There is no debate that computers have changed the way that businesses do business.
Precise statistics vary, but rough estimates state that computing technology doubles every two years. In the past 10 years, we have gone from the full adoption of e-commerce to the addiction to social media. During this period, businesses have struggled to keep up with the most effective methods of gaining customers and increasing revenue. Consequently, we have seen countless businesses close that have not been able to evolve or those that did not believe in the importance of technology into business operations. What will be the story of your business?
Ask yourself: is your company forward-looking enough to be relevant in the next 18 months? What about 3 years? Being aware of the current trends is no longer enough to survive. Don’t simply stay current with the trends, predict them and be ahead of the curve. Understanding how and why changes in technology are affecting your potential customers will be critical to your survival and engagement as a business.
Here are 4 concepts that your business must be comprehend in order to be relevant in the future:
1. The connectivity to your product/service will need to occur in real-time
Can consumers access your product/service immediately? If the answer is no, then proceed to the drawing board immediately. Users are demanding access to your product or service times. Therefore, if they cannot access it, they WILL choose your competitor. The easiest way to ensure that users always have connectivity to your product or service is to integrate a mobile layer. Having a mobile integration is no longer optional, it is required. You can delve into these areas through a variety of methods, including a mobile application, a website designed for mobile viewing, or simply ensuring that your company to be easily found on popular mobile search applications. Data, hardware and software advancements have allowed consumers to have affordable and convenient availability to mobile technology, which means your consumers or end-users will be looking for you on in real-time.
2. Users should play an active role in the development of your product/service
The advent of social media has taught us all that consumers want to engage with you in a more dynamic way. Whether it is through a company’s Facebook page or through their Twitter profile, users and consumers want to know that their opinions matter. Furthermore, because of this real-time interaction between a company and its customers, more consumers expect that their genuine feedback will lead to practical results. In turn, users want to dictate how your products will be used and how it should be designed. This is not to say that companies should yield to all advice and suggestions that consumers provide. In the end, companies must dictate what the final product will be. However, it becomes critical that you enhance your engagement skills and take in all feedback that you receive. You are selling the product/service to them, therefore their participation in the development process by way of real-time feedback, will determine the adoption rate and growth of your company and its products or services. Once you allow consumers to guide you, your success is inevitable.
3. Location-based features must be integrated into your business in some manner (for traditional brick-n-mortar businesses)
If Facebook, Twitter and Google are all focusing on something, there is probably a good reason for it. Location-based features are becoming more critical and more relevant for all businesses. The idea of “checking-in” is becoming part of common language. After Foursquare created a fun interactive way to engage with friends and strangers alike, businesses were given an opportunity to utilize the same technology. Now it appears that this trend will be more like a staple in consumer interaction. Whether it is for implementing customer frequency reward programs or to offer coupons to customers based on their proximity to your business, this concept will provide a new way for your business to connect with your audience with relevance to location. This level of engagement by businesses to their customers and potential customers will separate the companies that are perceived as innovative and those companies that are viewed as old-fashioned.
4. Utilize open-source technology to build your business
No matter how talented your team is, they will never be the best at everything. However, thanks to growth of crowd-sourcing and open-source communities, businesses are now able to make its products/services better with less expense and in less time. Leveraging the “wisdom” of the crowd will allow you to find innovative and creative solutions and applications based on work that individuals have already developed. Sharing and using information that an online community has already developed can widen your reach and shorten your product launch time. As much as patents and trademarks may be important to protect the core foundation of your business, finding the most recent and innovative technologies that were developed by others can allow you to build newer products based on your core technology and new lessons learned from open-source technologies. The open-source community has grown tremendously and will only continue to grow as users contribute new concepts which will encourage other users to do the same thing. This process will benefit all businesses and individuals involved, and will ensure that your business product/service remains relevant.
As basic as some of these concepts may seem, I truly think that companies that do not welcome and integrate each of the previously listed points will cease to exist within 3-5 years. It should be noted that these ideas do not coincide with all business types and by no means does this article group all business together. However, if your business offers a product or service, has some form of an online presence and has consumers that may be technologically literate, then these concepts pertain to you. Each one of these ideas is based on the fact that users want to have access whenever they want access. Any barrier to this will prove detrimental to your business. Users also want to know that their opinions matter. For the newer version of your product, will you consider customer feedback? You should. Furthermore, users probably have a wide variety of options and only need one reason to select your competitor instead of you. Don’t give them a reason. Knowing what your customers want, how they want it and where/when they want it will be the determining factor as to whether or not your business will be relevant. The choice is yours.
If you have additional ideas or factors that may assist me or other entrepreneurs in when considering forward-looking adjustments, please share them in the comment section below. Sharing good ideas is critical to growth.