12 Business Trends CEOs Need to Know for 2017 and Beyond
You can feel the tension in the air.
It’s halftime, and your team is down by 14 points.
In walks your coach, Al Pacino.
As he begins to speak, you can tell he’s not happy.
“We are in hell right now, gentlemen.
We can stay here, or we can fight our way back into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch at a time.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in every break of the game, every minute, every second.
On this team, we fight for that inch.
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our fingernails for that inch.
Cause we know when we add up all those inches, that’s going to make the difference between winning and losing… between living and dying!”
You probably know this classic speech. If you’re in business, you know exactly what Pacino is talking about.
Business is a game of inches.
These 12 trends are designed to help you identify, win, and seize the inches you need.
It’s part 1/2 in a two part series, and it’s brought to you by our sponsor and partner, AddShoppers. If you sell anything online, AddShoppers software will help you increase your revenue for each visitor. They work with the biggest brands in the world, and even guarantee that you’ll make at least 10x more in revenue than the price of their software. Now THAT is a mission we can get behind.
1. Ads Are Becoming Chapters in A Never Ending Story
Many of us have seen an example of a storytelling ad or two. These narratives are trending towards uniqueness, downright weirdness, or small stories that are part of a larger never ending story.
The main appeal of these creative shorts is that they leave consumers wanting to know what happens next. The goal is the same: deliver value, and peak their interest for more.
Expect the ads you see on social to be the beginning of a story whose ending you can only discover by going to the retailer’s website. This emotionally-driven ad done by 84 Lumber during this year’s Super Bowl is a perfect example of a journey/story contained in an advertisement.
These ads won’t be as much about a product as they will be about creating the first part in an open loop narrative that the user seeks to close.
Image-based ads are great for product promotion, but video ads and creative shorts will use our human need for closure to boost our engagement with brands that understand how to use them well.
Furthermore, with more noise on social channels than ever, we’re going to see higher expectations from brands for their marketing and ad agency partners to produce novel and viral campaigns. Advertising partners won’t be able to take the same strategy that worked for retailer A and apply it to retailer B. Creativity and innovation will be the name of the game.
We’ve seen the success that unique storytelling can have with retailers like Dollar Shave Club and Squatty Potty, but the permission given to ad agencies to experiment and try wild ideas will skyrocket this year.
2. More Brands Will Create Original Media Series
Expect brands to hire agencies to create original media and stories (both fiction and nonfiction). They’ll do this across many mediums, including text, audio, video, podcasts, documentaries, VR, TV Series, and even full-length feature films.
We’re likely to see more content that helps solve a problem, teach a skill, or otherwise inspire a brand’s potential customers.
Ebay and Gimlet Creative have already entered this space with the podcast “Open For Business.”
The podcast discusses the triumphs and challenges of building a business from the ground up. This is a great start, but non-fiction stories are not as evergreen as fictional ones. The Message podcast, developed by General Electric and two creative agencies, epitomizes this marketing truth. This podcast highlights why fictional stories can generate enduring awareness for years.
When we create custom content for brands, we encourage them to explore the fictional route. Original, fictional series have the ability to stay relevant and produce results for years — even decades. This can’t be said for any other type of branded content.
3. Expect Research and Spending on M&A To Skyrocket (and Everyone Will Get Involved)
Spending on M&A will result in more acquisitions, especially small acqui-hires and micro-acquisitions.
We’ve seen companies like Pinterest make seemingly strange acquisitions in the past, like buying out the two-person startup Hike Labs in 2015, and the seven-person startup Kosei earlier that same year. However, both micro-acquisitions enabled Pinterest to build out their content discovery strategy, leading to better user engagement and experiences.
If companies can’t marginally increase each touch point of the product experience, starting with their online funnel, they won’t be able to move the company forward. Yet, many businesses are unlikely to have the budget or time to establish a high-functioning online funnel from scratch.
Because hiring and retention are so challenging, businesses are starting to see M&A deals as the only way to find, hire, and retain talented employees. For many, effective M&A can make the difference between continued growth and obsolescence.
4. Storefronts and Websites Must Become Personalized, Interactive Experiences
When you walked into a store 10 years ago, your goal was to purchase a product. When you walk into a store this year, the scope of your goal most likely includes the shopping experience as well the product. You want to consider buying that product in a way that helps you learn something new, laugh, or remark to others about the service you received. Whether it’s in the real world or online, your storefront must greet and meet each potential customer as the unique individual that they are. This means you have to push hard for personalization, and create interactive experiences where the customer can get involved. This proper balance of personalization and involvement minimizes what researchers call “cognitive overhead” and creates fond memories. This is exactly what AddShoppers does for their clients online. You handle the storefront, business, and your product, and they create a personalized and interactive experience that makes you more revenue.
For example, Apple’s goal is to make you love its products and to give you the chance to speak with people that know its products. This is apparent when you walk into an Apple store, where you can touch and interact with all the products for sale.
Bass Pro Shops does the same thing, though on a slightly larger scale. The outdoor apparel and equipment retailer immerses you in the life of an outdoors(wo)man with huge fish tanks, taxidermied animals, and tour-bus-sized campers to make you feel like you are about to go on an adventure. Not only do these exhibits keep people in the store longer, they also attract new consumers altogether. Simple probability suggests that the more people come to your store, the more sales you’ll make.
These businesses get it. The brands that throw you into a world of a stale eCommerce site design, or into disorganized and dimly lit shelves are in serious danger of folding in the years to come.
5. Crazy Accurate Buyer Profiles Are Making Discovery and Shopping Fun
As better tools are created for consumer research and segmentation, retailers have the ability to develop more detailed and accurate buyer profiles.
Knowing who your customers are, what they care about, what their problems are and what kinds of solutions they want will enable brands to make more informed marketing decisions and, ultimately, increase sales.
In this same vein, retailers will begin investing more heavily into research and development. This will mean better surveys, more client behavior analysis, improved product design, and more integrated buyer lifecycle research. It won’t be unusual for brands to hire psychologists, economists, and other scientists to inform their product development and marketing strategies.
It’s no accident that Snap, Inc. recently filed one of the biggest tech IPOs since Facebook. By more than doubling its research and development budget — and its sales and marketing budget — Snap was able to better understand its user base and build a sensible revenue strategy for the future.
6. Brands Will Embrace Third-Party Platforms as Entry Points
While some businesses may have resisted selling their products on third-party platforms in the past, expect retailers to start offering their products on multiple third-party vendor sites this year.
By promoting their cheaper or most-popular products on platforms like Amazon, brands can attract new customers. These products will be both loss leaders and lead generators, with additional offers and higher-priced items remaining exclusive to the retailers’ main websites.
Once a user has purchased a product, the item’s packaging or confirmation email will contain a call to action to get an exclusive bundle, offer, or other discount if the next order comes directly from the retailer’s website or app.
7. Messaging Will Become The Norm in Mobile Shopping
How do you sell your products on mobile screens in less than one minute, with less than six inches of screen real estate? It’s really hard.
But with the many messaging apps and text services at our disposal, reaching your customers in a format they’re comfortable and familiar with is becoming increasingly easy. Combine this with the capabilities of chatbots and other kinds of artificial intelligence (AI), and there’s not just the ability to sell products via chat or text but to automate this process.
Mobile content delivery and shopping is already heading towards one-on-one micro messaging. Facebook made changes to their Messenger service, allowing users to interact with retailers’ chatbots to make a purchase without leaving Messenger, and Amazon has been experimenting with text message buying since 2008.
Don’t be surprised when analytics and reporting tools become available to assess the effectiveness of retailers’ chats and texts, much like we can currently analyze the success and engagement of emails.
8. One-Click Financing Options Are Here
Some retailers — especially those in the furniture, luxury, and custom retail markets — have found it difficult to sell online effectively.
After all, if your products cost upward of $500, it’s difficult to create a speedy checkout process while also validating customers’ credit information and guiding them through the financing process.
One-click financing integrations will not only expedite the checkout process, improving user experience and reducing cart abandonment rates, but they will also make fraud and chargebacks a thing of the past.
Solutions like Affirm, which offers 0% APR financing on everything from jewelry to concert tickets to your dream vacation, will continue to make financing easier and less intimidating for the average consumer.
Expect big ticket and luxury items to transition to an online sales orientation now that integrations like Affirm make it easy. Affirm’s recent partnership with mattress company Casper is a sign of this, and we can expect similar “Finance through Affirm” and “Affirm Buy” buttons to start showing up on retail sites.
We should further expect retailers to opt for the “full stack” in terms of offering their own branded form of financing in this model. While brands like Affirm have become a hallmark of one-click financing, we’re likely to see more and more retailers developing their own one-click finance options in an effort to keep payment plans internal.
9. Better ‘Check In’ Incentives to Spark Engagement
While third-party platforms like Foursquare and Facebook have been giving users the option to “check in” at local businesses for years, 2017 is the year we’re likely to see commerce companies create better incentives for customers to use this feature.
The implementation of this strategy begins with improved copywriting on retailers’ websites and social channels. Clear and concise invitations to engage in a way that make the customer feel savvy will make engaging with brands fun. When it becomes fun to interact with a brand, social and digital engagement for that brand will go through the roof.
10. Expect Sales Countdowns To Pull In Real-Time Data
We’ve seen the success of order countdown tools on sites like Shopify and Ebay. This success is due in part to customers’ Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) on the sales and products they want.
Now retailers can apply this sales strategy to their own websites by tapping into real-time data. Accurately reporting the specifics of how many items are left and the estimated time to zero inventory instills great FOMO (as long as the data can be trusted, of course).
11. Browser Extensions Are Influencing Competitive Pricing
Browser-based extensions for product recommendations, cross-checking prices, and coupon aggregation are going to become even more popular this year.
Honey is our favorite example of a browser extension tool that delivers massive value while you shop online. When you’re ready to make a purchase anywhere on the web, simply click Honey, and it will automatically try to apply dozens of different discount codes to your order that it’s found from all around them web. As the company continues to grow, expect businesses to go directly to them with their discount and offer codes.
As Honey continues to prove their worth (and ease of use) to customers, it’s likely that we’ll see more competitive pricing across the eCommerce space.
12. Master the Front-End, Back-End, Go Full-Stack… or Risk Going Defunct
As the world becomes more digitally focused, wholesalers find themselves having less to offer the average consumer. Plus, thanks to their distribution centers, software, logistics, and ‘full stack’ approach, Amazon is entering the space.
The wholesalers who thrive will have to either swim upstream (become a retailer) or downstream (start making their own products) or go for the full stack approach and do everything.
When you add up these trends…
1. Investing in original media and stories (both fiction and nonfiction) will give you evergreen media assets and IP that will produce results for years
2. Make your ads a chapter in a never ending story (that your customers don’t want to see end!)
3. Keep an eye on M&A’s
4. Every website or store can become a personalized and interactive experience
5. Empathy will help you create (and delight) with accurate buyer profiles
6. Embrace third-party platforms as marketing assets, loss leaders, and entry points into your brand
7. Use messaging to turn shopping into a conversation
8. Consider integrating or using one-click financing options
9. Create better check-in incentives to spark engagement
10. Add real time and live updates to your contests and countdowns to make them remarkable
11. Browser based extensions will drive coupons and discounts
12. Master the front, back, or full stack approach… or risk going defunct
…you’ll get the difference between winning and losing.
I think Pacino would approve.
Chad Grills is the founder of The Mission, your #1 source for accelerated learning.
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