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As for 2021, we have summarized predictions from major consulting and analyst firms, then translated them into actionable insights for businesses in Hong Kong.
Outlooks include a greater reliance on technology across the entire business infrastructure, a continued shift toward permanently hybrid work environments and more.
Smaller businesses would do well to refine their technology plans and continue fortifying supply chains, among other initiatives to outperform their competitors in customer experience.
2020 was full of unforeseen challenges. During this period of change, companies faced a bleak choice: evolve quickly or suffer the consequences. In many cases, the challenge caused some business leaders to reinforce or speed up the organizational changes, while others created new consumer sentiments and expectations, with the adoption of technologies.
Business Predictions 2021
Buyers behavior keeps driving business online
COVID-19 will continue to influence buyer behavior in 2021. Overall, ecommerce continues to build momentum in the face of stay-at-home orders and unpredictable future infection rates. It’s also growing along with the B2B procurement process shifting to online.
JPMorgan’s research shows just how much the pandemic has transformed consumer spending habits(opens in a new tab) for the benefit of categories including food, household cleaners, soaps and sanitizers, vitamins and supplements and, of course, alcohol. Meanwhile, sectors such as leisure, hospitality and travel will likely continue to take hits in the coming year.
In the B2B space, companies should refine digital sales processes to create even better purchase experiences in line with those that B2C consumers have come to expect in recent years. Strong omnichannel sales strategies and elevated B2B ecommerce, such as improved personalization, better access to sales history, simple re-ordering, custom discounts and order status displays, will be imperative to maintain and grow revenue in 2021.
The SaaS industry, which often relies on resellers and channel partners as a primary revenue source, will need to provide digital tools that support these crucial relationships. Entrepreneur magazine recommends enhancing your channel partner experience(opens in a new tab) by focusing more on digital sales and marketing activities, as well as automating procurement, fulfillment, billing and customer management. Recommendations also include getting channel partners onboard with your revenue goals — and supporting that process with shared ecommerce automation platforms and partner portals.
Technology supports new business realities and shifting consumer demands
Companies have expressed that they will continue to rely on technology to connect newly distributed workforces and cement their abilities to respond to quick changes, strict constraints and new customer needs in 2021 to Gartner — the research firm focused on leadership in IT, among other areas — predicts(opens in a new tab).
This entails more moves toward cloud-based, distributed enterprise solutions, says the firm. Gartner also references the need to develop “anywhere operations,” or “an IT operating model designed to support customers everywhere, enable employees everywhere and manage the development of business services across distributed infrastructure.”
Gartner also foresees even more businesses capitalizing on new opportunities via technology on the “total experience,” or linking and improving all the touchpoints of your business. The goal, of course, is a seamless experience across web, mobile and more that addresses customers’ most current needs. For a grocery store, “total experience” could take the form of an app that offers the ability to shop, as well as access customer service and delivery. A clothing brand, meanwhile, might update return policies to reflect the new needs of at-home shoppers. “Total experience” enhancements will look differently at each company, but the overall goal is to differentiate your brand in a new landscape by putting technology to work.
Cloud-centric operations become the norm
Massive surge in cloud adoption after the outbreak by both customer-facing and for back-office use has continued through Q3 of 2020. Spending on cloud infrastructure services(opens in a new tab) reached nearly $33 billion in Q3, up 33% from the previous year, reports Synergy Research Group.
For big businesses, Deloitte predicts “a shift in cloud strategies(opens in a new tab) toward cloud migration, security, operations, value planning, and DevSecOps” in the near future. The firm, which specializes in management consulting, suggests multi-cloud and hybrid cloud technologies to handle these shifting needs. The firm also foresees a move toward virtual data centers, artificial intelligence for IT operations, and security models that can monitor a variety of networks and devices, along with a distributed software development team.
For smaller businesses, if they fail to ensure that the cloud-based systems they choose are easily or automatically integrated. Inventory management systems that talk to financial management and sales support systems out-of-the box, for example, are a far more powerful business advantage than these three systems would be if they operated independently.
Supply chains go high-tech
The pandemic rocked supply chains around the world. In response, the supply chain industry is doubling down on technology investments to create more automated, transparent and interconnected systems that can absorb shocks.
News publisher Supply Chain Brain lists seven supply chain trends to watch in 2021(opens in a new tab) — though it should be noted that these trends likely won’t materialize into usable products until well into the 2020s. The roundup lists automation in the form of robotics and AI, both of which offer safety and better data analysis while freeing workers to focus on complex tasks. The publication also predicts that future supply chains will integrate blockchain technology, IoT and GPS sensors to provide greater transparency throughout the supply chain cycle and improve inventory management. Other projected changes include smart contracts that will cut down processing time, more flexibility via AI, and machine learning that will help companies predict and prepare for future scenarios. Finally, the list predicts a general layering of technologies across the supply chain ecosystem.
There’s no doubt technology can substantially help supply chains deliver a more reliable flow of materials, but even Supply Chain Brain admits that companies aren’t using AI and machine learning just yet. Nevertheless, it nominates “agility” as a supply chain trend for the year. Our suggestion for achieving said agility as a smaller business: Multisourcing materials. You might also look for suppliers that can use technology now to keep buyers informed of materials availability and the status of orders. During the pandemic, companies took a hit when single-source suppliers couldn’t deliver or when sourcing was left to a third party that couldn’t or wouldn’t provide insight into material pipelines. The remedy combines insight with diversity, so that you can address a loss of suppliers in one region, country or company by engaging other suppliers with whom you already have a relationship.
NetSuite adds supply-chain features based on customer insights
Remote and hybrid workplaces are here to stay
COVID-19 and social distancing requirements continue to make a case for fully remote or hybrid workplaces. Twenty-one percent of U.S. information workers — or those who use and create information for decision-making vs. physically laboring — will work primarily from home next year, according to 2021 predictions from Forrester (opens in a new tab), a research firm that provides advice on technologies like software and telecom. And the trend is poised to continue: In Forrester’s survey of information workers, North American managers said they anticipate more employees working fully remotely next year, and more than half of information workers said they want to work from home after the pandemic subsides.
Business leaders will need a whole new set of tools for remote leadership and HR management, Forrester continues. The challenge, they say, will be to rethink team building, internal communications, project management and more in 2021’s hybrid workplace. From a technical standpoint, companies require rolling out new systems to avoid the weaknesses of on-premises solutions, which can be costly to maintain and hinder flexible, work-from-anywhere plans from becoming reality.
On the other hand, the pandemic may continue to present a wider talent-sourcing pool and reduced office-space costs in 2021, which could boost efficiency for organizations that take a proactive approach to manage remote manpower’s efficiencies and ROI with new business models and systems.
The Bottom Line
In the wake of 2020’s wave of change, businesses can find power in proactively building a company that aligns with the above trends, no matter your scale and industry, as many of which will continue developing for years to come. A comprehensive foundation for business optimisation and data integration, which enable flexibility and scalability can start from light adoption for rapid results and ROI.
Source: A part of this blogpost is adopted from https://www.netsuite.com/portal/business-benchmark-brainyard/industries/articles/cfo-central/business-trends.shtml