Business owners must constantly adapt to the changes in their surrounding environment to stay competitive. Digitalization, for example, has disrupted the business landscape over the past decades. Today, any company big or small needs a strong online presence to reach its target market and meet customers' demands. Other industry trends, such as the emergence of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology, will shape 2020 for entrepreneurs and small businesses alike.

Discover the Latest Industry Trends

Keeping up with emerging business trends is a must if you want to grow your business. Modern technology influences customers' perceptions and behavior as well as the way businesses operate. A company that doesn't invest in the latest technologies will be left behind and will miss out on potential clients and sales. Over time, it may fade away into obscurity and fail its customers.

Many industry trends, such as digitalization and sustainability, apply to every market. Take artificial intelligence, for example. In 2019, 37% of all organizations have implemented this technology in some form — that's a 270% increase compared to 2015. Marketing and sales use machine learning and AI to a greater extent than any other department.

However, not all industry trends are related to technology. Today, customers expect their favorite brands to address current issues, such as gender equality and global warming. More than one-third of consumers would pay 25% more for sustainable products. Generation Z buyers are willing to pay 50% to 100% more for these goods compared to other age groups.

Whether you're a startup or an established business, keeping up with the latest industry trends is paramount. It not only shows customers that you're flexible and innovative but it can also boost your productivity. With proper technology in place, you'll be able to allocate resources more efficiently, reduce waste and deliver outstanding customer experiences.

"Green" Your Business

What's good for the planet is good for your business. Consumers prefer green brands that use sustainable and socially responsible practices. Adidas, for example, launched 7,000 limited-edition sneakers made from recycled plastic bottles, which sold out instantly. The company is now planning to use 100% recycled polyester in all of its goods by 2024.

However, recycling isn't your only option. There are plenty of other ways to go green in your small business, from reducing water and energy usage to switching to cloud computing. Cloud-based applications, for instance, help reduce the need for paper and printers. This technology also allows employees to share and access files from anywhere, which in turn decreases travel costs and pollution.

Simple things such as recycling cans and paper, using energy-saving power strips and switching to LED lights can reduce your carbon footprint. Another thing you can do is use green cleaning products. Depending on where your business operates, you may also support local organizations that promote green practices. If you own a retail store, consider switching to reusable shopping bags.

Leverage AI to Grow Quicker

Big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and IBM leverage AI for marketing purposes. This technology executes data collection from a variety of sources, such as customers' purchases, social-media profiles and brand interactions. In turn, this data can be transformed into market research, industry reports and trends reports, allowing marketers to create and deliver highly personalized messages.

According to Adobe, 47% of digitally mature organizations have a well-defined AI strategy. More than half of executives report increased productivity after implementing AI solutions.

Marketers can use this technology to discover customer journey insights at every step, engage their audience and deliver relevant messages. Furthermore, they can detect patterns in customers' interactions with a brand, anticipate their needs and make personalized recommendations. Medical professionals can now make more accurate diagnoses thanks to AI. Farmers can leverage AI to analyze the effects of heat, UV light, water and other variables on crops.

A growing number of companies are using AI to automate complex tasks, improve customer experience and gain a competitive edge. Chatbots, which rely on this technology, are estimated to reach a success rate of 75% in health care and over 90% in the banking sector by 2022. With AI, businesses can sort through massive amounts of data and gain accurate insights on their audience. If you're not using it, you'll be left behind.

Gender Equality Drives Economic Growth

Organizations worldwide are trying to close the gender gap and empower women. While it's true that most companies offer equal pay for men and women performing the same roles, one-third of them still discriminate during recruitment. In fact, many businesses don't take gender equality and diversity seriously or just tick the boxes to comply with government legislation.

As McKinsey & Company points out, promoting women's equality in the workplace could add a staggering $12 trillion to global growth. Furthermore, gender-diverse organizations are 15% more likely to achieve above-average financial returns. The revenue generated by women-led companies in the United States increased by over 100% across the past two decades. According to American Express, about 850 women-owned businesses are launched each day.

Regardless of your industry, it's crucial to have a diverse team. Gender equality doesn't only benefit women — it also drives business growth, innovation and better decision making. At the same time, it helps men develop unbiased leadership and gives companies access to a larger talent pool. As a business owner, it's your responsibility to help women thrive in the workplace and make diversity a core value.

Provide Flexible Work Options

Flexible working is one of the strongest industry trends in 2020 and for good reason. Policies like remote work and flex time fuel employee productivity and engagement. These arrangements enable people to adjust their work on the go or make their own schedules, leading to a better work-life balance. They can increase employee retention rates as well as job satisfaction and overall performance.

About 85% of U.S. companies allow or require remote work, and more than 4 million Americans work from home at least half the time. Organizations with flexible work arrangements have 25% lower turnover rates compared to those that don't offer this option. Over half of employees would switch jobs if they had more flexibility at work. These numbers show clearly that remote work is the way of the future.

Business owners have several options when it comes to flexible working. Some companies promote a results-only work environment, measuring staff performance by results rather than the number of hours worked. Others allow employees to perform their day-to-day tasks remotely instead of commuting to the office and being stuck in the nine-to-five grind. These arrangements not only free up employees' time but also reduce business costs, reduce staff turnover and absenteeism and make it easier to attract talent.

These are just a few of the many industry trends for which to look out in the new year. Depending on your type of business, you may also want to learn more about the emergence of 3D printing, biological engineering, digital transformation, industrial wearables and blockchain technologies. Take a few minutes every day to read the latest news, check the stock market and attend trade shows. What matters most is to think global from the very beginning and adapt to the ever-changing business environment.