Horses will no longer exist, beds will catapult sleepers out in the morning, automobile highways will dominate town centres, and concerts will be performed remotely.
These aren't a bad set of predictions for the future, considering they were made in 1924. While horses (happily) still exist and beds don’t (again, happily) catapult us awake in the morning, predictions of car-dominated infrastructure and remote work have come true.
With high-interest rates and unpredictable supply chains, 2023 was a turbulent year for many businesses, so what can we expect for 2024?
Many organisations will be poised for transformative journeys guided by new trends and innovations - we explore them below.
1) Personalisation to the max
Driven by the wealth of data at our fingertips, 2024 is the year of revamped customer experience.
As consumers, generic brand messaging, recommendations, and offers no longer hit the mark. Our expectations for tailored content are high because it delivers a personalised experience, improving brand reputation and providing buyer convenience - we've become particularly eagle-eyed when it comes to spotting irrelevant coms.
Steve Tzikakis, CEO of Sitecore, says in a recent Raconteur article:
“There’s no textbook for this…We always advise our clients that as well as knowing their customers and introducing hyper-personalisation wherever possible, they need to focus on optimisation.”
For businesses, the rewards of cultivating a more personalised approach are not solely financial; they also enhance brand reputation and customer loyalty.
However, there’s a balance to be found. With customisation comes the ethical and legal side of customer information, and businesses need to ensure this is handled responsibly.
2) Part-time COO wanted
From Uber drivers to developers to private drivers, the gig economy is in full swing, with around 4.2 million people in the UK alone partaking in this style of work. Data from the CIPD shows the types of role split below.
Over the last two decades, desk-based services, in particular, have grown popular (53% of total gig economy jobs), this is largely due to technology enabling us to work on digital projects autonomously and remotely. Covid exacerbated this and, more importantly, gave many workers and businesses a mindset shift on what fulfilling a role really means.
As we move into 2024, many businesses continue to encourage flexibility and innovation by embedding non-traditional work structures into their organisation. And, importantly, they are seeing the benefits.
Director of Consulting at Freshminds, a firm that provides consultants on demand, Thom-Cunningham Burley says,
"Whereas in the past, they might have had 90 percent of fully staffed teams and 10 percent of ad hoc support, now that's probably moving more towards a sort of 80-20 or even a 70-30 blend, giving inherent flex within the team, which is good. It's good for productivity.
It's good for resilience, and it just makes us a bit more agile and a bit quicker to respond when we need to."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we are seeing the gig economy begin to infiltrate the C-suite with roles like COOs, CFOs, and CMOs being hired freelance.
Some of this shift is due to a slowdown in VC funding. Startups, in particular, have less money to spend on permanent talent but will still need the expertise. For instance, a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) might be brought in on a contingent basis to lay the ground print for a company's tech stack.
3) The entertainment industry goes to bed early
The patterns of our professional lives are shifting, and so must businesses. But how have they changed in the last five years?
Most workers, especially those with long commutes, no longer travel to the office on Monday and Friday.
The rise of hybrid work models has led to the adoption of earlier start and finish times, reflecting a newfound flexibility in work routines.
Inconsistent public transport means many late-night services are unreliable.
These are, of course, true for some people but not others - the point is that the way we work is changing. Bruce Daisley, a revered writer on working life, observes:
"Since the pandemic,there's growing evidence that we're living life earlier".
Some organisations are already responding to the changes. For instance, the National Theatre has begun trialling earlier performance start times at 6.30 pm. This adaptation was driven by valuable customer feedback, indicating that a later finish time proved discouraging for numerous city workers.
Crucially, these alterations were implemented based on customer input, underscoring the significance of evidence-driven decision-making in navigating the evolving landscape of customer wants and needs.
4) The regulation of AI
In 2023, conversational and generative AI truly disrupted the way we work.
While the beginning of the year mostly saw us playfully asking tools like ChatGPT and Bard to create limericks on the topic of strawberry cheesecake in the tone of Donald Trump, by the end of the year, these technologies had become pivotal tools for automating processes, editing content, and more.
However, one notable challenge in adopting this technology is that many AI models rely on large volumes of data, which they obtain from engineers and those who feed it information (us, the users).
The ethical implications, safety concerns, data breaches, and the need for international standards have spurred debates around AI regulation. Striking a delicate balance between fostering innovation and addressing these concerns is pivotal. While overregulation may impede progress, evolving frameworks are ensuring responsible AI development and deployment.
Many governments around the world are deciding on the best approach to regulation - and one governmental body already has. On the 8th of December 2023, the EU reached a political agreement over the issue of AI management with legislation called the new AI Act - marking it as the world’s first detailed law on AI.
With the speed of tech development, we expect to see more governments committing to AI compliance rules in 2024.
5) Entry-level roles experience turbulence
As many businesses struggle with economic instability, it’s hardly surprising to find them prioritising clever new tech that reduces cost strain on the business.
The emergence of AI means that companies are less reliant on menial admin tasks - which traditionally would be completed by interns and junior-level staff. This shift raises important questions for job seekers, as well as businesses who need to remain competitive within their sectors. Are companies facing an ultimatum between talent and tech?
However, while entry-level candidates may find the road to employment slightly more narrowed, there’s an opportunity to invest in skills that match these technological changes. Barry Whyte, co-founder of General Purpose, says,
“...while entry-level workers may find that their roles shape-shift into something slightly more skilled and complex - perhaps even managing the tech that automates their previous task load. I think that’s what we’re going to see with AI - it won’t always replace entry-level workers, but it may transform their day-to-day taskload.”
Ultimately, the balance comes down to individual companies to decide what the right direction is for sustainability and growth.
6) Digital gatekeeping loses its power
We all know the titans of big tech - companies like Microsoft and Meta have long outperformed their competitors and taken ownership of the online space, from search engines to social media platforms.
However, the tides might be changing, with the European Union tightening its grip on the tech industry with stricter regulations against monopolisation.
According to the Financial Times, “Platforms with an annual turnover of more than €7.5bn, a market cap above €75bn and active monthly users in the EU of 45mn will fall under the rules...”
Big Tech isn't backing down without a fight though. For instance, Amazon, a major player in the US tech scene, has taken the EU Commission to court over the Digital Services Act, which focuses on monitoring illegal content, advertising, and disinformation - this resulted in a $270 million payout to Amazon at the end of 2023.
More companies may be gearing up for a potential legal showdown in 2024 as increased restrictions loom.
Much like the recently introduced AI Act, could the EU be setting a precedent for other nations? In the UK, there's a growing chorus advocating for higher taxation rates on influential companies like Amazon, which has wielded significant power in the e-commerce space for years.
7) Luxury goods change tack
There were a few sector success stories in 2023, and luxury goods was one of them. The sector marked a remarkable milestone, poised to hit an impressive value of 1.5 trillion euros—a striking 8-10% surge compared to the previous year.
Data from Euromonitor International shows where this money was spent according to geographical areas and luxury types.
Personal luxury and luxury cars were among the most popular products of the year, a trend that’ll likely continue in the coming year, albeit with predicted slower growth. We may see greater growth in experience-based luxury, as reported by Euromonitor:
“Lifestyles Survey results from a panel of affluent consumers, who say they intend to spend more in 2023 on travel, wellness, and restaurants over other areas, such as fashion.”
This shifting consumer behaviour might signify a response to the evolving post-Covid landscape, where individuals are increasingly seeking freedom in travel and embracing experiential luxury. Additionally, the resurgence of China's outbound tourism, facilitated by the government's termination of its "zero-COVID" policy, is expected to boost this further.
For investors navigating these markets, anticipating these evolving trends becomes paramount. Chiara Battistini, Head of European Luxury and Sporting Goods at J.P. Morgan, emphasised the potential for significant growth in China's luxury sector, stating, "We think that if pent-up demand comes through fully in 2023, luxury companies could post around 35–40% sales growth in China this year."
According to Statistica, the revenue in the luxury goods market amounts to $369 billion in 2024. With the expectation that it will grow annually by 3.22% (CAGR 2024-2028). Luxury isn't going anywhere.
8) Are renewable energy projects still shaky
2023 was an interesting year for the state of renewable energy projects. We saw tremendous success stories in the Baltics, from their Solar Roofs project, labelled by some as a 'solar revolution', to Polish oil refiner Orlen financing 76 Vestas wind turbines in the Baltic Sea too, costing approximately €4.73 bn.
But there has also been trouble in the sector, particularly with wind projects. Green energy solutions company Orsted, currently the world’s largest offshore wind developer, was disrupted by economic price rises, supply chain disruptions, and shares falling 55%, the organisation has had to pull out of developments in Norway and the US, as well as reshuffle their senior talent.
In a recent Deloitte report, data shows the greatest burdens the sector is facing.
Despite higher manufacturing and resource costs still causing problems for the renewables sector, we expect the number of projects to rise with greater interest in green investment, the use of smart tech, and more significant pressure on restraining the building environmental crisis.