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GBSH BRAND MARKET PULSE www.gbshconsult.com Inside Roster TM by International Brand and Strategic Foresight Expert Tal Edgars 9 TRENDS THAT WILL DEFINE 2011 FOR MOST BUSINESSES and their OPPORTUNITIES 1. Yes, the Recovery is Real Nobody denies that times are still hard ‐‐ often very hard ‐‐ for millions of business people. But its equally foolish to ignore the long and growing list of economic indicators that point toward a slow but steady economic recovery through 2011 and beyond. Retail sales are strong and confidence among small business owners is climbing. Exports are up, the trade deficit is down, and very few experts now consider a double‐dip recession to be a serious risk. Of course, the only numbers that really matter for small businesses are the ones they rack up at the cash register. But when it comes to planning for the future, its important to get a good grip on whats ahead and how best to prepare for it. Back in 2007 and 2008, that meant plotting a survival strategy. In 2011, it means charting a course for growth, expansion, and even a bit of optimism ‐‐ all without sacrificing efficiency or a realistic attitude. 2. Mobile Commerce goes Mainstream Mobile and online shopping revenue more than doubled between 2009 and 2010. That growth rate will accelerate during 2011 as even more shoppers use smart phones ‐‐ the single most important technology driving this trend. As mobile payment schemes and near – field communication technology gain traction, more consumers will also use their smart phones as virtual wallets, allowing brick‐and‐mortar retailers to offer new cashless (and card less) payment options.
Small business owners are uniquely positioned to exploit this "m‐commerce" explosion. According to one recent study, 49 percent of business owners use smart phones ‐‐ nearly three times the national average in African states ‐‐ giving them a head start on putting the technology to work for their businesses. Theres still work to be done to move m‐commerce completely into the mainstream, including sorting through a bewildering variety of would‐be mobile payment standards. But with so much money to be made, 2011 is the year when thousands of small businesses will adopt and profit from mobile commerce. 3. Energy Prices Pack Quite a Punch Its the perfect storm for the price of oil: a stronger country economy, a weaker dollar, and surging global demand. And it all adds up to trouble in 2011 for price‐sensitive small businesses. How much trouble? Consider that the price of oil is already flirting with $100 per barrel, while U.S. gasoline prices are now soaring above $3 a gallon in many states. The last time either of those things happened was during the summer of 2008, when oil prices spiked at nearly $150 per barrel. Also like in 2008, the price of coal is climbing, too, thanks in part to growing demand from countries like China and India. You dont have to be an economist to understand the impact of higher energy prices, and especially oil prices, on small businesses bottom lines. Theyll face higher transportation, operations, and manufacturing costs ‐‐ and very few of them will be able to pass along those higher costs to price‐conscious consumers. The good news is that the price increases should continue to be gradual, barring any rude surprises. The bad news is that unless your company sells solar panels or wind turbines, youll pay your share for more expensive energy supplies in 2011.
4. Consumer Tech becomes Business Tech More employees than ever before use their own smart phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices to conduct business. Millions of workers also use cloud‐based e‐mail, social networking, online storage, and other services in addition to ‐‐ or instead of ‐‐ official work‐sanctioned functions. This trend is referred to as the "consumerization" of IT, and its a hotly debated issue. Some companies see it as a security and liability risk, and they fight it at every turn. Others see it as inevitable and efficient, and do their best to adapt to the changing times. Were betting that second group is getting this right: Consumerization is here to stay, and its almost impossible to fight. Just as important, supporting employee‐owned devices in the workplace is a great way to keep your staff happy, productive, and engaged with innovative new business technologies. The key is to give employees choices in the technologies they use without throwing away your ability to manage and protect sensitive data and vital business systems. Its a delicate balancing act, but 2011 will be the year when businesses of every size will have to figure out how to pull it off. Theres an additional benefit here for small businesses, many of which lack a full‐time tech staff: A "consumerized" technology policy can make employees responsible for providing their own technical support, service, and device repairs, reducing your internal tech support burden in the process. 5. Restless – Employee Syndrome There are lots of statistics that claim to capture the state of the economy. But heres an especially interesting one: According to the Wall Street Journal, in February 2010 the number of employees who quit voluntarily once again exceeded the number getting fired or laid off. As the economic recovery takes hold in 2011, restless‐employee syndrome will become a real problem for more and more small businesses. The same folks who helped you hunker down, work smart, and
survive the downturn are starting to get restless. Some of them will seek greener pastures, and some will even strike out with new small businesses of their own. According to one study, an amazing 84 percent of all employees say they will actively search for a new job in 2011. Maybe your small business still cant carry the burden of higher wages ‐‐ the most obvious way to encourage your best employees to stick around. Judging from the previous statistic, however, companies that dont get serious about retaining quality employees may have a serious staffing problem on their hands. 6. The Rise of the Insight Economy Most businesses today capture vast amounts of customer data. The real challenge, however, lies in extracting useful insights from this mountain of raw, unstructured data. Business intelligence and analytics tools designed to do the job have been around for years, but they have also been so expensive and complicated that only the biggest companies could afford to use them. In 2011, thats all changing fast. Todays BI solutions are cheaper and easier to use; many of them are offered as on‐demand, software‐as‐a‐service (SaaS) products that require little or no upfront investment. These solutions allow even very small businesses to learn more about their customers ‐‐ who they are, what they like, and what theyre willing to pay. Its a technology revolution that enables small businesses to identify and serve their customers more efficiently than ever before, helping to level the playing field with bigger competitors. And if you think these tools are cheap and powerful today, just wait until you see whats available this time next year. 7. The Virtual Workplace Gets Real As others have pointed out, its quite difficult to know exactly how many business owners work from home. But its safe to say that they number in the millions, and that lots of smaller businesses rely on "virtual workforces" to expand their geographic coverage, land qualified employees, and keep their operating overhead to a minimum. Obviously, telecommuting isnt always an option for small business employees. But when it is an option, a wealth of supporting technologies is making it easier than ever. Videoconferencing, voice over IP,
document‐sharing, collaboration, online meetings, and other applications allow remote employees to work effectively, and many of them cost little or nothing to use. And among startups, its becoming more common for entrepreneurs to recruit, hire, and manage remote‐work teams without ever meeting these new employees in person. Whether your small business takes an all‐in approach or simply allows employees to work from home for a day or two each week, 2011 will see telecommuting become an even more widely accepted part of the small business employment environment. Not to mention the rise in virtual office syndrome…..Regus, ESBC in Kenya, CMS in Japan, eOffice in USA and many more. 8. Social Media Shakeout For many small businesses, 2010 was the year to experiment with social media sites. The challenge this year is figuring out which sites are worth the effort ‐‐ a tough nut to crack, judging from the endless array of social‐media icons that litter some small business websites. And when managing a social media presence means spending time on each of those sites, engaging with customers, and refreshing content, the whole process can be exhausting and ultimately unprofitable for resource‐constrained small businesses. Thats why 2011 will be the year that small businesses take a long, hard look at their social media strategies. First and foremost, that means dumping unproductive options: Your business may well decide that a YouTube channel or Flickr account just isnt worth the trouble to maintain. But it also means finding the right tools to manage multiple social media sites ‐‐ a role that vendors like Ping.fm and HootSuite are moving aggressively to fill. The idea is to manage your social media strategy and track your results from a single point of access. A year from now, many small businesses will wonder how they ever managed to navigate the social media jungle without tools like these. 9. Brand Value and Market Capitalization In the year 2009 – 2010 even the biggest brand lost at least 2% of their brand value e.g. Coke, IBM, Microsoft, Google. The big question being how do you bridge the distance between business strategy and design. These questions have been tackled well by one of the, most
intuitive brand experts I have met JOYCE MBAYA in Kenya…….and she SAID “IF A BRAND HAS NO STORY THEN ITS RESILIENCE STANDS TO LOSE IN TERMS OF MARKET PLACE LONGEVITY”………I would quickly add “IF YOUR BRAND LOOKS LIKE A DUCK AND SWIMS LIKE A DOG, PEOPLE WILL DISTRUST IT…..” Check out the GBSH Consult site: go to http://www.gbshconsult.com . Join International Brand and Strategy Expert Tal Edgars (http://www.linkedin.com/in/taledgars ) Linked In business network of creative professionals, business and entrepreneurs. Get info on the very best of FREE services, tools and resources to grow and market your businessAuthor: Tal Edgars is best known for his global expertise when it comes to coaxing out the real power in brands to dramatically increase sales. He is also an expert advisor to some of the world’s strongest brands. An author soon to be published on Brand Pulse: A Brand Therapist’s Viewpoint. Follow me on Twitter@taledgars Keep reading the GBSH Brand Market Pulse…….The Number One Inside Roster on Creating Blue Oceans and Uncontested Market Space in your industry.