It’s safe to say that 99.9% of businesses in the UK have already invested in some elements of digital as part of their operations, even if it’s just using email. A truly digital first business however, is one which is built on digital capabilities to maximise its success – whether it’s the software you use to run your business, the way you sell to, service and stay in touch with your customers, or how you develop new products.
With the fast pace of technological change and increased customer expectations, you need one eye on the future to be digital savvy. Here we look at some of the digital trends in 2017 which could impact your business.
The march of the millennials
It’s estimated that by 2017 millennials will represent 50% of the global consumption on the planet. As digital natives who can’t live without their smartphones and gather most of their news from social media, they are happy to give up their personal information in return for a more personalised, enhanced customer experience. In 2017 their love of rating and reviewing products will extend into new areas. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and recommendations from your customers which can then be used as positive PR.
With the number of freelancers in the UK now standing at about 2 million there is a huge array of apps to help them maximise their productivity and run their business. Whether it’s time sheets, tracking expenses and issuing invoices, or social media management, there is an endless array to choose from. The trick for freelancers is to do your research – read the reviews of how easy they are to use and make sure they can integrate with any existing software you use to run your business. Lifehack.org has put together a useful list of the ‘30 essential tools and web apps for freelancers’.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and personal digital assistants
The number of devices connected to the internet looks set to soar over the next couple of years, estimated to reach over 50 billion devices by 2020. Household appliances, wearable devices and industrial machines can all be hooked up. The most high profile examples in 2017 will be the personal digital assistants such as Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. Powered by artificial intelligence algorithms and plugged into the vast amounts of big data these tech companies have access to, voice recognition software is now sophisticated enough to make it useful. Forbes looks at the ‘7 predictions for future of digital assistant search’.
Artificial intelligence (AI) are computers that can think and learn like the human brain and they are already having a huge impact on our daily lives – virtual personal assistants, video games, smart cars and banks’ fraud detection systems all make use of AI technology. The digital ads and recommendations served up by Google, Facebook and Twitter are all a result of investment in learning machines and algorithms which predict what people are going to buy and read. In 2017 this machine learning will increasingly be available to SMEs as well via third party agencies. In marketing, products such as Phrasee use AI to generate subject lines, body copy and calls to action for marketing emails and Wordsmith can turn your company data into news articles. An SME can also easily tap into third-party services which analyse customer sentiment on social media, or can learn customer preferences and serve up product recommendations or target ads to the most receptive audience.
Machine learning is now being built into business software as well. Accounting packages are now much more than a glorified spreadsheet – they can optimise cash movement to minimise tax and financing costs, or proactively predict when a bank account is likely to hit overdraft.
Digital first in 2017
There is a positive link between digital skills and a company’s financial performance, and many new digital trends promise to transform your business and make your life easier. The question is – which ones should you invest in? Only research can answer this question. Find the ones that will have the biggest impact on your business (what are your biggest pain points?), are simple to understand, simple to use and give you access to customer support. SMEs have the agility to implement new technology relatively quickly but you need the right skillset to do so. The Digital Business Academy, run by Tech City UK, runs free online courses to help businesses thrive in the digital age.