In 2030, many familiar issues are still firmly in place. Brexit is still being debated, trains (and new train lines) are still late and the weather is still unpredictable. In other respects, many small things have changed, adding up to some big shifts. To put that in context, think about how the world of business changed in the last 10 or even 20 years. Perhaps the most obvious place to look is at the world of retail.
A trip down Strand Street 20 years ago would have involved a walk past Woolworths, and perhaps a browse in HMV and Mothercare. And these are just some of the major national names that are no longer on island. Other companies such as banks, mobile phone retailers and travel agents still exist but have retreated from physical stores as their customer base and services offered have moved online.
Replacing these former High Street stalwarts have been a series of ‘experience’ stores. High streets are still shopping centres but also increasingly about 'experiences', places to meet for coffee and food, to have a beauty treatment carried out, to attend a yoga or fitness class.
Successful businesses in 2030, in retail or otherwise, are those that strive to improve the customer experience be it via a bespoke product, ease of use, entertainment value or cost effectiveness. Having a big name and a history is no longer enough.
The increase in data availability and ease of processing means that more information is available than ever before. Being able to marry that information to business practices is a great edge for companies that manage it successfully.
What customer expectations will local consumers have in 2030? For example, what comparisons will they make with other brand experiences?
Customer expectations have continued to rise and companies are expected to match or exceed the market leader in their sector. A poor range or quality of product, overpriced items, slow or bad service or unattractive surroundings (physical or online) are all swiftly punished by customers taking their business elsewhere.
What has also continued to develop is the customers’ ability to make their voices heard and to compare product variables which means that power increasingly lies with the consumer (which is no bad thing). Successful enterprises are increasingly agile into order to combine competitive pricing with an attractive product in a suitably enticing venue.
In 2030, what technology that’s emerging now will be common place?
Payment systems have continued to evolve and improve notably Peer-2-Peer transfers and mobile money. New infrastructure systems have been created to cater to these two fast-growing areas. Both are leveraging mobile connectivity to make the payments process more effortless and accessible by more merchants. Applications of these technologies can expand beyond money transfer to modernise other financial infrastructures.
There’s been a lot of hype about the value of cryptocurrencies but their 2030 legacy may well be their ability to help streamline this transfer of value.
But a health warning: there will be an increased risk of violations against data protection and security of transactions due to the replacement of proven infrastructure with immature alternative solutions
Will back office functions be replaced by external 3rd parties and apps? If so how?
The ability to externalise and access sophisticated capabilities (“As-a-service”) without large infrastructure investments has lowered costs. Facilities like advanced analytics could just be accessed through cloud computing service model. Legal and technical standards now have to be agreed.
What is the role of regulation in 2030? How has the regulatory landscape changed as technology has developed?
As technology companies muscled in on other sectors, technology players lacked regulatory familiarity with requirements on product sales and services and the emergence of more personalised financial products created regulatory uncertainties.
Steve Jobs is famously quoted as saying customers don’t know what they want. While this is statement is slightly disingenuous (Jobs was speaking about a narrow category of Apple products) there is a kernel of truth to it. Trying to predict customer demand is a notoriously inaccurate business; better to try and lead it by providing faster/simpler/cheaper/more exciting versions of what currently exists.
Companies may lose control over the ownership of customers and become at the disposal of technology providers. Financial institutions in particular will become increasingly dependent on 3rd parties. A single bad news story can cause a long tail of destruction especially in terms of client trust.
Self-driving cars are looking increasingly likely to be a certainty, not a possibility, and will rapidly gain approval not just because of their excellent safety record but for allowing people to spend their valuable time travelling in cars doing other things than driving. From a legal perspective, the issue of liability is likely to be highly complex and may shift the principal of insurance from drivers to manufacturers.
Customer loyalty and stickiness will continue to erode as customers gain more visibility and can more readily compare institutions and products. But this will also encourage companies to avoid complacency and be in a state of constant improvement.
Reliance on tech can have its issues. Updating and maintaining processes and technologies can be costly and time-consuming but should become quicker and more effortless. Costs to update and maintain processes and technologies will be reduced as they are shared among a number of institutions.
Contrary to what some may fear, robots will not have taken over all human jobs by 2030. While certain basic and repetitive tasks are ripe for automation, human workers will simply be reallocated to more complex or bespoke tasks instead. On a similar note, computers will be able to collect and run vastly increased amounts of statistical analysis but human interpretation of these data points will therefore become that much more important and in demand.