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Things are moving fast, and sometimes it can be hard to determine which trends are here to stay and which will soon come to pass. Some things that are #trending are just popular for the moment, big on social media, and widely discussed online—until they fizzle out and make room for the next fleeting trend. 

There are, however, some big trends that are here to stay and sure to evolve over time. These big trends are ones you don’t want to ignore because they can elevate your business, provide solutions for you and your customers, and be something that the customers of tomorrow will soon begin to expect. 

In this post, you’ll learn six big trends that are here or soon to come, and you’ll discover how independent businesses can capitalize on them in their own unique way.

Big Trend #1: Data Capture

Big data isn’t just for mega businesses. Big data refers to the large and detailed data sets that are typically analyzed digitally to tell you patterns, trends, and associations related to your business and its customers. These data points usually give you information about human behavior and interactions and are summarized in easily-digestible ways through analytics. 

Data that you can capture includes: 

  • Inventory
  • Customers & Behaviors
  • Industry-wide Data
  • Market Trends

As an example, big data can tell you where your website visitors are coming from, where they tend to linger on your site, and for how long. For example, perhaps a large percentage of your customers make it to the “Buy Now” page but never finish the transaction. 

This data can help you analyze your customers’ behavior so you can discover what is happening along their buying journey and how you can make it better and more effective. 

By using big data, you’ll learn about your customers on a much deeper level. 

That way, you’ll better speak to your customers through your marketing, see patterns and trends, predict future demand, and know your customers and business more intimately than ever before. 

You likely already have the tools to capture valuable data. Three main ways you can capture data are through: 

  1. Transactions
  2. Website Analytics
  3. Brick and Mortar Store traffic

Big data provides powerful insights that can help even the smallest business reap more significant profits. Don’t miss out on leveraging it as much as possible in your own business.

Big Trend #2: AI 

There is strong evidence showing that AI – Artificial Intelligence – is the future of business. Sooner or later, every business will need to incorporate it into their model to stay competitive. According to an analysis by PwC, global GDP will increase by up to 14% by 2030 thanks to the “accelerating development and adoption of AI”. This translates into a $15.7 Trillion boost to the economy. 

But how will this happen?

There are six key ways AI can help your business:

  1. By increasing employee productivity with automated tasks and processes.
  2. By improving marketing activities with precise and targeted content.
  3. By saving time and money and switching manual processes into automated ones.
  4. By avoiding human error in analysis and mathematics.
  5. By achieving the best business results through data, insights, and personalizations.
  6. By maximizing sales opportunities and increasing revenues.

AI is a big trend to consider for your business, but it is important to remember that it can’t do everything—nor should it. Here are a few places where AI is ineffective (at least for now!):

  • Software coding
  • Creative content generation
  • Ethical decision-making
  • Independent final decision-making
  • Innovation and invention

There are a few ways to begin incorporating AI into your business, depending on your needs and resources. You can build an AI solution from scratch, buy a ready-made product, collaborate with a partner to create your AI product, or even outsource the entire AI development process.

First, ask yourself the following questions to see where AI could help your business:

  1. What are your desired outcomes?
  2. What are your main obstacles to achieving the above outcomes?
  3. How can AI help your business succeed?
  4. How will you measure success?
  5. What data do you have today, and is it accurate?
  6. What data will you need in the future?

To learn what AI can do to help you and your business, check out this video from Cognizant that explains how AI is transforming retail. 

Big Trend #3: Robotics

Robots are no longer reserved for sci-fi films and manufacturing assembly lines. With technology making robots less expensive, what used to seem out of reach for independent businesses is now a reality for almost any sized company, especially those in manufacturing, assembly, and even food service

By outsourcing menial tasks to robots, you increase efficiency, speed, productivity, and profitability—and you save human brainpower for the functions that need them most, like customer service or final inspections. 

When determining if a robot may be a good fit for your business, first look at robots that can automate monotonous tasks, improve quality and consistency of production, reduce the margin for error, and make the workplace safer. The robot should be well worth the investment and yield clear returns over time. 

A big concern employees have about robotics is the number of jobs they may eliminate. Within your business, this concern makes for an excellent opportunity to elevate your company culture. Robotics give your employees more freedom and time, and they’ll be supported in doing their jobs even better. The ones whose job the robot mat be partially replacing have the opportunity to elevate their job title and do more impactful work that is both stimulating and engaging. 

Big Trend #4: Drone Delivery

Drone delivery is coming! A recent Fortune article, says that “Manna, a drone delivery company, gained approval in late October to launch its service in Oranmore, Ireland.” Manna’s biggest partner is a grocery giant named Tesco, but it quickly began supporting local mom-and-pops, too, like coffee shops and bookstores. 

 

Surprisingly, ordering by drone has already become the norm in Oranmore. With over 200,000 items available to order and delivery times faster than Amazon, residents are thrilled by the new technology that has allowed them to socially-distance during the pandemic and still support their local businesses. 

 

In December of 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. cleared the way for companies to fly at night and over people. Although there are still some questions around safety, national security, and law enforcement, the future is bright for drone deliveries.

 

Bobby Healy, the founder of Manna, is confident the new FAA rules can keep privacy at the forefront while also allowing more communities and local businesses to benefit from drone delivery. He stated, “We’re going to be in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year, and that’s because of what the FAA is doing,” Healy says. “We’re really looking forward to it.”

 

Amazon also offers Amazon Prime Air where regulatory support is available. Their first Amazon Prime Air delivery was in 2016. Watch it here

 

Keep an eye out for drone deliveries and start thinking about how they can be used for your products. For now, Amazon Prime Air will be only used for packages that weigh 5 pounds or less. 

Big Trend #5: Mass Customization

Mass customization leverages mass production and product personalization and can be used in virtually any industry. To do this, you must target different customer groups, research their needs, and adapt your wide-market products to them. The customization options can be product features, colors, capabilities, or capacities, and they don’t have to be complicated. 

 

In his book, Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition, B. Joseph Pine II describes the four most common mass customization approaches. Read them and consider how you might use them in your business. 

 

  1. Collaborative Customization: This is where you rely on customer feedback for their opinions, needs, and goals, then create highly personalized products based on their responses. 
  2. Adaptive Customization: This is when you create a standardized product but allow customers to change it later. This is commonly used with software and later add-ons. 
  3. Cosmetic Customization: If your product already meets almost any customer group’s needs, you can change the way you market your product based on how a user wants your product to be presented. Based on that, you market differently to different audiences.
  4. Transparent customization: This is when you provide highly personalized products for different customer groups without telling them. Customers’ needs must be predictable for this to work. This type of customization is also useful when customers do not want to provide feedback continually.

Big Trend #6: Subscription Models

People are loving subscription models for everything from meal delivery to razors, feminine hygiene products to dog food, make-up, and clothes. 

I’d venture to say that there’s a unique subscription model solution for every business, whether you sell a service or a product. 

A subscription model provides your business with recurring revenue and takes the guesswork out of your business cash flow. It also makes life easier for your customers by automating payments and regularly servicing them with whatever it is they subscribe to. 

For example, if you own a pet food business, your customers can subscribe to a monthly plan for their dog’s food and treats. Each month, a set price will be auto-billed to the customer and they’ll receive the monthly supply of goodies for their beloved pet. If you own a carpet cleaning business, you can offer a monthly subscription for carpet cleanings. Depending on how often the customer needs their carpets cleaned, they can pay a monthly amount for two cleanings a year.

Subscriptions allow you to better support your customers, retain them long term and provide your business with reliable monthly revenue. They also allow you to engage with customers more regularly, opening the door for valuable feedback, deeper relationships, and quality referrals.

Want to learn more about how to incorporate these big trends into your business in 2021? Click here to join our email list (we carefully guard it and never abuse) and receive your free copy of the Never Waste a Crisis ebook.