As a business professional, it is helpful to learn about current trends that can affect your company. Here are three digital trends to keep in mind in 2021.
By keeping abreast of current trends, business professionals can find out about threats and opportunities that might lie ahead. This information can help them chart the best course forward for their companies.
Here are three digital trends business professionals should keep in mind when they establish their digital strategies and business plans for 2021:
- The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Changing Customers’ Expectations
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is changing what customers need and expect from companies — and these changes will persist even after the pandemic has ended.
“All companies — regardless of whether or not they delivered superior experiences before — are now challenged to meet an entirely new set of customer needs and expectations. And those needs and expectations are largely digitally driven,” according to a 2020 Salesforce report studying customer engagement.
The majority (68%) of the 15,000+ business buyers and consumers who participated in the study said that the coronavirus pandemic has elevated their expectations of companies’ digital capabilities. This is important to remember considering that 80% of business buyers and 58% of consumers plan to do more shopping online than they used to, even after the pandemic ends.
What do the business buyers and consumers expect? The study found that:
- The majority (69%) want companies to offer new ways to get existing products and services — in other words, offer digital versions of traditionally in-person experiences.
- More than half (54%) want companies to expand on ways they can interact with the company, such as adding email, online chat, mobile app, and text message capabilities.
- More than half (54%) want companies to offer new types of products and services.
Companies that do not address customers’ new expectations in their digital strategies and business plans risk losing existing patrons. They also might fail to attract new customers.
- The Move to Distributed Clouds Has Begun
In 2020, 74% of companies were using both public and private clouds. This is not surprising because companies often want to leave some workloads on-premises because those workloads use sensitive data or run on legacy or proprietary applications. However, companies that use multi-cloud or hybrid-cloud deployment strategies cannot realize the full benefits of public cloud computing. For example, they won’t reduce their operating expenses as much because they are responsible for managing, maintaining, and securing their private clouds. Plus, they cannot leverage the public cloud providers’ capabilities (e.g., extensibility) in their private clouds.
The next generation of cloud computing — the distributed cloud — lets companies realize the full benefits of public cloud computing but still run some operations on-premises. A distributed cloud is a public cloud offering. However, companies are not restricted to running applications and systems only on the public cloud provider’s infrastructure. They can also run applications and systems from other locations (aka cloud substations), including company sites and third-party data centers. The cloud provider is responsible for managing, maintaining, and securing all of the distributed infrastructure, including the infrastructure at cloud substations. The companies can access and work with the applications and systems at all the locations from a centralized console.
“With this targeted, centrally managed distribution of public cloud services, your business can deploy and run applications or individual application components in a mix of cloud locations and environments that best meets your requirements for performance, regulatory compliance, and more,” according to cloud computing experts at IBM. “Distributed cloud resolves the operational and management inconsistencies that can occur in hybrid cloud or multi-cloud environments. Maybe most important, distributed cloud provides the ideal foundation for edge computing — running servers and applications closer to where data is created.”
Cloud computing experts at Gartner also point out that having public cloud services physically closer “helps with low-latency scenarios, reduces data costs and helps accommodate laws that dictate data must remain in a specific geographical area.”
A few cloud service providers have already started to offer distributed cloud services — and the number of offerings is expected to increase quickly. By 2024, Gartner is predicting that most cloud service platforms will provide this type of cloud service.
- How People Experience Digital Content Is Changing
How people experience digital content is changing. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) technologies — collectively known as extended reality (XR) technologies — is making digital content more immersive. For example, rather than viewing 2D images of people and objects on computing devices’ flat screens, people can interact with 3D avatars and holograms that surround their field of view.
Companies and consumers alike have been increasingly using XR technologies. Companies in particular have been benefitting from their use. For instance, businesses have been able to enhance customers’ experiences with their products and services, deliver essential information to employees, improve collaboration among work teams, and provide more effective on-the-job training.
Benefits like these were already causing the XR market to grow in 2019. The coronavirus pandemic actually gave it boost in 2020, as many XR technologies enable people to maintain social distancing (e.g., participate in virtual meetings) and minimize physical contact (e.g., digitally try out products).
The XR market’s growth is expected to continue in 2021 and beyond. BIS Research analysts are projecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 50.9%, from $42 billion in 2020 to $333 billion by 2025. Mordor Intelligence analysts expect an even higher CAGR — 62.7%. One reason why Mordor analysts are predicting a higher CAGR is their vision of what the future might bring. “The convergence of the smartphone, mobile VR headset, and AR glasses into a single XR wearable could replace all the other screens, ranging from smartphones to smart TV screens. Mobile XR has the potential to become one of the world’s most ubiquitous and disruptive computing platforms.”