Top business trends to watch for in 2017

Peering into our crystal ball, we predict what trends businesses should understand – and take advantage of – this coming year.

1. Digital engagement a must-have

A Deloitte Access Economics report entitled Connected Small Businesses shows that Australian small and medium businesses (SMBs) with ‘advanced’ levels of digital engagement are 1.5 times more likely to grow revenue than those with ‘basic’ levels of engagement. They are much more innovative, too.

“Yet despite these benefits, almost half of all SMBs at lower levels of engagement do not regard digital tools as relevant for their business,” Deloitte says.

What does the report say bosses should be doing differently? Training employees to enhance their digital skills, integrating technologies rather than adopting online tools in isolation and starting with third-party e-commerce platforms as they get used to the digital world.

2. Flexible workforce to ramp up recruitment

In a flexible workplace, full-time employees work side by side, or virtually, with freelancers. Driving this fast-growing trend is cheaper cloud computing, better remote work tools and affordable enterprise-level technology platforms.

Smart businesses are using it to reduce fixed costs while benefiting from the specialist skills of freelance talent.

3. Millennials start to get a fair go

Often an object of scorn, Millennials are coming into their own as companies appreciate the need for employees who can respond to digital disruption and help implement IT changes.

The oldest Millennials are now about 35 – they’re not kids anymore – and are set to take on more senior roles. Progressive companies understand this and are seeking to harness their skills and tap into their insights on the consumption habits of their peers.

4. Software and services spending to boom

Market researcher Gartner predicts that companies worldwide will spend a whopping US$3.5 trillion on IT in 2017, with spending on software and services – rather than hardware – to be the big-ticket area as they buy technology to support cloud computing. Increasingly, businesses of all sizes are putting their trust in the cloud for tasks related to email, online backup and web hosting.

5. Social media on the up and up

Defying suggestions it is just a fad, social media is thriving in the business sector on the back of its ability to connect with consumers via mobile devices, in particular.

Expect real-time engagement to be in vogue in 2017 as client-support programs empower social media teams to answer questions and resolve issues quickly.

LinkedIn will remain popular, but some analysts believe Instagram – with its capacity for bigger, more detailed content – may get the jump on Twitter as the latter’s users grow tired of being bombarded with often meaningless tweets.

6. Influencer marketing goes mainstream

With Google search engines getting smarter and smarter, ‘influencer marketing’ is becoming an alternative to traditional advertising. But what is it? In the world of social media, some ‘personalities’ on YouTube, Instagram and other platforms have huge followings and can sway consumer behaviour with their recommendations through blogs and other social media interaction. What’s more, a McKinsey study suggests that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising”.

7. Content marketing to drive brand impact

Big brands are getting far more sophisticated about content marketing, delivering outstanding content that positions their companies as thought leaders while aligning it with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategies that direct consumers to their sites. It’s harder for smaller businesses with limited resources to compete, but the regular posting of targeted blogs and clever videos can give them a presence, too.

8. Healthcare, business services and education to create jobs and opportunities

Businesses should always be aware of growth sectors as they connect with consumers and respond to recruitment shifts. According to a report from the Australian Government Department of Employment, entitled Employment Outlook to November 2020, three sectors stand out for jobs growth: healthcare; professional, scientific and technical services; and education and training. With an ageing population, smart people and strategies are needed in areas such as allied health, especially.

A boom in online education and training is also set to create employment opportunities and allow employers to fast-track the skills of a new generation of workers.

Words by Cameron Cooper

The articles represent the views of the authors and not necessarily that of the Bank. You should seek independent professional advice before acting on any matters set out in the articles.