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Not talking about Brexit: 4 key trends from business leaders

by Steph Fruin February 14, 2019
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With 2019 now in full swing, our bi-annual strategy dinner was well-timed to understand opinions on some trends that are looking to be a big influence. As always, the typical icebreaker question of yearly predictions to the room of senior business leaders and strategy consultant prompted an insightful discussion.

These responses often vary but, this year unlike previous; it seems that we collectively no longer want to mention “Brexit”. Has the whole concept become too gloomy to talk about, or have we just reached a saturation point? After what feels like forever since the referendum, 2019 is the year we apparently leave the EU; but with uncertainty still rife and not much further indication of what the business landscape is going to look like, people are turning their focus on other key industry trends.

Here are 4 interesting topics that we discussed.

Environmental Sustainability

A common prediction for the year is an increased awareness of environmental sustainability and the idea that businesses will start to find ways to monetise their ethical and environmental sustainability.  Moreover, it was predicted that throughout 2019 there will be greater scrutiny over the sustainability of products such as child/baby related products and single-use plastics. This could lead to a significant reduction of such products in supermarkets.

As well as this, the talk turned to the current rise in plant living and veganism. This increase in veganism and pressure on farming land will give rise to an increase in vertical farming and the environmental impact of plant-based diets could be exposed during 2019. This could lead to an interesting backlash on veganism.

These things combined will be interesting to watch as the year progresses and how the grocery industry will handle the need for change.

Changes in consumer perspectives

Other predictions contemplated that there could be changes to consumer attitudes that will increasingly drive investment decisions. Consumers may turn their focus to their ability to “trust” a company, in turn causing company trust to become the biggest brand differentiator; potentially causing problems for smaller brands who can’t collect or advertise these proof points as much.

There could also be a rise in privacy concerns after recent scandals such as Cambridge analytica and in part down to EU data protection regulations being widely publicised in 2018. Social influencer marketing has already come under scrutiny with rules in place to clearly advertise a sponsored post; all leading to a question of authenticity particularly impacting the millennial generation. This could lead to a decline in social media activity and an increased awareness in our ability, as consumers to sell our personal data.

A continued pressure on brands to present differentiated offerings

As the pressure builds for brands to differentiate from their competitors, big brands will try and expand their offerings. This pressure may also conversely give opportunities to smaller businesses with differentiated offerings. Big companies such as Spotify could potentially feel the pressure and it wouldn’t be surprising if they began to focus on a similar vertical integration that has defined video streaming platforms. Other predictions mentioned that Spotify may launch their own label, concerts and festivals, allowing them to move away from the limitations of being just an app based product.

On the other hand, some predictions toyed with the idea that this year could see the start of problems for companies such as Sky & BT. This is because we could see an end to their sports broadcasting dominance as platforms such as Netflix begin to grow live sports available on their platform. The knock on would be a potential change in their pricing model, but ultimately differentiating their product and knocking long-standing big players off the shelf. How will they respond to stay competitive?

We could also see continued growth on subscription-based e-commerce offerings and continued growth of the pet market driven by premium products and, again, subscription. It will be interesting to see how this perceived pressure will impact brands alike and how they will begin to differentiate themselves.

An AI & Automation backlash

Another common prediction for 2019 is that, after all the hype of AI & Automation, we will actually see a backlash against this. In the face of growing automation, there will actually be a higher demand for people-led services. Even though AI is impacting all industries including real estate where “the rise of digital agents is reducing the number of physical agents” we can’t forget the importance of the “I” in AI. Human intelligence is still needed across the board and, whilst AI & Automation increasingly improve productivity over mundane tasks, the need to be creative will become a more prominent focus.

Other predictions included that Trump will not see out the year as US president, the Chinese phenomenon on social credit scoring will permeate the west within the next five years and the increased social unrest in China could be met with increasing forceful state crackdowns.

Even though we cannot be sure what the year ahead holds, we do know that impact will be felt across the commercial, political and social spectrum. So, as ever, there is a large amount for businesses to consider and it will be interesting for us, as both a company and individuals, to see where this year takes us.

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