As the word of technology continues to expand and advance into realms we never thought possible, businesses are finding that their ability to keep pace and implement these rapidly changing trends is essential for their success. Chris Beaver, Founder and CMO at AdvisoryCloud, has spoken openly about today’s business trends and how they are having a major impact on the way businesses develop.
After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree from Colgate University, Chris Beaver founded AdvisoryCloud in 2008 with Jonathan Asparatore (Founder and CEO) and Dallas Bond (Founder and COO). AdvisoryCloud is a unique platform which “provides professionals the platform, exposure, and tools to monetize their knowledge as an advisor.” This innovative new platform has “provided flexible solutions that allow companies of all sizes to discover the impact advisors can have on growing their business.” In addition to founding AdvisoryCloud, Beaver has served as Advisor and COO for ExecSense, Committee Member for California Medical Center, and Board Member and COO for VerbVebtures, two positions in which he still currently holds. His years of experience as an entrepreneur have provided him with many deep insights into how current trends impact businesses.
1 – Smartphones for Consumer Shopping
“Smartphone apps have changed the retail industry, especially the shopping experience…Our phones are our wallets, and today’s customers are accustomed to using their smartphone to shop and make purchases directly through a store’s mobile app.”
One sector that has undergone massive changes in the last two decades as a result of rapid advancements in technology and evolving business trends is the retail sector. A huge industry that once thrived on brick and mortar stores, this sector of the economy is now witnessing a shift as a result of the smartphone, and more specifically, online shopping. Traditional brick and mortar stores are now a thing of the past as consumers shop online and have their goods and groceries delivered directly to their home. Successful retailers have been able to evolve their existing locations to cater to things like last minute gifts and household necessities. Other successful retailers have given their locations a showroom quality where you can browse the store and have your purchases shipped to your door. The opposite has also become wildly popular where you shop online and pick up your items in the store.
Chris Beaver points to examples such as Amazon, a company that has transformed the way we shop. What started off as an online marketplace for books, Amazon has become the number one distributor for goods around the world. They provide delivery services for virtually any item imaginable, all accessible at the click of a button on your phone – they even have 1-cick ordering which allows users to simply select the option to expedite checkout. More recently, in 2016, Amazon opened its 12th checkout-free store. This is the newest experience that has been introduced to the retail sector and allows shoppers to go in and take items they want while avoiding the checkout process entirely. As soon as you walk out the door you are charged for the items you took, creating a completely frictionless shopping experience
Beaver recognizes that this example is an extreme, but is it a “great example of the future of retail – and how companies will need to incorporate mobile purchasing abilities to [their] business model.” Companies who stick with the old models of retail shopping will be lost in the tech-advanced world we now live in. Consumers no longer want to spend their time searching for goods in the store, waiting in long lines, or making small talk with store representatives; instead they are looking for the quickest and simplest service possible. This trend, though specifically linked with the retail sector, can in-fact be seen in many other sectors around the world.
2 – VR Improves Consumer and Business Experiences
“VR can impact every field of business, enabling companies to use VR to sell their product or service, whether that’s through a digital showroom, interactions with sales associates, virtually trying out a product, [or] data visualization.”
A second technology-based business trend that is penetrating several industries is virtual reality. In fact, it is projected that the VR industry will reach $18.8 billion U.S. dollars by 2020 globally. Beaver suggests that this trend is not only impacting the tech industry, so it is more imperative than ever that entrepreneurs and business owners seek out professional advice to learn how to implement this trend in their own business models.
Some specific industries that Beaver identifies as being heavily impacted by virtual reality technology are real estate and construction. In the past, real estate agents would need to take pictures or film the interior of the home, providing prospective clients with a very limited insight into their future potential house. Furthermore, contractors would need to create blueprints and visuals of what the development of a home would look like for future clients, again creating restrictions to how well their vision could be realized. However, with VR, both of these industries can provide their clients with an immersive experience by creating a virtual walk through of a future home or property. VR not only saves time and money when compared to traditional pictures and renderings, but it provides customers with an extremely accurate look and feel of the property. This immersive experience is particularly valuable when considering large and often life changing purchases like a new home.
To expand on this idea, many other professionals are utilizing VR for their marketing and advertising as well. One old marketing concept was to host consumer testing groups to obtain customer feedback. Although these groups are still used, companies are now expanding their efforts by using VR to truly immerse the consumer into a space or product and collect feedback from several channels without having to form a test group to collect data. Additional sectors using VR include military and defense, events and conferences, law enforcement, recruiting and human resources, manufacturing and logistics, healthcare and medicine, journalism and media dissemination, film and entertainment, automotive, space exploration, engineering, customer service, agriculture, sports, education, and energy.
3 – Social Media and Marketing
“In the midst of an influencer era, companies are turning to influencers to get their product in front of a larger target – particularly when selling ‘lifestyle’ products.
Using social media to expand your brand and connect with a larger audience has taken off in the last decade. Customers have become more discerning over the years as to what products they are willing to buy. People are highly likely to do research on a brand to ensure that it is not only a quality product, but ethically produced as well. In fact a growing number of consumers are willing to pay a higher price for a product if they are confident that the company aligns with their personal views and contributes to a worthwhile cause.
This is where social media plays a huge roll in marketing. Brand influencers connect with consumers on a more natural and organic way, promoting the charitable cause the brand aligns itself with as much as the product itself. The influencer weaves a picture of a lifestyle that the consumer can identify with and in the process becomes a powerful marketing tool by creating lifelong loyal customers. With the introduction of likes, social media provides a measurable strategy to get a product tested on an unbiased market. Beaver has recognized that this trend has also shifted the consumer experience – they are now looking for the experience related to a product instead of just looking at the product itself.
Beaver points out that “users of all ages have taken to social media, so creating a presence that understands youth culture as well as catering to a range of ages has become increasingly important.” Simultaneously it is important to understand how each generation uses social media. For example, only 36% of Generation Zers use Facebook at least once a week, while 96% of Baby Boomers use it; on the contrary, 68% of Generation Zers will use Snapchat at least once a week, while only 5% of Baby Boomers will. The differences between how varying generations use social media is important to recognize, and companies are using this data to target specific generations with influencers.
4 – Social Media and Business Success
“Social media is also making it harder for companies to hide during hard times. In lieu of call centers, customers are now taking their reviews to a company’s social media accounts for the world to see. Good reviews can give companies a nice (and free) PR boost, but bad reviews can be damaging.”
Beaver identifies that social media has two components which must be confronted by any company that uses social media marketing. First, social media is an excellent avenue for companies to put out positive advertising, and/or public relations. Due to the influx of consumers reviewing companies on their social media sites, many companies have begun to urge their customers to leave reviews, ultimately increasing their opportunities to connect with new customers.
In the same manner, companies can experiences an influx of bad reviews and this can be a challenge to overcome. On most social media sites, companies and business owners cannot remove negative feedback. Therefore, as Beaver pointed out, it is imperative that companies invest in their social media presence and manage both good and bad reviews.
An additional benefit, identified by AdvisoryCloud member and Co-Founder of Sensei Marketing Danny Brown, is that social media provides the “ability to create extremely targeted campaigns, combined with platforms that measure which networks and content create the most return on investment.” This “has made social media a key part of every smart business owner’s toolset. This ability to measure business results is easily transferrable to measuring influence results – the difference is in what, and who, you measure.”
5 – AI Changing Business Operations
“Artificial intelligence and automation are infiltrating every area of business… AI and automation are being used to simplify business processes and make operations easier – not
replace the human workforce.”
Since the first industrial revolution, humans have been fearful that robots were going to eventually take over the world. In a more recent and realistic sense, people have become afraid that robots are going to take over our jobs. As AI continues to develop and there becomes an increased presence of automation in our industries, many people have talked about the detriment this has had on job growth. This fourth industrial revolution or industry 4.0 has pushed AI to its limits creating factories that can operate without the need for human labor, but even these smart factories at some point need human labor. Although there is a trend related to the changing need for humans in places such as manufacturing lines, Beaver recognizes that this has not resulted in fewer available jobs, but rather different types of opportunities. Automated smart factories that have developed as a result of AI have simply shifted the jobs into new growing sectors.
Amazon, again, one of the largest growing companies in the nation, has promoted this very concept. Earlier this year the company announced that it will dedicate $700 million in retaining roughly a third of its American workers to do more high-tech tasks. As AI and automation step into manufacturing jobs, the need for robotics technicians and programmers has ballooned. Workers also step into complete complicated maintenance routines and problem solve production bottlenecks to keep operations running uninterrupted. This company, which is utilizing technology to its maximum, is an excellent representation of how humans are not being removed, but rather promoted to more mind intensive positions. Jobs such as delivery are even being transitioned to drone technology so that their staff can focus on future developments for the company.
In line with Amazon is Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple, all which have been aggressively acquiring AI startups in the last decade – Google in the lead with 14 acquisitions, and Microsoft in second with 10 acquisitions. The benefits, outlined by Beaver and displayed in his concept of AdvisoryCloud, is to bring the minds of those in the industry together to create advances that otherwise may have been missed.
6 – The Downfall of Ignoring Business Trends
“The truth is these trends will have an effect on every business at some point, regardless of whether a company decides to adapt to these changes or ignore them and remain in the stone ages.”
Growing your business to match the expanding demands of consumers requires significant work and an ongoing understanding of the changing business trends. However overwhelming or challenging this seems, Chris Beaver points out that if you ignore it, you company will cease to exist. The upside to improvements in technology and communication is the increasing number of resources available to allow you business to expand.
Recognizing this need, Beaver and his associates launched AdvisoryCloud in the hope of helping businesses stay on track for their future.
According to a Forrester survey by Catalant, 88% of companies agree that specialized talent is essential to the long-term viability of their organization. With AdvisoryCloud, Beaver pinpoints that “with experts who can not only understand but also successfully navigate today’s top business challenges like artificial intelligence, cash flow management, or environmental regulations, companies are much more poised to achieve a profitable future. However, high-demand skills are difficult to find and expensive to retain, especially internally…This is where on-demand work, or on-demand knowledge, can be a lifesaver for companies of all sizes”
AdvisoryCloud provides an avenue for experts in any industry to join the Advisory Board of companies they never could have found on their own. Whether they are looking for an opportunity to consult during a one on one phone conversation, or they are seeking a position on an advisory board, AdvisoryCloud bridges the gap between companies and experts. In addition, AdvisoryCload allows companies to seek assistance on subjects that are not their primary area of expertise. For example, designers can hire social media experts to learn how to expand their audience, which according to Beaver is necessary for the future success of a business. Whatever the advice needed, AdvisoryBoard can make a connection.