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The Bigger Picture: What Major Trends Will Impact Your Business?

Last year was a pivotal one for the U.S. economy. We saw plummeting oil prices, falling long-term interest rates, a strengthening stock market, a bulging dollar, and an improved outlook on inflation. All of these trends will significantly impact business around the world this year.

Aside from these major trends, which all businesses should have their eyes on, what lesser-known global trends are poised to impact businesses this year? Read on; we’ll highlight our top four major market trends and what they could mean for your business.

Wearables for Business

We’ve heard a lot about wearables for consumers, but what about enterprise wearables? According to a recent report by PWC, this trend is one that’s getting overlooked: “[Wearables] provide a hands-free way for employees to engage in real-time with context-specific business information, customers, or one another.” Examples range from in-the-moment job training via wearable displays to sensor-embedded clothing to protect employees from workplace hazards.

Although PWC reports that the healthcare, technology and automotive industries have invested most heavily in enterprise wearables thus far, we see applications for this trend spanning much further than that. Business leaders should familiarize themselves with the consumer wearables market today and look to industry leaders for the most effective applications in the enterprise space.

Higher Purpose

A job is a job is a job, right? Not anymore. Today’s workforce seeks a bigger reason to clock in eight hours every day, and companies have to find ways to deliver. More businesses are tapping into their organization’s “higher purpose” to create a purpose-driven work experience (source: Forbes). A higher purpose can be defined simply as the difference an organization is trying to make in the world. Here are a few examples from some well-known brands:

  • Disney: To use our imaginations to bring happiness to millions
  • 3M: To improve every company, every home, every life
  • Zappos: To deliver happiness
  • Louis Vuitton: To luxuriously accentuate the journey of life
  • Dove: To empower women to embrace their own beauty

Defining a higher purpose has been said to lead to improved employee engagement, increased productivity and lower turnover. And it’s becoming more expected. If you haven’t clearly defined the higher purpose for your business, it might be time to consider doing so.

Big Data

Lately, it seems like everyone’s talking about big data, but no one’s really saying anything. And although we couldn’t agree more, we still believe big data is the global trend that will impact businesses most in the next five years. As the PWC report states, “As businesses look to take advantage of current and future data – especially unstructured data from social networks, video, audio and sensors – they need solutions that are more agile, scalable and flexible to complement what relational databases can offer.”

Watch for investment in data capture and analysis platforms from industries such as technology; energy, utilities and mining; and even entertainment, media and communications. The companies that can figure out how to aggregate the new wealth of data available, analyze it, and draw out actionable insight will become the market leaders.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not new, but the way it’s evolving is a trend worth noting. CSR programs, like higher purposes, have shifted from nice-to-haves to must-haves for business. Furthermore, CSR has evolved beyond foundations, gift matching and volunteerism to initiatives that shape company culture – all the way down to marketing.

For example, eco-friendly corporate efforts are part of the new CSR. In an article for Inc., Kimberly Weisul noted the trend of bluespace, which takes going green to a new level: “Bluespace is the logical evolution of [being eco-conscious]: putting more into the environment than you take out.” Being green is the new black for business. But now consumers expect companies to do even more.

Similarly, what marketers put out in the world can fall in this category as well. Consumers are expecting companies to be socially responsible stewards in their advertising. Kimberly notes, “Design is rapidly evolving from “good” or “bad” design to design that is (or is not) considered age-friendly, female-friendly, cultural or sustainable, with countless more variations yet to be come.” With more CSR than ever before, today’s business leaders must consider the many ways their businesses are impacting the world – from logistics to print ads and everything in between.

As with any type of trend list, the trends are much easier to spot than they are to implement. Being able to see what’s coming is one thing, but it’s what you do with that forward outlook that can set your business up for success.