Have you given thought to how digital trends will affect your business and marketing?

I’ve been inspired by a talk given by Dave Nemeth, an international trend forecaster. He was sharing his thoughts on ’The Future of Business’ as part of an ‘Inspire B2B Trade Expo‘ presentation held at the Cape Craft and Design Institute.

The impact of digital trends on business is a topic close to my heart as I build my online business. Dave Nemeth touched on many valuable insights. But for me, the ones that stood out most, were the ideas revolving around people.

So, what are the top digital trends linking people to your business?

Based on Dave’s observations, I decided to do a little more digging, and here’s what I found:

1. Your consumer is your equal

A Forbes article from earlier this year summarised Added Value’s predictions about 2014 consumer behaviour trends. In essence, these included the need for multiplicity, hyper efficiency, escape, personalisation and mindfulness. All in a world rapidly being shaped by a new industrial revolution. Well, based on what I’ve heard and read, it seems they were spot on.

Meet your ideal customer in 2015 – they are conscious, aware, connected. You’re dealing with tech savvy, design-centric consumers/readers/viewers/users, who are looking for a unique experience and personalised service. And your reputation hangs on how you respect them.

2. Collaboration vs coercion, service vs selling

The customer experience is central to your success. Encourage interaction, communication and collaboration. It’s sadly become a buzzword, but “storytelling” is still at the heart of things, whether you’re a heritage brand appealing to a new audience, or the NKOTB seeking virgin customers.

Trendwatching.com’s September trend presentation on customer service expectations is visually engaging, data rich and includes lots of ‘real life’ examples to back up their forecast. However you approach and interact with your sea of potential customers, try not to treat them like idiots. They won’t hesitate to tweet about their bad experience, if you do.

3. Your business structure is changing

Companies are rethinking their structures to accommodate new, digital-related roles (be they in marketing, retail, IT security, or HR). A recently published article on executive hiring trends indicates that 2015 will see new exec roles being created to manage, protect and help make sense of the deluge of big data out there.

Apart from new job titles and functions, it’s also about personalising your business. That means showing your brand’s personality in everything you do AND highlighting the people behind the brand.

 4. People and planet before profit

People are placing more trust in businesses that operate with a conscience and engage in sustainable practices. KMH Associates’ Macro Trends 2015 article further emphasises how society’s values have evolved, to the point where consumers’ choices are now more emotional. And brands will need to focus on empathy and empowerment to connect with them.

I’d like to add a point about embracing scarcity as a driver for innovation and sustainability (be it in marketing or elsewhere). This is a big opportunity for creating connections with this growing population of caring consumers.

There are also three areas that Dave Nemeth mentioned, which fit into this section:

Authenticity is for real:

In this age of the artisan, the rebellion against mass production is escalating. An appreciation for authentic craft, beautiful items made by individuals and small groups, and created in small quantities, continues.

Closed vs open thinking:

Some trends translate well to your specific country or location and others don’t. Don’t be afraid to embrace new ideas, fashion, designs, styles, ways of promoting etc. But do interpret and adapt them to fit your customers within the local culture and context. It’s that glocalisation vs globalisation debate.

Your market is larger than you think:

Millennials may be flavour of the decade, but don’t forget about the Boomers and Gen Xers as alternative markets. They are knowledgable, experienced and rapidly embracing tech. And up-and-coming is Generation Z, who won’t shop, work or think like you do now…

To sum it up, its all about the experience, empathy and emotion. Your customers’ experiences, not yours. And that’s nothing new, so there’ nothing to be afraid of.

In essence, 2015’s* digital trends were about creating a deeper connection.

That means including your customers in your conversation and decision making, being honest with them, listening to them and sharing with them.

After all, without them, you stand no chance of trending. :)

(*I think these points apply to how we approach digital marketing in 2016 too)  

[Image: rgbstock.com – “Leisure” by Felipedan]