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Key trends to watch

by  David Dwyer on  19/07/2015    1346 Reads

Business success is a constantly moving target. It’s like a fairground shooting gallery: just as you think you’ve “got” one trend, another pops above the parapet.  Here’s what we think will be the big ones to watch for the coming year:

1. Big Data.  Big Data is the great mass of data, from all sorts of sources, that businesses crunch to decide what to do next.  It requires powerful back-up to cope with the quantity of information that’s constantly arriving and being analysed.  In terms of technology, you’ll need automated business processes and plenty of storage, whether on in-house hardware or on the cloud, and protection against potential security threats.  There are also legal considerations, such as privacy, usage and data protection.  The results are worth the effort, but there may be a need for considerable investment to get them.

2. Branding.  Not exactly new, but increasingly important.  Branding is what makes your business stand out from your competitors.  It can be difficult to make your mark in a crowded marketplace where your competitors are offering much the same as you.  What makes your legal practice or painting-and-decorating company different from the next one?  Defining that, and making it clear to your potential clients, is what branding is all about.  That’s where your blog, newsletter, social media presence and, above all, your website come in.  They’re your public face 24/7, the world’s perception of you.  Worth getting right.

3.  Contactless payment.  OK, the technology isn’t quite perfect yet, but it’s increasingly used.  If you’ve ever been a victim of credit card fraud, contactless payment has a certain charm.  It’s cheaper for the banks to supply the new terminals than to upgrade the old Chip and PIN ones, so charges to outlets will come down, so more businesses will use contactless terminals or the alternative: your mobile phone.  They used to say “cash is king”; now it’s “cash is dead”.  Instead of bank notes, you’ll have transaction receipts: no more security-risk trips to the bank, no time wasted on cashing-up, no mistakes with change.  Better still, because they don’t think of it as “real money” people tend to spend more on cards than with cash, so your average sale will rise.  And your queues will shrink, because the process is faster, so you’ll be able to look after your customers better.  Everybody wins.

4. The rise of 3D printing.  This is really clever stuff: making solid 3D objects from digital files.  It’s done by laying down successive layers of material – very thin cross-sections of the final product – in any one of a variety of additive processes.  You can either make a brand-new object – for example a prototype of your new product – or scan and copy an existing one.  The scanners are getting smaller and handier, and could soon be as easy to use as phone cameras – and as ubiquitous.  3D printers are already available for under £500.  Because the process is so quick and easy, the time involved in getting new products to test stage is slashed, which in turn reduces the R&D budget.  And the process isn’t just for little items – the Dutch are planning a 3D printed steel bridge in Amsterdam.

5. Only connect.  The “internet of things” is our final choice – the inter-connectedness of everyday electronic items.  Smart fridges that order replacement food items may still be a thing of the future, but smart meters already mean the meter-man, with his notebook and meter-box key, has nearly had his day.  When your computer goes wrong, you don’t have to pack it up and take or send it to the repairer – it can be worked on from thousands of miles away.  Nike have created running shoes that connect to your smart phone to improve your training results, while Digitsole make insoles that connect with your phone to warm your feet.  Now that’s really useful.

David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David’s academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.

 

Follow Inspire on Twitter @inspireltd and @developersos

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