As the end of the year approaches, we begin to look back at the year just passed, at the game-changing moments, the big issues and the successes to celebrate in both business and life
Another year is ending. While there were many lessons to take away from 2018, entrepreneurs must be aware of the things predicted to be big in 2019. But what are the things we’ll be talking about as the new year comes to a close – from the trends and innovations to key events and companies to watch. We asked a panel of business leaders and startup founders for their predictions for the year ahead.
Voice is king
According to Business Insider, 54% of American households already have an Amazon Echo device. “Households are increasingly using voice as one of their primary methods of searching for information and even ordering products – after all, it cuts out the need for them to trawl through pages and pages of results they would get from a search engine, which is an undeniable improvement in customer experience and convenience,” says Steven van Belleghem, a digital marketing expert and author of Customers The Day After Tomorrow. Belleghem believes Amazon will start filtering the kind of brands users use and hear about. “In the same way that Facebook became the world’s biggest information filter, Amazon is doing this for products and in the coming years brands are going to have to compete in a new way to get exposure to their potential customers.”
More misconduct by magnates in the headlines
2018 has been nothing less than controversial with the media unearthing shocking scandals which bosses were involved in. From Mark Zuckerberg to Elon Musk, the corporate sector was filled with questionable although not always illegal behaviour by many leaders. And this might not be the end of it. “’Like 2018, 2019 will inevitably bring new scandals around the world regarding various forms of white-collar misconduct – such as money laundering, corruption, accounting fraud and tax evasion,” says José R. Hernandez, CEO of Ortus Strategies, the crisis management advisory and compliance firm. “In response to public anger, regulators and prosecutors will continue to vigorously investigate global businesses, cooperating and sharing information with their counterparts across national borders.”
However, even though the law will hold businesses to account, it doesn’t mean managers at the top can take a breather. “The trend towards more individual prosecutions of executives will continue, as legal authorities seek to impose a measure of personal accountability on those who directed, tolerated or wilfully ignored the misdeeds in their organisations,” Hernandez adds. “Misconduct may be unavoidable but scandals are not – rather, these result from systemic failures in a company’s culture, strategy and structure.”
However, in 2019, unfortunately, more companies that failed to heed the warning signs and allowed unethical issues to proliferate are expected to be seen in the headlines.
All eyes on the gender pay gap
Businesses increasingly dealing with the issue of sexism and gender pay gap was one of the most significant milestones of 2018. For the first time, all UK organisations employing over 250 people had to declare the average pay differences between their male and female staff and the results were mind-boggling.
“In 2019, I anticipate even more scrutiny,” says Stephen Frost, founder of Frost Included, the diversity and inclusion consultancy. “Especially amongst those organisations who were revealed to have the largest gender pay gaps.” The need of the hour is more equality – more so in the boardroom and the importance of this can’t be more stressed upon.
Shop till you drop
In 2018, Amazon announced the roll out of Amazon Go checkout-less concept to 3,000 locations across the US within three years. In China, JD revealed plans to expand their unmanned stores. Leading retailers around the world are also embracing the cashierless trend. “Indeed, the idea of going into a shop, picking up and paying for an item and then simply walking out without having to queue would sound crazy a decade ago,” says Mustafa Khanwala, founder and CEO of MishiPay, the self-checkout solution provider. “But in 2019, however, this kind of convenience will become a reality for shoppers and it won’t take long before customers expect this to be a standard way to shop.” Convenience has become the new loyalty and companies that fail to recognise this could be left behind.
The biggest and most talked about event in the UK will inevitably be Brexit. “Brexit will be a seismic event in 2019 which will see businesses adapting to a challenging new set of circumstances – as well as the new opportunities, says Siddharth Shankar, CEO of Tails Trading, the trading solutions provider. This means exporting will become more important to many UK businesses. “If the pound is weakened and the UK economy is performing poorly, exporting will become a key way to stimulate growth,” Shankar adds. “Booming markets outside the EU, such as Asia, will be pivotal to this.” Indeed, UK exports to India and China already grew by 31% and 15% respectively last year and this is a trend that is set to increase. With the government announcing its intention to make the UK a global exporting superpower, there's no doubt that more companies will look across the pond.