PREDICTING THE UNPREDICTABLE

2016 was perhaps the most unpredictable year for decades with the rank outsider Mr Trump winning the US elections, Britain voting to head for the European exit and Leicester City winning the UK’s Premier League at odds of more than 5000 / 1.

You could therefore argue what’s the point in making predictions for 2017, when some of the biggest events of the last year were not foreseen by anyone?  Perhaps our time should be better spent being ready to identify, embrace and accept change.

With the speed of technological evolution there’s no doubt that all businesses and sectors will face exponential change, with the potential of many being left behind if they don’t accept it.

Examples of companies that failed to predict trends and react to it include the likes of Kodak, who in 1998 had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.

We could also look at the likes of Uber, they don’t own any cars and are the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

If we look at Artificial Intelligence, IBM Watson is challenging the legal sector by offering basic legal advice within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. Some predict that as a result there will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain.

It’s forecast that by the end of the year / early 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear and by around 2020, the industry will start to be completely disrupted. People won’t own cars but will use cars like driverless taxis where there’s no need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving.  There’s no doubt this will reduce accidents and also the need for insurance.

Traditional car companies are threatened by tech companies such as Tesla, Apple and Google who are essentially building a computer on wheels.  Let’s also not forget that this, alongside the growth of 3D printing and a suggestion that by 2027 10% of everything produced will be 3D printed, there will also be cost savings.

So what’s important now is for companies to identify business priorities, opportunities as well as threats to determine how they need to position and market themselves if they are to succeed.

No doubt, some will stick their heads in the sand, others will keep to what they know, while some will embrace different mediums and channels to push their boundaries and explore all opportunities available to them.

I’d hazard a guess that it’s the latter group who will make the biggest strides, engage with their customers and build a loyal following that will be useful to them now and for years to come.

Embrace the opportunities

So, if you’re looking to embrace the opportunities, where should your time be best spent?  Genuine engagement with target audiences remains key and a conscious effort to listen, engage and deliver consistently across all channels is key.

There’s no doubt that the various media mediums will continue to grow and evolve as the primary source of information, news and opinion.  The various platforms will continue to battle and evolve their offering, but their importance can’t be underestimated – as illustrated by Donald Trump using Twitter for significant policy announcements.

No one would have predicted this this time last year, so remember – be prepared for the unpredictable.