2017 Predictions: The Emerging Business Trends You Need to Know

2017 predictions after this year you say? Yep, 2016 has been a pretty crazy and unpredictable year, so making predictions for 2017 is a tough task.

However if you’re planning for next year, then you should know about the emerging business trends that will matter, which means listening to the experts.

Why? Because no man is an island, and no business operates in a silo. Broad macro-economic business trends may seem like they’re a million miles from your day-to-day, but faster than you can say ‘Uber,’ they may have unleashed a new competitor that completely disrupts your entire business model.

So whether you’re engaged in a SWOT or PEST analysis, or simply keen to stay on top of the most important – and credible – 2017 predictions, take 5 minutes to read the below.

These predictions encompass industries and technologies ranging from retail to fintech, marketplaces to Millennials, Blockchain to data security. In fact, if there’s not a major trend in there that could impact your business, I’d love to know what sector you work in!

And they’re not just coming from your crazy Uncle Ed after too many mulled wines. These are carefully curated from 9 successful entrepreneurs and professional trend analysts, senior business leaders and respected consultants.

In need of some credible 2017 predictions? Then you’ll want to know what they know. And now you can.

Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation, the UK’s most active small business network with over 70,000 start-up entrepreneurs, small business owners and enterprise experts.

“I see a huge opportunity, and emerging trend, for smaller businesses to leverage technology to cost-effectively gain access to international markets at a scale like never before.

A couple of specific examples spring to mind.

First, the powerful marketplaces such as Alibaba, Etsy and Amazon that help small businesses to ‘Go Global’ and get their products into the hands of potentially millions of new consumers have never been more important.

Accessing international markets in a low-cost, scalable way is critical for a Brexit Britain, where there is risk of a shrinking domestic market, and so a critical need to export, and embrace the technology that eases this process.

So while these marketplaces may not be new, the economic environment has created conditions where their adoption is more business-critical than ever in 2017.

Next, there’s the rapidly advancing field of Artificial Intelligence and its packaging into voice-enable software and hardware, such as the digital agents of Cortana for Microsoft and Alexa for Amazon that are fast becoming the go-to place for consumers with questions.

My advice to small businesses is to consider how you can appear as the answer!

With Samsung and Google also major players in this market, it’s another opportunity with huge potential for businesses to expand their reach, without having to invest significant outlays in developing their own proprietary technology.”

Nicola Anderson, VP Marketing at GoCardless, building a payments network for the internet.

“One massive emerging trend we’ve noticed is the rapid rise of machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence that gives computers the ability to learn without being specifically programmed every time.

This has brought with it a plethora of exciting business opportunities including many in the fintech arena. Computer programmes that use machine learning are able to teach themselves new responses whenever they come across new data.

In fintech this opens up so many useful doors, especially when it comes to adapting to changes happening in real time. Possible fintech use cases could include building credit risk models using large-scale big data analysis, spotting patterns in data that can help investors gain an edge, or even detecting fraudulent activity to make e-commerce safer.”

Simon Dunant, a Digital Publisher, Trainer, Podcast Host & Producer and Founder of New Rise Digital

“I believe that 2017 will be defined by people seeking to claim back a perception of personal control. We’ve seen some of that emerging in the epochal political events in Britain and the USA this year, and I’m a firm believer that over the coming year consumers will apply similar feelings towards technology, apps and the myriad of stuff we rely on to get through everyday life as an individual.

The upside side of this is that we’re at a time in history where people are ready to clearly express what they want more than they ever have before, and are supporting change.

Businesses will do well to pick up on this goldmine of ‘sentiment intelligence’ over the coming year, and build ‘you’re in control’ elements across all customer touchpoints.”

Jonathan Openshaw, Editorial Director at The Future Laboratory, one of the world’s most renowned futures consultancies.

“Demand for greater transparency has been one of the defining features of the 21st century. Technological innovations such as the Blockchain have disrupted industries ranging from retail to tech, whilst scandals such as Wikileaks have done the same for our governmental institutions.

The workplace could be next, and businesses need to evolve to embrace transparency, rather than try to whitewash their corporate culture through bland pronouncements on the company website.

Employees are demanding a greater level of accountability and engagement from their employers than ever before too, and this is particularly true of Millennial workers.

Recent research from the Intelligence Group found that 64% of Millennials would rather make $40,000 in a job they love than $100,000 in a job that bores them, whilst Deloitte estimate that 87% of Millennials feel that the success of a business should be calculated on criteria that go beyond the financial. Money is no longer enough to buy employee loyalty.

Services such as Glassdoor are flourishing because they provide employees with the tools they need to circumnavigate the corporate spiel and get access to information from their peers on what a business is really like. The platform now carries profiles on nearly half a million businesses, but only a tiny fraction of them actively manage their online profiles.

As the hospitality industry learnt from services such as TripAdvisor, the consumer demand for greater openness and transparency is impossible to stop once it’s been released, so businesses need to rethink the traditional top-down hierarchy at work in favour of a more open and equitable arrangement.

Millennial employees already have the highest turnover of any generation to date, and this is only likely to get worse once Generation Z hit the workplace (as they tend to have even less faith in existing structures and institutions than their predecessors).

In order to secure loyalty and engagement from this promiscuous workforce, businesses need to start embracing rather than suppressing transparency tools, and actively use them to help build a brand purpose that goes beyond the bottom line.”

Adam Azor, Senior Vice President – Integrated and Digital Marketing at Jack Morton Worldwide, an integrated experiential agency that connect brands and the people who matter most to them.

“2016 contributed to the ever-growing number of high profile hacks to consumer data, so in 2017, expect data management to be a reoccurring theme for businesses of all sizes to consider.

New UK legislation is incoming in the area of data security, and while not confirmed, the rumblings are there will be serious financial reparations to pay for future breaches.

This will impact data strategy, while not slowing down the increased importance of gathering, securing, accessing and processing data. This means there will be a requirement for every

business to know the answers to the following questions;

  • How have we captured our data, and what permissions have been agreed to?
  • How is our data being handling, and how is it managed?
  • How secure is our data?

To answer these questions, there will be a cost to business, but it’s a cost worth paying compared to the alternative.

In addition to legislation, public scrutiny of data is at an all-time high. We’re in the aftermath of the Snowden and Wikileaks era, which has left a permanent impression on the public.

People sometimes forgot that personal data is a representation of a person. It’s the ultimate act of trust to give that away. In 2017 businesses will have to treat this trust with greater respect, because if they don’t they will pay a price, in more ways than one.”

Chase Buckle, Trends Analyst at GlobalWebIndex, the world’s largest study on the digital consumer.

“eSports may still be in its infancy, but this form of entertainment has been quick to make its mark – GlobalWebIndex’s data shows that 23% of online Millennials engaged with eSports last month, for example.

This is still very much evolving as a platform for brands and advertisers, currently relying predominantly on sponsorship deals for revenue. But with such a young, desirable and brand-engaged demographic – not to mention the significant interest from broadcasting companies like Turner and ESPN in the genre – there could be lucrative opportunities at hand for marketers in the year ahead.

As it looks to diversify its revenue streams, it’s important to remember that like all conventional sports events, each unique eSports tournament broadcast has scarcity value. Bringing together this growing list of viewers in one place at one time, there’s real opportunity for brands to have a powerful message and be associated with this trending movement.”

Alison Battisby, Social Media Consultant and Founder of Avocado Social, set up to coach businesses on the most important tactics for growing their online communities, without complicated jargon or vague theories.

“Already some forward-thinking entrepreneurs and businesses are adopting WhatsApp for business purposes.

The messaging app, which receives over a billion users every day has become a fantastically convenient way for businesses to communicate with a select group of customers; particularly as 1 in 7 people on earth already have a profile set up.

For example, a personal trainer in South London is messaging a group of VIP clients with daily recipes, exercises and motivation. Also a communications agency in Shoreditch is sending out a daily alert with the top tech and social media stories in the bulletin, using it as a broadcast channel, where the group members are private and they are the only account that can message is them.  

Next year I expect we will see more businesses adopt the channel. Adidas already uses it for customer services, and the BBC are using it for particular news topics. Facebook, owners of WhatsApp, have announced they will be releasing more business features next year, such as analytics and a smoother user experience.

I’m excited to see what the future holds for WhatsApp and businesses!”

Cate Trotter, Head of Trends at Insider Trends, a retail trends specialist who deliver retail trend tours, retail innovation presentations, retail industry trend reports and more.

“A major trend we see is searchable local inventory for stores.

While online shopping is a great way for customers to buy something if they know what they want, many people still prefer to go into a store and have the product in their hand instantly.

Being able to search the inventory of stores around them gives shoppers more certainty that they will find what they are looking for, and a better experience as they can see what is and isn’t in stock nearby.

This saves them time hunting through each store and can help influence their decision about who to buy from. It also means that stores with searchable inventory can capitalise on the customer’s desire to buy.

Retailers that offer this type of service are helping set new customer expectations around this, and I think retailers that don’t offer it will start to lose out to those who do.”

Penny Power OBE, the Founder and CEO of The Business Cafe and commentator on Entrepreneurship, technology enablement and talent.

“Clearly we are moving fast toward the 2020’s when the global workforce will be made of one-third Millennials and one third over 50’s. A fabulous combination, and a huge opportunity for Reverse Mentoring, assuming that both build bridges in the differing cultures and business attitudes.

Though the shifting mindset of openness remains a huge challenge to the over 50’s in business, reverse mentoring could allow the younger generation to mentor them on digital enablement, and in return the older generation can coach them on business theories and experience.

Of course, SaaS (Software as a Service) will continue growing in popularity, though its successful adoption at businesses with a more traditional leadership will be predicated on Millennials pushing the agenda for change, along with their continued support through 121s and face to face coaching.

Looking at more nascent technology, the backdrop to many conversations within innovation-focused businesses will be Blockchain and AI, the paradigm shift where humanity meets technology. Those that can learn this and understand its implementation will feed themselves well into the future.

Finally, the online and the offline will become closer, with the rise of technology on the High Street, and the big High Street brands becoming ever more confident at building profitable social communities online.”

In summary

It’s going to be a busy year, but these 2017 predictions will give you a head start on which emerging business trends you need to pay attention to, keeping you one step ahead of disruption, and helping you own your future.