Business is always changing, and in the digital age of the 21st century it can be particularly difficult to keep up, especially if you’re a small businesses or start-up. Luckily, there’s help at hand.
Sage is passionate about innovation in the business community. Recently, we drew up the most important innovation trends to help develop your business in 2014. Read, learn and help your business prosper!
1. Smart money: the rise of alternative finance
There are plenty of ways of financing your business’ growth other than the traditional methods of loans, overdrafts and credit cards. Alternative financing is on the rise: it pays (literally) to research peer-to-peer lending, equity funding and crowdfunding; a method of reaching a wide pool of individuals who have the option to invest as little as £10 each in your business. Banks also offer factoring, invoice discounting, supply chain finance and leasing to help improve your short-term cash flow.
2. The sharing economy
The sharing economy allows customers to share products and services rather than buy them outright. There’s an increasing amount of successful examples of the practice in action: check out Skillshare, Sidecar, Airbnb and Zipcar to learn about some of the most exciting. The rise of the sharing economy is great news for businesses, as it’s now possible to attract customers who could otherwise not afford to buy your products outright. Sharing services can drive down your own costs and reduce waste, too.
3. Mobile money
A new generation of payment technologies let you handle your finances on the move, reducing paperwork and encouraging more timely payments from customers. Apps like Sage 50 Accounts Mobile go one step further, allowing you to create invoices and manage products from your mobile, whilst technologies such as iZettle let you take credit card payments through your phone or tablet.
4. Driving business growth through data
Develop your business by tapping in to some of the newest analytics technology. These tools can help you to learn about your most valuable customers, understand your finances and inform new strategies. And thanks to cloud technology, small businesses can increasingly make use of high quality systems for a low monthly cost.
5. Personalisation and the age of clever comms
Big data and analytics mean that your bigger rivals are now able to offer the ultimate personalised online experience. Such technologies let large companies forecast what customers want and when they’ll want it, making it possible for them to then tailor their communications to individuals. In 2014, consumers are increasingly expecting personalisation, collaboration and co-creation – if you fail to embrace these developments, your brand risks falling off the map.
6. Collaboration and open innovation
Businesses are increasingly making use of co-creation and collaboration to drive new ideas and growth. Some of the most exciting young tech start-ups in London, for example, are working side-by-side in the capital to spark ideas for new approaches and growth – new regions and businesses will soon catch on, too, so be sure to not get left behind.
7. The shop revolution
Price comparison apps and the increasing prominence of online shopping have radically altered the way consumers buy products. As a result, it’s becoming ever more important to fight hard to create unforgettable in-store experiences. As always, though, such a challenge brings opportunities for innovation – it will pay to put considerable thought into the best ways to maximise the potential of your business’ physical space in order to showcase your brand and its identity.
8. The new listening
Social listening and trend watching are becoming more and more important in informing business innovation and product development. Its costly and time consuming, especially for small businesses, but if you’re selective with the social channels and apps you employ it’s possible to reap considerable benefits. Refine your social strategy to help determine what your customers really want.
9. New pricing strategies to appeal to austerity Britain
Even though Britain’s economic picture looks to be slightly more promising in 2014, consumers are still focusing on ways to maximise what they get for their money. Businesses with wallet-friendly pricing models, such as the offer of canny discounts via voucher websites such as Groupon, are thriving. Still, it’s important to make sure these new models fit your brand identity and profit margins before you go diving in.
10. Responsible business
Sustainability, corporate social responsibly and accountable business aren’t just buzzwords – they’re key to business strategy. Corporate responsibility – both in terms of reducing your carbon footprint and giving something back to your local community – is becoming an increasingly important influence on customer decisions. Responsible business promotes innovation and improves your brand’s reputation – if you get it right, everybody wins.