With significant upheaval in all spheres of life this past year, many of us will be keen to see 2016 go. But in spite of (or perhaps because of) all this, businesses are looking confident about their prospects in 2017. Whether it’s leaps in technology, nostalgia for old habits or just selling with a smile, these six tech trends should see your SME through a period of prosperity.
Overdue disruption in consumer technology market
Tech and software firms are probably planning three years down the line, but for the rest of us, it pays to be up on consumer technology trends. After all, in the digital age this is where much of your business is likely to be conducted. With office space for startups at a premium, many nascent businesses are taking to phones and laptops, and setting up camp at home or in the nearest coffee shop.
It’s always hard to predict precise trends in this fast moving landscape, but it may be enough to state that there will be a major disruptive force next year. While minor shifts such as the falling popularity of tablets and resurgence of laptops have occurred, these only reflect usage habits, as people look to strike a balance between portability and operability. The phablet is arguably the last major change to the tech landscape, and these are already so ubiquitous that we scarcely need the term anymore.
Various contenders have come and gone over the last decade without really landing, from netbooks to Google Glass to the still-trudging wearables market. With widely available mobile technology now so powerful it can run top of the line video games and virtual reality software, something surely has to give.
For small businesses this is likely to mean changes to the means of delivery for all sorts of content. Statistics from May 2016 showed that a fifth of all mobile Google queries were conducted by voice search, and that number is likely to rise. Getting your app to launch through Google Now or Siri could be a huge selling point, as could working in some voice functionality. And different sized screens and resolutions pushing 4K UHD may require new website assets to display properly.
Mobile shopping meanwhile is likely to become ever more competitive as trust grows in mobile security. There’s a strong likelihood that Amazon will recommend certain products as they are added to your shopping list, adding ‘app optimisation’ to the traditional arts of SEO. Whether it’s perfect voice control, augmented reality or seamless integration with our homes and workplaces, 2017 is the year to keep your finger on the pulse of home tech.
Virtual convergence and first steps in vCommerce
Speaking of far-flung technology, 2017 may finally be the year where the virtual becomes physical. Not literally – we’re not quite in Westworld yet – but the rise of virtual reality (VR) and other futuristic technology seems inexorable and unstoppable. As major and minor players in the online space continue to compete for attention, this may be the toolset for online businesses to stand out from the crowd.
VR shopping environments may be the ultimate endgame, but convincing implementation and widespread uptake are still some time away. The cost of a headset and sufficiently powerful computer is still prohibitive for most people, and the software currently isn’t a compelling enough sell. It will likely take a fall in prices and a purpose-built computer with its own operating system before VR hits the mainstream, both of which are a big ask for one year.
More likely is that eCommerce platform providers will begin to integrate new feature sets, to address the new ways in which people are browsing. It probably doesn’t seem long since optimising online stores for mobile became a big deal. The next logical step is optimising for Samsung Gear or Oculus Rift in a way which fully utilises the benefits of the hardware.
With Amazon already owning a video game development studio and a massive digital infrastructure, the earliest attempts at fully virtual shops or ‘vCommerce’ will probably go to the shopping giant. But the efforts here could set the trend for every business over the coming years. Combining the convenience of online shopping with the ability to see the item and pick it up will revolutionise the used and new shopping markets.
Cybersecurity will take centre stage
Hacking has long been a latent threat, but 2016 may have been the year when businesses started to sit up and take notice. The DynDNS attack in late October signalled a shift in the power balance, as a network spanning Twitter, Paypal, Amazon and Netflix was down for hours.
The attack itself – what’s called a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS), a way to overload a network with data – wasn’t an instance of hacking. But it was carried out by an enormous array of ‘hijacked’ devices including many from the Internet of Things (IoT), realising some long held fears around their vulnerability to misuse.
Small businesses should not think themselves exempt just because they are smaller targets. Indeed, the high tech security at many larger companies may make SMEs more compelling targets. 2017 will be the year when enterprise at every level stops to review its security strategy and takes more advice on its physical and network infrastructure, or risk paying a heavy price.
Given that a small online businesses could still hold sensitive data on thousands of customers, and be entirely reliant on online banking and payment portals, the need to assess security strategies is greater than ever. Simply put this means limiting points of access as much as possible, storing sensitive data on a non-networked computer, and using strong encryption and passwords.
More than anything, there is a legislative impetus to change this year. A new EU directive comes into play in 2018, forcing anyone who does business within the Union to comply. This ruling transfers more power to consumers to choose which data they want to be collected, and requires data protection officers of many smaller businesses. Any data breach or mismanagement will be met with percentage fines, which will make the outlay on IT services seem small fry.
This post was written by Euro Start Entreprises. Helping businesses and entrepreneurs with company formation in France, UK, Europe, US & the Emirates.