Business trends that will grow in 2017

Article written by Jurie Hanekom

Focus on Millennials

Also known as Generation Y, Millennials refers to the demographic segment that were born between the early 80s and late 90s. With their older members entering their late thirties, the millennial generation is reinventing the way business is being done and how people are managed. Millennials insist on all-inclusive leadership, and opportunities for growth in every position that they fill. As such, business ethics such as transparency, collaboration, and a healthy work-life balance are vital for any business looking to attract the best and the brightest with regards to employees, as well as loyal future customers.

A major Millennial-inspired trend is that more and more businesses are hiring freelancers or “virtual employees”, due to the numerous perks it provides both the business and the employee. The benefits for business include saving money, expanding your pool of applicants, increasing productivity, and improving employee retention. For the employee, you can earn more as a freelancer or contractor, and it allows you to to work from anywhere you want. The latter is especially attractive for mothers with small children, or the many Millennials who have chosen to reject big-city living, in lieu of smaller towns that offer a better quality of life.

Start prepping for Generation Z

Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration, refers to the specific demographic that were born between the mid-1990s and the early-2000s. The first members of Generation Z will be graduating from university in a few years, and it is imperative to start planning on ways to tap into their psyches now. Although they haven’t started flooding the workplace just yet, it is never too early to start worrying about them.

Generation Z the world over has, to a large extent, been shaped by recession, and they have seen their parents suffer through it. They are thinking about university and job prospects very early on in high school, and they do not regard education as an experience, but rather as an investment. This new generation is far more pragmatic and a lot more prepared than their recent predecessors, and this is a worldview that is not something they are likely to outgrow. In order to attract customers and employees from Generation Z, business need to be able to recognise what is important to them, and to start customising their offering to them.

Building tech for the non-technical

Everybody needs to use technology in order to get ahead, but not everybody is tech-savvy, and business needs to cater for this. Social media, internet marketing and ecommerce all help to empower a business, allowing it to reach potential customers in untapped markets, both locally and abroad. However, although there are increasingly more people online, lots of them are not particularly well informed about or proficient in the use of modern technology. As a result, there will be more and more technology being developed to help the less tech-literate entrepreneurs to exist in an increasingly tech-swamped world. Platforms like WordPress for example, allow for easy creation and management of a website with minimal technical know-how, so that even the smallest businesses can build an online presence.

App fever

In this day and age, any company worth its salt is expected to have some kind of app or online tool. The trend to ‘app-ify’ everything is easy to understand: apps help provide shortcuts to the things we do, from finding a taxi and helping us workout, to monitoring our loyalty programmes and even our health. App mania is not merely a consumer phenomenon – it is key to the success of businesses as well. It was with this in mind that Swartland developed SpecNet – a practical, easy-to-use web-based tool that supports professionals operating in the built environment by providing free downloadable ArchiCad objects, Revit families and product information for Swartland’s range of windows and doors, making specifying and accurate design a cinch.

Greener and greener

Today, the green revolution has moved away from being an intangible theory-driven fringe movement, towards something that is tactile, expected and part of our everyday lives. We turn off the sink when we brush our teeth, we turn off the water when we are washing our hair in the shower, we choose energy efficient products whenever we can – society in general is increasingly committed to becoming more eco-friendly. The truth is that we like saving money and we like doing our bit for the environment, and we like companies that also enjoy these things.

For the younger generations especially, living sustainably is a fundamental value. Going green is no longer simply a nice-to-have business ethos – today, it is a clearly identified megatrend. Over the past decade, environmental issues have steadily encroached on business largely due to escalating public and governmental concern about climate change, industrial pollution, food safety, and natural resource depletion, to name a few.

As a result, consumers are increasingly seeking out sustainable products and services, and leaning towards supporting companies who are making genuine efforts to improve their sustainability rankings. Governments too are interceding with unprecedented levels of new regulation governing green practices and requirements. In South Africa, one example is the SANS 10400-XA National Building Regulations covering energy usage in buildings, which has had a massive impact on the building industry at large. Investors and stakeholders have a keen understanding of how important this megatrend is for business, and so, they too are paying special attention to companies with sound sustainable practices.