A Look Back at the Biggest Business Trends of 2017
As we kick off the new year, let’s take a second to look back at some of the most influential trends that we saw in the business world last year.
Businesses got personal
With so many companies using automation and CRM tools to reach their audiences it’s becoming easier to create noise with content that isn’t valuable. Business should make it their goal to cut through all the noise to reach their customers. That’s why the most innovative businesses of 2017 realized that a one-size-fits-all strategy isn’t going to cut it and began to embrace a more segmented approach to reaching their clients. Segmentation goes beyond just personalizing an email – it’s about really understanding a customer’s interests and tailoring communication and content specifically for them.
Content and communication will continue to become more personalized as others realize that focused and truly personalized communications helps businesses thrive in today’s marketplace.
“Brand Safety” became a buzzword
Before 2017, most marketers wouldn’t have thought twice about incorporating brand safety into their digital strategy. Then a February article by the British news source The Times revealed an investigation into placement of digital ads across extended networks which allowed ads for hundreds of large companies, universities, and charities to appear on hate sites that support terrorism and discrimination. In response to this investigation, companies began to pull thousands of dollars in ad spend out of Google and YouTube. P&G, one of the world’s biggest advertisers, pulled over $100 million in digital ad spend due to the “murky” nature of the digital supply chain. Even worse news for the digital ad space – P&G later announced that they didn’t see any reduction in their sales growth rate despite the spending cut.
Due to these investigations, digital ad sellers like Google, YouTube, and Facebook will have to continue addressing how they use their extended networks for advertising and will be held more accountable for where customer ads are being shown.
Collaboration tools go mainstream
Have you heard? There’s a new kid in town when it comes to daily business communication. While email is still a prominent communication tool, collaboration tools like Slack are becoming more of a norm for the day-to-day business of teams and organizations of all sizes. Slack recently bypassed the 6-million-user mark in September 2017, and as their features continue to grow, so will their numbers. That being said, email isn’t going away altogether – it’s still the main mode of communication for external usage.
With tools like Slack opening up options for multi-company usage, these tools will likely become more popular for external communication in addition to the current internal communication methods. With that shift towards collaborative communication tools, marketers who currently use email marketing and communication to reach their prospects and customers will have to adapt.
Related Article: New Year’s Resolutions for Sales Teams
Video became essential for B2B
Talk to a B2C marketer and they’ll tell you that video has been an essential part of marketing for years. Now, B2B businesses are finally realizing they have to catch up on to this trend. According to a recent Forbes study, 75% of C-suite executives said they watch work-related videos on business-related websites at least weekly, and 65% of those surveyed have visited a vendor’s website after watching a video.
B2B marketers will continue to embrace the video trend and will likely shift towards using videos to provide valuable content for prospective clients and customer service for current clients.
Brick-and-Mortar brands need to find a niche to survive
There’s no doubt that the brick-and-mortar stores of our past are disappearing quickly. Some of the biggest casualties of 2017 include The Limited, BCBG Max Azaria, HHGregg, and Gordmans who all filed for bankruptcy this past year. Those brands may be struggling, but there are other brick-and-mortar stores that have adapted to the times. Men’s clothing retailer Bonobos utilizes its physical stores as “guideshops” shoppers to browse and try things on, and then people order online. This allows the stores to keep little inventory. Other stores, like the Home Depot, are using their space to keep inventory so fulfillment is faster for customers. Home Depot rolled out their Buy Online, Delivery from Store feature which means their stores are essentially their warehouses and fulfillment centers in one. Nordstrom is working on connecting their physical stores with the digital world. They are adding an option to “Reserve Online and Try in Stores”, and also adding features to their mobile app that will allow shoppers to scan items in-store and fulfill the order online.
It’s not all bad news for retailers out there. This holiday season saw sales increase 4.9 percent over the previous year, the largest year-over-year increase since 2011. That means people are buying. The trick for retailers will be to take this upswing in consumer spending and get a piece of the pie by being able to adapt to the changing times and give consumers what they want: easier and more personalized purchasing.
The “Gig” is in for the evolving job market
Whether you call it the “gig economy” or an “agile workforce”, it’s been on the rise for several years as employees move away from the full-time office job towards short-term projects and contract work. So what has fed this growing trend in the employment industry? The number one motivator has been technology. The growth of the “bring your own device” trend allows employees to be always on, always connected, and always working, no matter where they are. This allows for employees to work outside of the traditional working hours and remotely. In addition to technology allowing flexible working environments, the rise of the gig economy directly relates to unemployment rates and falling or stagnant income rates in the past few years. According to LinkedIn, between 2000 and 2012, median family income dropped 8% while the average U.S. rent prices climbed 13%, increasing cost of living. Employees are also motivated to freelance because it provides a more diverse work experience and job security at a time where jobs are being threatened by automation. All these factors put together have steadily increased the number of agile employees across all industries in the past year.
LinkedIn predicts that by the year 2020, 43% of the U.S. workforce will be made up of workers who freelance, whether it’s younger workers who enjoy flexibility or older employees who are taking control of their careers. Based on the market and these predictions, we think it’s safe to say that this trend will only increase well into 2018 and beyond.
Tech companies aren’t flying over “Flyover Country” anymore
When thinking of tech startups, the immediate thought is to think of Silicon Valley – the Mecca of high-tech that has bred a few little companies that you may have heard of, including Google, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, and Apple. The growing reality these days is that innovation can happen anywhere, and it has been accelerating in places that you might not think of as “tech hubs”. In fact, we’ve been seeing a sort of tech revolution not just in coastal cities, but throughout the U.S. that some have dubbed “Rise of the Rest” – a movement to start and scale high-growth companies across the United States. The patient, hard-working, and collaborative attitude of the Midwest has bode especially well for startups like ExactTarget in Indianapolis which grew so successful it was acquired by Salesforce, Groupon, the e-commerce deals marketplace that is based out of Chicago, and CoverMyMeds which is based out of Columbus and helps patients get medication more quickly by streamlining healthcare workflows. In addition, major coastal companies are beginning to see the value of finding hubs and headquarters further from the coast – one example being Amazon’s search for their HQ2.
It’s predicted that in the next few years, the Midwest will have more startups than Silicon Valley. Over the next decade, innovation and investment will accelerate “flyover country” due to advancement in technology and increased mobility which allows people to work from anywhere and can help attract talent to the Midwest, lower cost of living which allows startups to go further on a lower budget, local support and collaboration, and greater access to capital as venture capitalists start paying more attention to what is happening throughout the country. Let’s be honest, Convey is a little biased about the growth of flyover country startups considering we’re based out of Cleveland and have a front seat view of all the great startups popping up in the Midwest.
2017 saw a lot of big changes in the business world, and we are on track to see many more changes in the new year. One of the major shifts we predict for 2018 is a change in the way we connect with each other. Check out our article It’s About Connections, Not Contacts to learn more.