As 2012 comes swiftly to a close, businesses all over the world are left reeling at the barrage of challenges brought about by stupendous technological innovation and seismic shifts in consumer behaviour.
2013 promises not to disappoint. In fact, and to quote the immortal words of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet.
Get ahead and see how next year's business environment is going to shape out as predicted by analysts.
Here are the top eight business trends to anticipate in 2013.
1. Quirky Product Design
The bold and intrusive design of the Plumen CFL light bulb and the Nest thermostat shows the trend in product design. In 2013, manufacturers will compete for consumer attention by employing innovative, whimsical product packaging and design.
2. Traditional Ads Replaced by Content
As more and more consumers spend a lot of time online, recognize pop-ups and banner ads, and subsequently block or ignore them, marketers are hard-pressed to do away with traditional forms of advertising. Content marketing, as well as social media marketing, is hot in 2013. Content can be in any form - blogs, podcasts, slideshows, videos, webinars, and white papers.
In 2013, marketers will also hear a lot about native advertising, wherein the overall tone and format of the ad takes on whatever platform it appears in. In short, the ad looks as if it were integral to the site. Examples of native advertising are Facebook's 'sponsored story' ads and sponsored posts offered by Gawker Media and The Atlantic to their advertisers.
3. Shift towards Mobility
Traditional offices are disappearing, and more and more businesses are turning to mobility--in their marketing campaigns, their workforce, and their operations. Many companies, big or small, are switching to cloud-based services to manage their corporate data, hold virtual meetings with telecommuting employees, and monitor employee productivity and progress.
Technology is empowering companies and allowing remote collaboration, thus radically changing the office environment. For instance, an employee can work while sipping coffee at Starbucks. The number of virtual offices is also rising as business owners find ways to trim overhead costs.
In addition, ads designed to be viewed on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are not going away soon. In fact, the opposite is expected to happen in 2013.
4. Manufacturing is Returning to the United States
Driven by the rising cost of outsourcing manufacturing abroad and the emergence of relatively new technologies (like 3D printing), companies are going to switch some of their processes back to the U.S.
5. Decrease in Consumer Dependence on Credit Cards
First, there's Google Wallet. Other carriers and vendors are joining the trend that will soon displace credit cards. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are collaborating on Isis, a form of mobile wallet. Passbook is also another popular platform.
The traditional credit card terminal is expected to slowly become obsolete. Square is an app that serves as a credit card reader for mobile devices, allowing merchants to swipe credit cards on their smartphones or tablets. Another alternative is Dwolla, an online digital cash network designed to eliminate the need for a credit card to make purchases. Dwolla's MassPay feature can also be used by small business owners to handle payroll.
6. Online Reputation Is Crucial
With the trend towards shareable content, a company's online reputation becomes excruciatingly important. You may want to hire someone who understands your company's vision to handle and control your online reputation.
7. Artificial Intelligence as the New "Industrial Revolution"
Robots are now being deployed as workers, and 2013 will see more and more smart machines entering the workplace. Robots now serve as banking assistants, receptionists, and prison guards. This shift can result in job losses but the next wave of robots is expected to create new kinds of jobs for skilled workers who can handle the robots.
8. Rise of Crowd Funding
Crowd funding is shaping the way many business projects are backed. From Kickstarter to Indiegogo, funding for your business can surprisingly come even from people you do not know. If your product resonates among people, you can amass donations to help grow your company.
2013 will undoubtedly be another year of massive change for businesses, big and small.
Staying on top of trends such as the ones highlighted here is one way to keep your business ahead of the game.
Are you ready for 2013?
Follow Omar Kattan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/OmarKattan