Powerful forces will reshape business over the next five years. PROFIT magazine reveals what the leaders of Canada’s growing companies need to know about the promise and peril those forces will bring.
1. Treating customers like human beings.
What is the future of customer service in a world of wireless e-commerce and outsourced call centers? Over the next five years, savvy marketers will go back to the past and start treating customers like people.
2. The sensor society.
Miniaturized electronics and the wireless revolution are combining to create brand new technologies: tiny, automated sensors that stand on guard to transmit vital data about almost anything, from the location of inventory to the state of your heart. Anything that can be tracked will be tracked: cars, for example. Think of the implications for insurance rates.
3. Telling customers what they want to hear.
Do you buy a pair of contact lenses every month? Wouldn’t it make sense for your pharmacist to call and ask if you’d like to order a pair before you have to walk in on your own? Relationship marketing is where it’s going to be at. The challenge is not technology, but imagination. In the Wal-Mart era, consumers will be willing to pay more for a little bit of personalized service.
4. Aging boomers fight it every step of the way.
Employers must become more sensitive to the needs of older workers. They should beef-up wellness programs, for instance, elder-proof the workplace (e.g. by upgrading lighting and eliminating stairs) and supply more healthful food in the cafeteria.
5. The China syndrome.
China is on track to becoming the world’s largest economy by 2020. Consider China’s aggressive manufacturers a threat? Good. On the other hand, the country’s rapidly developing economy has a voracious appetite for resources, industrial products and services that many Canadian firms are well positioned to supply.
6. Innovation in process, not product.
Dell Computers became the world’s largest PC maker by applying speed and service to generic-product retailing. Starbucks transformed the coffee business by making the experience of drinking it — in a comfy, intimate setting — more important than the Java. Tomorrow’s winners will be those firms that become innovators in how they do business.
7. The end of cheap oil.
Tightening energy supplies will mean rising prices that boost costs across the board for consumers and businesses. But the end of cheap oil will also spark new interest in alternative energy sources. As a net exporter of energy and with a head start in innovative energy sources, including hydrogen, fuel cells and wind power, Canada is better positioned than most countries to adapt and even prosper.
The PROFIT “Sell More!” issue hits newsstands across the country today.
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Email Suneel Khanna