Editor's Note: For this special digital and Internet issue, I was intrigued by what experts would say about the future. After asking for contributions, I saw the answers mixing between digital predictions and business ones. With that in mind, I'm presenting a sampling of what some very smart people say will occur. You might disagree or be nonplussed about these predictions, but they are certainly worth a read.
Increasingly, over the next five years, the Web will be ruled by three concepts:
Socialization — Potential customers will carry out due diligence through social networks before choosing to make any kind of purchase. The reputation of a company and the recognition of what it does will be driven by social networks.
Personalization — A person's online and offline network (and the distinction is getting increasingly blurred) will determine many of the choices he makes in terms of accessing services and products. Companies that have not managed to create their own loyal network of followers will find it very difficult to do business.
Localization — Search is becoming more and more local. Businesses that fail to understand this and still use their Web presence to broadcast to a global stage will find that they will miss the boat on mobile search, they will miss the opportunity to capitalize on the integration of online and offline as mobile devices become the predominant means through which the Web is accessed, and they will fail to gain sales from the market at their doorstep. The distinction we put today on online and offline will be practically nonexistent, and the word ‘social’ and its network marketing implications will have faded. The emphasis, starting now, has to be on as seamless an integration as possible between what a company does in the ‘real’ world and what it does online, with stress being put on transparency of practices and delivering real value in products and services.
David Amerland is the best-selling author of SEO Help: 20 steps to get your website to Google's #1 page. His latest book is The Social Media Mind: How social media is changing business, politics and science and helps create a new world order. When he is not writing books or attending corporate meetings, he blogs at helpmyseo.com.
The next five years are going to be very exciting — and game changers for many.
Marketing trends for folks in this space are going to shift heavily to the digital side. With the ease of distributing digital content via tablets, smartphones and computers, consumers (both b2b and b2c) expect to have access to digital content that allows them to get to know more about companies and products and services. And honestly, it doesn't matter what industry these companies are in.
Buyers are skeptics and want to be as close to a product as possible without actually being there in person to assess it. They want to see it, hear it, know what pains the product or service will relieve — and get a good impression of the company and people they're going to do business with. Digital video content has become a major asset in helping convert shoppers to buyers. It's quickly becoming the norm, and companies who aren't using this medium will feel the effects — and not too far in the distant future.
Cathy Beck, account executive, Grey Sky Films, greyskyfilms.com.
Branding will be more important than ever.
Randomly ranking Web pages will bring no business.
A digital voice for every business will be crucial.
Mobile apps will be where the dot com was in 1999/2000.
Mobile apps will also still be important.
SEO and social media will be married with kids.
Search algorithm changes will cause every business to be marketers instead of scientists looking to game the tool.
Maciej Fita, SEO director, Brandignity, LLC, www.Brandignity.com
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Expect seamless integration of manufacturers' inventory, schematics and other data and field service automation software used by field service companies. If a company services Carrier HVAC systems as an example, everything you ever wanted to know about their products would be seamlessly integrated into your field services application. Your inventory, purchasing and pricing would all be automated so your techs have everything at their fingertips. When Carrier makes a change, your system would automatically be updated.
As appliances become more intelligent, they will be able to communicate over the Web to service organizations, who would now have the information in their phones or tablets, so when they arrive on site, everything they need to know will be in their phone, including how to fix the issue. If a part were needed, the field service automation software would have ordered it and scheduled the call based on receiving the part.
“Tablets will replace laptops in the field.”
Jim Hare, senior vice president, sales, FieldOne Systems of New York,www.FieldOne.com.
Internet-based matching services that use the approaches of sites like Match.com and eBay will become an increasingly popular means for business owners to find and secure loans to start up or expand.
Given the vast influence of the Internet in areas such as job hunting, dating and shopping, within the next few years, I think about a third, if not more, of small-business owners will be using online services to find the financing they need for their businesses as a more efficient alternative to going from bank to bank and filling out multiple applications.
Commercial banking will develop an increasing online presence to help streamline the business lending process, and more banks and borrowers will use Internet-based loan marketplaces to originate and close deals more efficiently. There will also be more incentive for banks to compete to fund qualified borrowers on these marketplaces.
David Nayor, co-president and chief operating officer, BoeFly LLC
First and foremost there would be the realm of social media marketing sites. As it is already a mainstay of many marketing strategies for small-business owners, contractors and wholesalers out there who are not active in social media should consider getting on that bus. It's a great way to advertise your business and can provide leads for future customers. Setting up a profile as you try to use your Twitter or Facebook page for business marketing is extremely easy, and ignoring this option will give a leg up to your competition. Ultimately, I think digital marketing will wipe out a large portion of traditional marketing, including that of radio, TV and print.
Next, I'd mention cloud computing. The concept has gained ground, though it has not seen much press in the mainstream. However, as one who has researched the topic and in running Money Crashers personal finance, which is run primarily through the cloud, it is something that is here to stay. In a nutshell, it involves using virtual services for things like document storage and project collaboration and will soon begin to take over the world of video games, movies and, quite possibly, paper money. Some even predict the disappearance of paper money from our lives within the next several years through the expansion of cloud computing and as new digital tools are made available each year to allow for digital transactions. With the advent of cloud computing, more and more companies will be run virtually, with team members located throughout the world (or a distributor's territory), and this will lead to a significant increase in the outsourcing of jobs to freelancers.
As an example of this trend, consider the popularity of new tools like the Amazon Kindle and Netflix, both of which are moving primarily toward virtual content and purchases. Businesses will need to quickly adapt, or they will soon become like the Borders bookstores of the world. Or consider the advent of VoIP technology, which is one of the most popular home phone company landline alternatives and is run through the Internet. People are not only adopting this technology because of cost savings but also due to the convenience factor of being able to access these essential tools and content anywhere in the world.
Lastly, I think with traditional banks continuing to introduce numerous fees and as people get more comfortable accessing financial information online, I think online banking will begin to take over, especially considering that companies such as ING Direct are consistently offering better interest rates than that of their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Andrew Schrage, CEO, Money Crashers,www.moneycrashers.com
- Continuous Employment: Multiple Jobs and Employers
Workers can expect to have 10 different jobs and employers over their lifetime. They will need to plan for continuous employment over longer life spans and make education an ongoing commitment. The proliferation of virtual organizations will accelerate this multiple-job trend as more people join workgroups from remote locations or choose to work as contractors. Telecommuting is up 400 percent, and by 2015 there will be an estimated 14 million freelancers. Also, due to ongoing economic uncertainty, large businesses are postponing full-time employment, choosing instead to retain workers as contractors until the market recovers.
- Tiny, But Mighty: Small Businesses and Self-Employment Will Drive Job Creation
America's small and medium-size businesses and startups create the most jobs during recessions. Baby boomers and other workers who were laid off during the recession will increasingly choose self-employment. Hispanic Americans have made particularly strong gains, with the number of self-employed Hispanics doubling since the year 2000. Watch healthcare (where one in 10 jobs are located today) and information technology for major surges in employment in the coming years. The growing need for home healthcare and more community-based medical centers will boost hiring of healthcare workers. IT will evolve to serve small businesses, with tech-support squads (which will increasingly include women) attuned to the needs of solo workers and small and medium-size businesses, like medical and professional offices.
- Women Rising: Working Women Will Impact the Marketplace
As employees and business founders, women will continue to outperform the market. Women-owned businesses are growing in number at twice the rate of all U.S. firms. They contribute nearly $3 trillion to the economy and create or maintain 23 million jobs. Studies show that companies led by women tend to be more financially successful than comparable companies run by men, and that women-friendly corporations have higher profits as well. Women will also continue to improve their overall education levels; they earn more higher degrees than men.
- Education Matters: Lifelong Learning Will Be Vital to Career Success
Significant disparities exist between the skills workers offer and those that employers require, raising the risk that U.S. companies will lose business to foreign competitors with better-educated workforces. To remain employable, workers need to develop higher-order thinking skills, embrace emerging technology and become lifelong learners.
- Showing Up for Work: Face Time Will Become a Precious Commodity
The increase in teleworking, virtual organizations and mobile device use allows people to set up a work environment anywhere. People no longer have to migrate to a physical location except for important meetings. Face-to-face gatherings will become rare. For those still based in offices, expect work-process compressions such as “purposeful meetings” and deliberately reduced meeting times. The freeform 60-minute meeting is passé, and many managers will opt for 15-20 minute meetings with tightly focused agendas.
Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, Ph.D., managing director of Apollo Research Institute (http://apollo researchinstitute.com/) and author of the upcoming book, Society 3.0: How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Work and Society. Learn more about Society 3.0 athttp://tinyurl.com/6rtadz5.
Tom Peric´ is the editor of HVACR Distribution Business magazine. Contact him at 856/874-0049 or [email protected].