Businesses seeking to modernize IT systems to keep up with advances in technology and customer expectations should look to the following trends in 2016: A shrinking world, smaller devices, mobile and cloud capabilities, and leveraging big data.
A Shrinking World
“It’s a Small World After All” isn’t just a jaunty theme song repeated ad nauseam in Disney theme parks. It’s a fact of modern business life. After all, improvements in transportation networks and logistics now allow you to have your product delivered to a customer on the other side of the planet by noon tomorrow.
Despite the ubiquity of the American dollar in commerce (for example, the greenback is now the official currency of Argentina), customers finding their way to your website may well expect to be able to make their purchases in rupees, yuan, euro or ringgit. And while English is widely regarded as an international language, if you’re looking to make sales in the Middle East, China, Russia, Latin America or Europe, there are few better keys to a customer’s heart than to have your site translated into his or her native tongue. This explains the popularity of translation programs embedded in many commercial websites, with one-click access to the entire site in the user’s language of choice.
Laying out the global welcome mat also requires at least a modicum of cultural awareness. For example, hard sell tactics and small-type boilerplate language may not be particularly effective in driving Asian traffic to your website. Does your website acknowledge quinceañeras, Día de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo? Successful internet sellers know that Hispanic customers in the United States as well as in Latin America can be wooed with appropriate cultural references to traditions, holidays, food, clothing and family celebrations.
The world isn’t the only thing that is rapidly constricting. If your business feels as if it’s been dropped into an episode of “Honey, I Shrunk the Technology,” you’re not alone. In a very few years, we have progressed from desktop computers to laptops to tablets and smart phones and now to smart watches. “Wearable technology” continues to be a trend in 2016. Whether it’s clicking by blinking an eye on Google Glass or hearing a faint beep from your wristwatch when you have a text message, businesses need to be aware of miniaturization and consumers’ increasing demand for convenience. WYSIWYG and one-click access is now the norm. Your site visitors are not likely to become customers if they have to figure anything out on their tiny devices or delve deep into the bowels of your website to find what they came for. A millennial generation that has never unfolded a paper road map expects arrows pointing them in the right direction clearly displayed on the top page of your site. It is a tenet of e-commerce that impulse purchases are driven by making it “just too easy” to buy. Cookies, anyone?
Mobile, Social Media and the Cloud
Recent fluctuations on Wall Street (“when China sneezes, the world catches cold”) are as good an indication as any of the global nature of the economy. What economist Thomas Friedman calls “the flat world economy” is driven by the use of mobile devices and the instant availability of information no matter where one is physically located. That Wi-Fi, cell towers and data plans have become subjects of everyday conversation should demonstrate that customers fully expect to be able to access the goods and services they desire on the go. This may mean creating a separate mobile website that pares down the bells and whistles, utilizing a GUI that fosters rapid display of web pages and buttons and makes for a smooth UX on the little screen. It means keeping in touch with your current and potential customers via text message and creating a sense of community the same way that they do: Via social media. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a tweet only takes 140 characters.
Of course, it’s not just your customers who are roamers; so are your employees and salespeople. Taking advantage of cloud technology allows your staff to access company data anytime, anywhere. If your 20th century legacy systems are holding you back from 21st century cloud access, it may be time to modernize and vastly improve your business efficiency.
Data is everywhere, and that’s a problem. Collecting data is one thing, while leveraging its power to the advantage of your business is another thing entirely. Businesses are bombarded with unceasing streams of data ranging from your page views to the average speed of answer in your call center to your quarterly financials to the latest federal and state government demographic statistics. So what will you do with this vast jumble of numbers?
The current popularity of data analytics is only likely to increase in 2016. Data is the modern writing on the wall and is how your marketing operation determines what to sell, how to sell it, who your customers are and what groups of potential customers can be reached. The challenge for CEOs is to discern data patterns that tell a story. No one wants to be engaged in capital outlay for an expensive direct mail marketing campaign or media buy when data may indicate that the same or better results can be achieved at low cost through an effective Facebook presence, well-timed tweets and a blog that captures your customers’ imaginations.
While it’s anyone’s guess what exciting new technology may wait just over the horizon, it’s a good bet that these recent trends in IT modernization will only grow stronger as we progress into 2016.