2016 has been a big year – politically, socially and economically. As we near the end of 2016’s tenure, what business predictions can we make for 2017?
Technology keeps delivering
With the rise of the internet and smartphones, the shift of power between businesses and customers has moved firmly towards the latter group. A brand’s success can rise and fall on the whim of a few customers with a platform, and comparison between business’ offer is faster and more comprehensive than ever before. One result of this is that customer expectations have rocketed over the last few years. In response, a lot of brands now offer customer-focused and high quality ‘experiences’ rather than straightforward products or services.
In 2017, this shift will become even more extreme, and the Internet of Things will become the number one way for brands to deliver the kind of customer experiences that maintain or grow market share. As the cost of virtual reality systems fall (although arguably not fast enough), and accessibility rises, this platform will be another avenue through which brands can attract and retain customers. For the first time, shoppers can now buy any of the big three ‘first-generation’ VR headsets: Oculus VR’s Rift, HTC’s Vive, and Sony’s PlayStation VR.
A third new tech area likely to come into its own in 2017 is the delivery drone. However, there is still lots of legislation preventing this technology from truly taking flight (excuse the pun) – for example, companies still can’t legally fly drones at night or outside the line of sight of their operators without a special exemption. We will probably see some relaxing of the rules soon.
However, on the flipside, the constant connectivity between customers and their chosen brands will be threatened by security breaches. In October 2016, Twitter, Amazon and Spotify – three megalithic icons of this trend towards tech-enabled business – were knocked offline when an internet switchboard was hacked. This will happen again in 2017, probably more than once.
With Brexit and Trump on the horizon in the first part of 2017, the business world is in for a rocky and (dare we say it) unpredictable start to the year.
Although stock markets rose sharply after Trump’s win, increasing uncertainty about his impact on international trade may well unnerve investors (particularly those already nervous about interest rates and US stocks). However, GDP predictions for the US are looking good. According to international agencies, GDP growth in 2017 is forecast at 2.2% growth or more, which is way up from a projected 1.6% growth in 2016. Wages are rising and unemployment is low, so let’s allow ourselves a little optimism.
In the UK, PM Theresa May will eventually get around to triggering Article 50, which will officially start the country’s exit from the European Union. It’s still unclear whether this exit will be a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ one, but that lack of clarity will only fan the flames when it comes to concerns about the economy in the UK. We predict that investors will look elsewhere when it comes to setting up shop there.
China continues to boom
China’s massive growth over the last few years is set to continue apace into 2017. President Xi Jinping last year called for GDP growth of at least 6.5% for the coming five years – and the government is doing whatever it takes to prop up growth and meet this goal. The domestic debt-to-GDP ratio rose by a whopping 28% in the 12 months through June. As a result, consumers are spending and growth is growing!
Big move to office-free
We’ve long waved goodbye to the personal office and the cubicle. But 2016 saw the first major move away from the much-loved open office. This is thanks to the rise of ‘hot desks’, always available to anyone, at an affordable price. The result of this trend? In 2017, the idea of a business not really needing an office will start to grow and spread. Forrester predicts that the first Fortune 100 company will abandon the office altogether – eschewing commuting to an expensive bit of real estate for tele-commuting solutions instead. We might also see the beginnings of a backlash, as employees miss the social elements of an office-space, not to mention the ergonomic benefits of a well-maintained desk!
Growth of the green economy
Despite Trump’s reported allegiance to the climate-denier camp, we can’t help but be helpful looking at projections for the growth of the green economy – particularly when it comes to energy solutions. Solar panels are 80% cheaper than they were five years ago, and – in many places – it’s now cheaper to get electricity from wind than from coal and gas. It’s hard to avoid the fact that market forces and technology (as opposed to government regulation) are making fossil fuel-based solutions uneconomical.