Changes in 2017 that may shape the business landscape

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Business game changer

Modern organization operations look significantly different than they did a mere decade ago. Companies no longer offer just brick-and-mortar storefronts; they must also have an online presence to remain competitive. Some shops are exclusively digital, offering goods and services through web portals. These characteristics are becoming the new normal across enterprises, and aspiring business leaders must take these factors into consideration when pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree. The business landscape has evolved considerably over the years, and changes within 2017 will further shape employee, customer and organization expectations.

Fallout of geopolitical decisions

Political outcomes around the world significantly impact business and employment opportunities. In summer 2016, Britain voted to leave the European Union. This type of move takes a considerable amount of time to happen and won’t officially be in place until 2019. As a result, the outcomes of Brexit haven’t fully been felt, but there have been some minor impacts already. According to Time, the Federal Reserve has increased the interest rate and may have to hold that rate until the turbulence subsides. Brexit also takes out a key economic and political channel in Europe, making it difficult to move American agendas around trade, global tax reform, and digital privacy.

Significant changes are also occurring within the U.S. that will impact businesses, although it’s uncertain what the outcomes will look like. Since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, there have been a number of executive orders and proposed legislation. Trump not only took apart the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he has also called for changes to NAFTA. Financial Times noted that this type of environment could set off a trade war with China and impact foreign policy. Big changes are also coming in the form of tax cuts for American businesses and a new health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. The full outcomes of these decisions have yet to pan out, but they will no doubt affect organization and employment opportunities.

Use of IoT

The Internet of Things is no longer just a futuristic buzzword. More objects are being internet-enabled from coffee makers to cars to home monitoring systems. Sensor-driven, connected hardware poses new opportunities and challenges for businesses to take advantage of. According to Forbes, experts are estimating nearly 30 billion connected devices by 2020, all generating data and communicating in new ways. Organizations can take advantage of the data offered by IoT devices, but it will need to be analyzed and reported effectively.

The IoT offers better productivity and efficiency across the board. Businesses can use IoT developments to accomplish large-scale tasks faster and with greater precision than ever before. Smart devices and trackers can help manage and monitor inventory changes automatically, freeing up employees for other demanding tasks while ensuring that organizations have enough materials on hand. Similarly, employees will be able to easily and quickly locate items to minimize downtime searching for inventory.

Much like the mobile takeover in the workplace, IoT devices and tools will find a place in business operations, although it will likely be a much more gradual transition. It will be important to learn how to use these solutions effectively and parse through data on a specific, qualitative level. Organizations must create policies and consider infrastructure capabilities to support these operations and keep up with the competition. The IoT will shape the business landscape as organizations become more aware of the trend and its capabilities.

Introduction of intelligence tools

With the increasing use of IoT and mobile devices, more data is being generated than ever before. It will be imperative for organizations to incorporate intelligence tools to analyze information related to customer, business, website and social media behaviors. These solutions track and record patterns of consumer behavior, enabling organizations to orient marketing efforts to buyer needs. By collecting feedback from multiple channels, businesses will be able to form a more thorough picture of the customer and their pain points.

Organizations can collect information to deliver a tailored experience to the customer. According to Infosys research, 59 percent of shoppers believe that personalization has a noticeable influence on purchasing. Consumers might receive offers that aren’t relevant to their needs, showing that the company doesn’t know who they are. These marketing methods might have mistakes about basic information related to the receiver. During these mistargeting situations, consumers might automatically delete the email, unsubscribe and visit the website less frequently.

Personalized campaigns will make customers more likely to buy products and strengthen their relationship with the business. However, the only way to execute these plans effectively is to use quality data to drive marketing decisions. According to eMarketer, organizations use data from loyalty and customer value programs and behavior-based information to create personalized offers and content. These efforts better engage consumer emotions and deliver contextually relevant products or services. Organizations can also use this data to develop new products that will benefit customers.

Self-service revolution

A growing number of people are utilizing e-commerce vendors for their purchases, as this channel offers more convenience for customers. In fact, a 2016 survey by comScore and UPS found that shoppers now make 51 percent of their transactions with e-commerce sites, and 190 million U.S. consumers will shop online this year, Fortune reported. Amazon is the biggest challenger against establishments like Walmart.

While e-commerce is growing steadily, not everything can be bought online and delivery takes time. However, Amazon is once again disrupting the space by announcing a brick-and-mortar grocery store without cashiers, registers or lines. Amazon Go opened its first location in Seattle and is still undergoing extensive beta testing with Amazon employees as shoppers. Customers simply scan into the store with the Amazon Go app, shop and leave with the goods billed to their Amazon account. The store uses machine learning to identify products shoppers take, allowing patrons to avoid lines and get a true self-service experience. Retail technologies like beacons and virtual reality could also expand upon these capabilities for accurate billing.

Amazon’s new initiative offers a lot of potential, but there is still value within the human element of shopping. The company recently bought Whole Foods as a means to enter the grocery market and expand its footprint. Luxury experiences cannot be achieved with a mobile app. However, Amazon’s technology could help eliminate self-checkout errors like inventory loss due to miscounting or theft, while still being consumer friendly, CNBC stated. The benefits of these new self-service models could make a big splash in the business landscape in the near future.

Sustainable operations

Sustainability means a number of different things for businesses. Consumers are increasingly looking to go to organizations that provide ecological balance, social progress, and economic growth. Many companies are following calls to consolidate data centers to use hardware and space more effectively while lowering overall costs and decreasing the environmental footprint. Inc noted that when businesses band together to lead the discussion and search for solutions to these issues, it improves their reputation and can help bring operations into the future.

Within organizations, sustainability also means using resources wisely. Monitoring energy usage and operating costs can help identify areas that are hogging resources. Leaders can use this information to make strategic cuts for better efficiency, productivity, and savings. For example, apparel retailer, Bonobos adopted a showroom strategy using only 8 percent of the space of a traditional store, Retail Dive noted. In this strategy, the retailer only has products to look at, does not offer stock and requires purchases to be completed online. Adapting to these changing conditions and operating sustainably will help lead to success for years to come while accommodating consumer and partner sensibilities.

Learn emerging business skills

The business landscape is an ever-shifting canvas, constantly adapting to technology trends and consumer demands. Pursuing an MBA from an accredited institution like the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business will help equip you with the necessary skills to take advantage of these changes and use them effectively in your career.

MBA students can learn more about how geopolitical decisions and demands for sustainability are impacting how businesses operate and what they must consider to continue operating effectively. Technologies like the IoT, intelligence tools, and self-service advancements should also be watched closely to stay ahead of the competition. With these tools, organizations can better target consumer needs and eliminate workflow bottlenecks. Personalized experiences and ease of interaction will be major focus points for aspiring business leaders for the foreseeable future.

Students at the Robert H. Smith School of Business online program can learn valuable skills on their own schedule while holding down a job. Ongoing education and development will help keep your skills attuned to current standards and improve your career prospects.

Recommended Readings:
Alibaba’s Secret Sauce: Women
Apple as a Marketing Machine
The Value of Data in Business