Business Trends for 2019
2018 was generally a good year for business, including small and mid-size companies. Business owners entered the past year with optimism, and despite market and government volatility, they continue to be positive moving into the new year. Although there are concerns about the shrinking labor market and increasing health care costs, economists are expecting two to three percent average growth rates in 2019.
In this article, we provide our annual round-up of some of the trends that small and mid-size businesses should expect in the coming year.
1. The Virtual Assistant. Already ingrained in homes and for individual use, bots fueled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to increase their presence in the business setting, especially in the area of customer relationships. At the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, the virtual assistant dominated most company booths, with thousands of new products expected to be launched in the coming months. Bots are being used to direct website visitors to the correct page, answer technical questions, and provide pricing information on a 24/7 basis. In addition to the original players, Amazon and Google, many new companies are introducing hardware and software products that support the growing demand by enterprises for AI devices and services.
2. Issue Oriented Marketing and Taking a Stand. Corporate responsibility has been a core business strategy for many years. However, beginning in 2018, businesses are increasingly willing to pick sides on the important issues of the day. This strategy is especially effective with Millennials and Gen Z, who are more likely than not to stick with a brand that shares and promotes their values. Nike’s use of the kneeling Colin Kaepernick and Airbnb’s #WeAccept campaign are two winning examples of companies that picked a side and won a loyal following because of it. While many companies choose the more traditional approach of making a difference through donations or supporting volunteerism, taking on hot-button issues is definitely a new trend to be watched. Along the same lines, some companies have faced backlash for failing to take a stand, such as continuing to support television programs with content that may be perceived as discriminatory.
3. Data Collection and Security. Europe’s institution of the strictest data privacy rules in the world in 2018, GDPR, is heralding the way for increasing scrutiny on how data is collected, stored, and shared, especially the PII (personally identifiable information) such as addresses, social security numbers, and health information. Many U.S. states followed GDPR by introducing privacy laws of their own, including notifications for breach and regulations on how data may be sold. Consumers, as well as enterprise customers, are requiring service providers to institute strict protocols when it comes to protection of their or their clients’ private data. Increasingly many consumers, especially of technology services, are demanding that their providers adhere to strict standards when it comes to protecting their information. Businesses would do well to stay ahead of the curve and limit or closely monitor the gathering and use of data from individual as well as business sources.
4. Personalization of Services. 2019 will see a continuing push to deliver increasingly personalized customer experiences. Innovation in technology and the availability of greater amounts of consumer information is allowing companies to tailor make their marketing, and enhance the onboarding and continuing interactions with their customers. Businesses, such as Spotify and Netflix, are at the forefront of these initiatives, but even smaller market players are seeing the benefit that personalization of services and products has to their bottom line and customer loyalty.
That’s our wrap-up for this year’s trends. Wishing you all a happy, productive, and trendy new year.
Business Insights is hosted by the Law Firm of KPPB LAW (www.kppblaw.com).
Sonjui L. Kumar is a founding partner of KPPB LAW, practicing in the area of corporate law and governance.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or other professional advice.
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