Can you see the future clearly?

Well, if your answer to the question in the title is yes, you better skip this article and contact us immediately for a gigantic bonus. For the rest of us here is something interesting about the not so clear future.

Running a small business requires a focus on the present daily operations. With time restraints looking ahead becomes difficult. However, in order to succeed you need to know what’s ahead to better plan and avert danger. The 21st century presents plenty of changes that will impact small businesses in the future.

A staggering number of documents are available about the future that this century will bring to the world of small businesses, ranging from scientific researches to earth shaking prophecies.

How can you decide who to listen to?    

We at London BBD like to scan the horizon and listen to a diverse array of prophets and scientists predicting our future. But what we really love to do is to revisit their predictions and see how unfolding realities correspond withe their forecasts.

The Intuit 2020 Report is one of the trend reports we’ve kept an eye on. The report was published last year and looked at the trends and forces affecting consumers and small businesses, and those who serve them, over the coming decade.

The changes we’ve experienced in our extremely volatile world since the report was issued largely support the report’s observations with which this document brings value to small business owners and operators.

Twenty trends in the 21st Century

The report identifies 20 demographic, social and technology trends that will shape the decade between 2010 and 2020. Here is a brief look at them…

Demographic Trends

Age, culture and gender will blur the lines if influence over the next decade, changing the face of small business and consumers across global markets.

1. Digitally Savvy Kids Grow Up and Change Everything
Gen Y will mature, continuing to be quick adopters of new technology, with focus on careers, families, home ownership and high-tech living. Gen Z will enter their teen years, natively fluent in both mobile and social platforms, as the global grid is their toy, their inspiration and their education.

2. Baby Boomers Gray, but They Don’t Slow Down
Baby boomers will dominate the graying population of the industrialized world. But 2020 will see a new breed of senior citizens with “unretirement” and active engagement best describing their lifestyle choices as they continue to work in their current professions or even opt to start new careers.

3. It’s a She-conomy
Women, especially those in emerging markets, will be dominant force in global market – taking increased leadership responsibilities across business, government and education. According to analysis by Booz & Company, 870 million global women have not previously participated in the mainstream economy will gain employment or start their own business.

4. Cultural Fusion Brings Global Tastes to Local Market
The adoption and adaptation of global traditions into local habits will emerge as growing trend due to the widespread use of the Web. Exposure to different cultures and practices through the Web’s global grid will become the norm as consumers and businesses worldwide view, share, tweak and adopt products and practices.

5. Economic Opportunities Fuel Urban Living
Driven by economic opportunity, the shift from rural to urban will continue, with about 60 percent of global population living in cities and suburbs by 2020. More than 50 cities worldwide will boast more than 5 million inhabitants, with more than 20 megacities teeming with than 10 million residents.

Social Trends

Communities will be transformed, driven by social and mobile technologies, changing the ways that people work and behave.

6. Social Networks Fuel the Participatory Economy
Grassroots movements will be the norm, replacing traditional institutions as drivers for change in government and economy. Web and mobile platforms will encourage more people to use forums, and build communities and other relationships to make informed social, economic and political decisions.

7. Localism Creates a New Way of Life
Work-life balance will no longer by a myth, but a reality as people invest in the places they live to make them better, forging new communities. This weave of community fabric will see people re-establishing stronger ties with family, friends and community spawning local economic development in new dynamic ways.

8. Individuals Shoulder the Risk Burden
Driven by economic changes and need, individuals will be increasingly accountable for making their own insurance and retirement decisions, where institutions have previously been involved. Likewise, governments will begin reducing social support systems, driving the need for individual risk management.

9. Customers Control the Relationship
The balance of power will shift from the business to the marketplace as customers grow more informed about products and services. With this shift from “push” to “pull” marketing, companies won’t find their customers, their customers will find them.

Economic Trends

Post recession, the economy will adjust for both abundance and scarcity, forcing businesses and consumers to adapt to new markets and business models in a way never before seen.

10. Industrializing Countries Emerge as the New Engine for Global Growth
More than 1 billion new middle-class consumers will fuel global consumer spending driven by the developing world. Successful businesses will have to adjust their products and services to meet the needs of these new global, middle-class consumers.

11. You No Longer Need Cash to Start a Business
Starting a small business will be easier – and more affordable than ever. The cost of starting and running a small or personal business will continue to decline as smaller, lighter and smarter systems, components and manufacturing methods emerge.

12. Sustainability Becomes a Competitive Requirement
Sustainability will move from social novelty to business necessity. The return of economic growth will renew pressure on resource supplies and prices, with regulation, taxes and other efforts to reduce carbon footprints adding to these pressures.

13. Health and Wellness Spending Soar
Health and wellness will become the world’s largest industry, accounting for global consumers’ single-largest expenditure. Multiple factors will drive the trend including rising costs as a result of aging, health-intensive population; increasing pollution problems worldwide; rising levels of chronic diseases among young; expanding consumer focus on wellness.

14. Work Shifts from Full-time to Free Agent Employment
Traditional employment will no longer be the norm, replaced by contingent workers such as freelancers and part-time workers. The long-term trend of hiring contingent workers will continue to accelerate with more than 80 percent of large corporations planning to substantially increase their use of a flexible workforce.

15. Niche Markets Flourish in the New Economy
Consumers will demand unique, niche products and services and business will have the means to deliver them driven in part by the vast reach of the Internet and low cost tools and materials. Availability of niche products will be accessible anytime, anywhere due to the expansive reach of the Internet and social media.

16. Small Businesses and Global Giants Form a Barbell Economy
Small businesses will grow in importance and flourish due to both their agility and demand for niche products and services. The global economy will see the diminished presence of mid-sized businesses as they are acquired and consolidated into large corporations.

Technology Trends: The Ubiquity of Technology

Technology, combined with advanced analytical tools, large data sets and social and mobile computing platforms, will be further ubiquitous and reshape industries, businesses and consumers’ lives.

17. Working in the Cloud
The brick-and-mortar office will be a thing of the past, as the where and how people work and do business will change due to emerging Internet cloud and mobile technologies. Working in the cloud will increasingly shift work lives away from corporate offices altogether and toward an in-my-own-place, on-my-own-time regimen.

18. Data is Critical for Competitive Advantage
Data overload will no longer be a burden, but an advantage for individuals and companies with the skills to provide compelling analysis to consumers. Those who become proficient in the collection, management and analysis of digital data will gain competitive advantage, leaving others behind.

19. Social and Mobile Computing Connect and Change the World
The use of social and mobile networks and technologies will possess greater utility, including collaborative technologies. Business will be redefined in how they create value and compete and will help consumers and businesses to anticipate and guide decision making and risk management.

20. Smart Machines Get Smarter
The hardware and software technologies we use on a daily basis will get smarter, helping people make everyday decisions and streamline complex tasks. Intelligent devices will be engrained in consumers’ lives along with businesses, changing the way we live and work.

If you were interested in more details, you can download the entire report.

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