A Look Back at 2016: How Business Changed

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The business world is changing faster than ever before, and the emergence of new technologies like nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are blurring the lines of present and future even more.

Digital technology is transforming the face of business, and 2016 brought notable changes to how businesses are connecting, selling and adapting to the ever-changing digital world. The pace is fast, but it also enables people globally to become better informed, more connected and more empowered about choice and spending.

But technology wasn’t the only trend in 2016 to affect business.

According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, "74 percent of CEOs are concerned about geopolitical uncertainty." A new U.S. president, changes in the Transpacific Partnership, instability in the Middle East and the European Brexit vote have all had a major impact, but technology still leads the pack when it comes to how business is changing.

Cyber Threats

In the PwC survey, 61 percent of CEOs said cyber threats continue to affect how business is conducted. The list of financial, retail and manufacturing security breaches are forcing businesses to take more responsibility in managing risk.

In 2016, more retailers began using chip technology readers to scan cards in order to combat the increasingly-savvy cyber criminals. Today, more companies are addressing cyber threats not just as a financial issue, but as a brand trust issue as well. Whereas many CEO’s said keeping secure information safe was a top challenge to growth investments, many used 2016 to institute more aggressive threat prevention.

Continued Power of Social Media

According to Fast Company magazine, more than 2 billion active social media users exist globally, and that number is growing. While traditional businesses were slow to jump on the social media bandwagon, today, nine out of 10 U.S. companies are active on social networks resulting in increased exposure and sales.

In Canada, more than half of the companies have an official Twitter account and 43 percent have a Facebook page. This year, social media ad revenue in Canada is projected to top out at more than $600 million, mostly through mobile ads, according to Statistica.

According to Fast Company, U.S. companies began increasing social media advertising in 2015, and 2016 saw an even bigger increase. In fact, social media advertising reached nearly $24 billion this year, and that trend is expected to continue with social media ads making up nearly 16 percent of all digital advertising spending in the next year.

As technology continues to grow and emerge at a rapid rate, businesses around the globe will continue to adapt and change to keep up. The biggest trend of 2016 was the emergence of social media platforms that are fundamentally changing how companies reach out, interact, sell and communicate with consumers and employees.

Shifts in the Economy

Global and social instability was a top concern to 65 percent of CEOs surveyed, as was the technology that accompanied major shifts in the economy.

The Brexit (British Referendum) staggered the world when it passed earlier this year. Due to the unprecedented vote to leave the European Union, Brexit inevitably caused many businesses to freeze their major investments in the United Kingdom, according to the IBT Times.

In the U.S., the election of Donald Trump as the next president has also affected businesses both domestically and globally. A recent Washington Post article predicts that the oil, coal, pharmaceutical and construction industries will see a boost due to Trump’s business-friendly stance, but if he decides to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and revoke the Affordable Care Act, businesses in America must have a plan in place to adapt, experts said.

If kept, President-elect Trump’s campaign promises could also have a significant impact on the Canadian economy. In an article from the CBC News, Trump’s intention to repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement could be costly as 2.5 million jobs depend on trade with the U.S. A total of 23 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product also comes solely from the exports of goods and services to its southern neighbor.

However, some experts, including Scott Sinclair, a director with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, are quick to dismiss the panic around the possible dissolution of NAFTA. He said that most of the country’s free trade with the United States is protected though World Trade Organization rules.

Consumer Spending

In 2016, more consumers made purchases online and more than ever, they were doing it on mobile devices. Also, consumers began to make spending choices based on the types of products they buy, ranging from organic and fair-trade items to speedy delivery and delivery tracking.

Today’s buyers have more choices that are offered in a more convenient manner in everything from car buying to banking. Enterprises and businesses globally caught on this year by becoming more aggressive in offering mobile apps that provide access to services in a manner that consumers found valuable and engaging.

Communication and staying on top of legislation and emerging trends are vital to the success of your company’s future. It’s important to take inventory of your business each year to see if new technology or other business practices can help make your company more efficient and profitable. And always communicate any changes to your team to help ease their workplace fears and help make the transition a success.

Alyssa Chumbley is vice president of Express Employment Professionals of NWI.

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