As the year comes to a close, it’s important for marketers and small business leaders alike to get a sense of what their consumers will be expecting from them in the future. So, what’s to come in 2022? Will technology continue to grow, with businesses using it to communicate more effectively with their consumers providing them with more value? Of course — and there is no doubt that the five following trends will also greatly impact the next decade of business innovations.
1) Sustainability (ESG) and the Simple Green Initiative for a brighter future
Sustainability is not just a flashpoint in American presidential elections — it also represents a core tenet of our society as a whole. So don’t just look at “sustainability” as the new watchword in business trends; the rise of environmentally friendly products and services will accelerate over time.
According to GetSmarter’s Global Sustainability Report, consumers are willing to pay more for products that help them reduce their carbon footprint (and avoid pollution fees). As a result, governments can tax these items at a higher rate than less sustainable ones, which gives them increased revenue to spend on programs that improve their citizens’ quality of life.
The report found that 63% of its respondents opt for a green lifestyle or say they’re making environmentally friendly choices. Millennials are the most engaged generation in the green movement from riding a bike to work every day to reducing paper usage.
Small businesses can differentiate themselves by adopting green initiatives early on – leading to improved brand reputation and bottom-line performance. Companies that fail to adjust won’t survive long enough to experience changes in consumer behavior over time.
Companies will have to rethink what they do in the face of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Some will try to capitalize on forward-thinking opportunities; others will perfect their products to suit new ideas. Entrepreneurs can build stronger companies that thrive in any economic climate by taking advantage of the latest trends. We’ll see how businesses across all industries respond to these emerging needs—for instance, will they react with short-term strategies or a long-term commitment?
2) Global collaboration and the transformation of modern business models through remote software
Technology will continue to make business operations more flexible, while global interconnectedness will increase the demand for companies to collaborate with clients across borders. This could be especially beneficial for small businesses seeking innovation or looking to expand into international markets.
Flexible working arrangements and collaborative software should help businesses become more productive and innovative — and allow them to gain access to talent worldwide. In addition, working remotely opens up opportunities both domestically and internationally because of how it allows people to work together.
Collaboration is good for product development and organizational culture. The more employees interact and contribute new ideas to a joint project, the more likely they will be able to think of new ways to tackle problems and improve existing products. Collaborations also give employees a sense of ownership — they might not always receive recognition on their own. Still, as part of a team, collaboration is a great opportunity for them to impact their company.
3) At the touch of a screen: the rise of contactless delivery and service options
Consumers will continue to demand easy ways to purchase goods and services. Contactless payment options, like Apple Pay and PayPal, are becoming more common — and businesses that don’t offer them will be at a competitive disadvantage. Easy access to online shopping is also becoming increasingly important for consumers, who already rely on apps like Amazon Go and Siri for mobile purchases.
As mobile payment systems become even more convenient, mobile commerce will soon begin taking off globally. However, even with cash-based systems disappearing, consumers aren’t likely to stop buying products altogether; they just want the process of purchasing things online or using point-of-sale systems to be as smooth as possible.
4) The digital privacy revolution: Protecting ourselves from Big Data
When you send an email to a client, they may open it on their work computer — but unless you’re sending sensitive information, most small business owners don’t worry about unencrypted emails. However, if one of your clients is hacked or experiences an external breach (e.g., Target), your entire company might end up at risk.
To protect yourself and your company, change all passwords with regularly scheduled updates that fall within compliance with regulatory requirements. For example, the European Union implemented the GDPR — General Data Protection Regulation — to protect individuals’ rights regarding organizations’ data storage and access. As a result, there have been more than a few changes made to the way businesses handle data for their customers, and these include:
1. Data protection officers must be appointed by the organizations that handle the data.
2. Companies must disclose data breaches within 72 hours of discovery.
3. Data encryption is now a requirement.
4. Penalties for noncompliance are severe — up to $20 million or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is higher.
Whether you agree with these guidelines or not, workplace trends are changing rapidly, so your company better prepare for the big shift ahead. That’s why even small businesses should consider investing in encryption for internal communications. Being able to access sensitive information without worrying about it falling into the wrong hands makes compliance easy.
5) How the marketplace is breaking down barriers between man and machine
AI has already begun to make waves in business, but there are still many things that aren’t automated. As AI becomes more widely accepted and further automated by small businesses, workers will spend less time on repetitive tasks. They’ll have more opportunities to focus on bigger projects with larger payoffs — and perhaps pursue careers that will be impossible for machines to achieve for years to come.
We are well on our way to reaching an era where computers take over menial tasks and enable workers to focus on bigger-picture solutions. For example, Web 3.0 is a new breaking point for the internet. As we speak, developers are designing an entirely new layer, and it will be responsible for taking the web to a whole new level.
Merging AI and blockchain technology, along with decentralized data ownership and processing, Web 3.0 will give power back to businesses and users alike — creating a platform that anyone can use to organize and create fantastic user experiences.
In 2022, Deep Fakes will fundamentally reshape the internet and how we view it. This technology could threaten our ability to distinguish between truth or deception in a variety of areas, from infidelity to law enforcement investigations. To keep this form of AI from eroding the public’s trust, the industry has just begun to grapple with the ethical implications of AI effectively.
There has been much discussion, but now it’s time for concrete action. Many issues stem from ethical concerns that haven’t been addressed or resolved, so this means businesses must work around the clock to ensure their AI is humane.
Consider this a start
This rundown should serve as a jumping-off point for your own research rather than an exhaustive list. You may already have some insight into how these changes will impact your business — or, perhaps, these are brand-new concepts you hadn’t considered. Either way, we encourage you to develop further insights into how these trends will likely play out over time. Doing so will help you spot opportunities for your business while others are still struggling to adapt to change.