Watching trend lines and making predictions is a risky business with 363 days left of 2014. So much could go wrong, and of course, so much could go right! On balance, I tend to focus on the positives. I believe we are at a place (in the business sense) where good things can and should happen….for at least some of the following 7 business trends:
- Consumer Confidence: According to experts, consumer confidence is likely to increase modestly along with spending, as it has for the past 4 years. However, the after-effects of the recession remain present in the minds of consumers and businesses alike.
- Home Sales: Existing home sales, improved equity, new home starts and low finance rates are contributing to a solid, progressive uptrend in this category.
- Retail: Retail sales continue to show regional biases due to employment rates, prevailing wages and tax policies. Addressing multi-channel opportunities and challenges such as online sales and show-rooming remain a priority. Many economists are predicting growth, especially of larger purchases such as appliances, autos, and larger-ticket, home-related products like furnaces, air conditioning and replacement windows.
- Finance: While still cautious due to government regulation, financial services are lending more to credit-worthy consumers and businesses.
- Technology: Personal devices such as smartphones and tablets, will continue to drive innovation. Consumers can create personalized networks within the cloud with their phones acting as servers; and communicate with other devices from “wearables” such as watches and eyeglasses to their TVs, cars or homes. The future is here.
- Marketing: Personal, customized messaging delivered in an integrated manner will continue to be improved. Social media with trackable, database opportunities for measurement, will remain a critical component of any marketing strategy.
- Privacy & Security: The 4A’s (the advertising industry’s premier association) has been instrumental in framing a self-regulatory privacy solution. Recent news regarding the government’s use of metadata, coupled with the online hacking of personal information (such as Target’s credit card issue) highlights the importance and complexity of these sensitive issues. While it is unclear what the end result will be, it is clear that the time for action is upon us.
Worth noting is that nearly all of the above will take place during a contentious campaign year. A toxic flow of earned and paid political media could suppress a lot of these positive trends in 2014. So let’s hope that we’ll see more cooperation, collaboration and good will among politicians, for the betterment of our businesses and the economy as a whole.