The fundamentals of business have remained the same largely forever. A business incurs costs to provide a product or a service to a customer, and they sell that product or service at a price that covers their costs and provides a decent profit margin – this core philosophy will never change.
However, the above is just about the only element that hasn’t changed when it comes to business. In particular, the past quarter of a century has seen a huge paradigm shift in how businesses can operate. Below, we’ve highlighted three examples of this – things that were once ‘the norm’ for businesses, but which all companies should now look to move past in order to embrace changing times.
THEN: Businesses were once able to take their time when responding to customers – opening hours were restricted, calls could be missed (either due to not being answered or an engaged line), and email addresses and websites did exist, but their use was far from widespread.
NOW: In contrast, a customer in 2020 will expect numerous contact options to be available to them 24 hours a day. What’s more, customers also expect replies to be swift – ideally within 48 working hours, though preferably less. A focus on providing a number of contact options and ensuring replies are timely and helpful is therefore integral to the eventual success of any modern business, especially when it comes to receiving good customer service reviews and high levels of customer retention.
THEN: Throughout the history of business, there is one saying that has always applied: cash is king. Invoices were paid in cash; customers paid cash for their purchases in store; tradespeople were paid with cash from a grateful client – cash was so important, it even involved itself in the business vernacular: petty cash, cash in hand, cashflow, and so on.
NOW: Cash is no longer king – in fact, it’s new position within the aristocracy would be closer to an Earl or Baron than monarch. The likes of payment processing options have ensured that businesses no longer need to rely on cash for a literal cash flow and growing preferences amongst the public for card transactions, the era of cash is past – and currency may in fact one day become altogether obsolete.
THEN: A quarter of a century ago, advertising was extremely difficult to target for most businesses. The closest businesses could get was placing ads in magazines they believed the customers most interested in their business were likely to read (which often had a limited scope) or mass advertising options such as billboards, which could barely be targeted at all. As a result, advertising could be hit-and-miss due to a generalised approach that cast a wide net in the hopes of finding a few potential customers.
NOW: Modern advertising (and particularly digital advertising) is hyper-focused. Now, business owners are able to target potential customers with precision; whether it’s ensuring customers see adverts for products they’ve already viewed with rebound marketing or narrowing targeting customers by very specific characteristics when advertising on social media, niche advertising is now very much the standard. Generic, widespread adverts are now reserved for companies that could reasonably apply to anyone – for any product or service that is slightly more niche than “applies to all”, targeted options are available – and they can be very successful, too.
Almost everything about the world of business is always subject to change; what business owners have to do is be prepared to adapt to that change as it happens, in order to secure the future success of their business. We hope this piece has helped to highlight three areas of business that have experienced significant shifts over the past five years, as well as provided pointers for what any business owner needs to do so they can ensure their enterprise is able to adapt – and make the most of the opportunities that are sure to come in the future.