more personalized services for their consumers, adds Sukhi Jutla, chief operating officer of MarketOrders, a business-to-business platform for the independent retail jewelry industry. (Jutla is also the author of three books, including The FinTech Book.)
“Businesses will put more effort into analyzing data and turning it into meaningful insights that can provide better services and products,” says Jutla. “Along with this, we’ll see a rise in demand for data scientists.”
An area of AI and machine learning that promises to skyrocket this year is voice search, believes Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of marketing company Mavens & Moguls.
“Voice user interface allows potential customers to interact with websites through voice commands, adding usability and functionality to your website and making it accessible to all users, including those with limitations and disabilities,” says Arnoff-Fenn. “Voice search can give your business a boost.”
2. Customers will want human contact from your digital marketing.
While AI and ML will take on routine tasks, there will be an uptick in demand for human contact at certain points along the consumer journey, believes Carla Williams Johnson, a media marketing specialist and owner of Carli Communications.
“Consumers love the convenience of sitting at home and scrolling online for what they need, but human interaction may be the way to really draw them in,” says Johnson. “We are social creatures, so it’s a good idea to find a way to show up in person and truly interact with your tribe. When you offer ways for them to contact you directly, you suddenly don’t seem so far away. They’ll be more likely to trust you and ultimately purchase from you.”
Having your company phone number visible on your website is advisable, adds Sandra Lin, owner of Emerald Bridal.
“Chatbots have evolved in the past few years, but it can take time to perfect the messaging,” Lin says. “I’ve found that consumers call and leave messages outside of business hours. My success rate of interacting with customers by calling back is far higher than via email.”
3. Business trends around experiential marketing will continue to grow.
“For several years now, we’ve witnessed the end of the service economy that took hold with the dawn of the internet and a new experience economy emerge. I believe 2020 will be the year that it reaches critical mass,” says Andre Robles, owner of travel website Voyagers Travel.
“From my vantage point as the owner of a company that aims to provide unforgettable travel experiences, I’ve found it’s important what you’re selling is social media-worthy,” continues Robles. “Offering memorable and exclusive experiences is a business trend that drives sales.”
4. Remote work environments will continue to become more commonplace and accepted.
“An increasing number of companies offer remote work opportunities for full-time employees, or even fill those jobs with freelancers,” says Brett Helling, jobs expert and founder of GigWorker, an online platform for helping people find work in the gig economy. “Remote work gives companies access to a talent pool that spans much farther than their local footprint.”
5. Businesses may see more competition with organic search.
“In business trends, organic visibility is going to get even more competitive,” notes James Norquay, managing director and founder of Prosperity Media. “We’ve already seen certain search engine results pages (SERPS) getting more crowded with advertising. It’s common to see three to four ads at the top of the page and a video carousel—all before the first search result is visible.”
To stay competitive with organic visibility, Norquay suggests expanding your content marketing in 2020.
“It’s no longer enough to just invest in SEO or PPC or video content,” says Norquay. “Leverage all of these channels into a single cohesive marketing plan. For example, invest in publishing long-form informational topics that you convert to short videos.”
Amit Raj, founder of Amit Digital Marketing, agrees.
“To improve your performance on organic search traffic, or hold onto your position in the long term, create quality content that answers search queries concisely and is written naturally,” Raj says. “Optimization of the content is still important, but emphasis should be on creating content with true human value.”
6. There will be a continued need for cybersecurity practices.
In the coming year, cyberattacks to businesses of all sizes are expected to continue to threaten companies, believes cybersecurity expert Adam Levin. (Levin is also the founder of cybersecurity outfit CyberScout.)
“Phishing attacks will continue to lead to ransomware, and businesses will continue to pay whatever they must in order to regain control of their data and systems,” he says. “On the other hand, in business trends we’ll also see better backup practices that will help minimize or neutralize the threat of these attacks.”
Todd Carroll, chief information security officer and vice-president of cyber operations at digital risk management platform CybelAngel believes that in 2020, data breaches and their far-reaching effects will continue to be an unfortunate consequence of poor third-party data risk management.
“Enterprises that continue to share their data with third parties that maintain poor cybersecurity measures will remain exposed and at risk,” Carroll says. “Prevention requires ensuring that third parties adhere to strict cybersecurity protocols. It’s also necessary to take control of cloud and data-sharing platforms.”