Tag Archives: business

The on-demand economy & business growth

The business world has never been kind to those who don’t stay ahead. If you’re not at least keeping pace with advances in technology, you’re getting left behind. The problem is it already takes so much to establish yourself. What we should do is take preparatory steps as early as possible.

If we can’t predict what will matter in the future, we should at least know what to do to stay afloat in the stormy seas of business.

On-demand access

The success of Uber seemed to come from nowhere, yet it speaks to the growth of consumer expectation in the age of the internet.

Uber, a ride-sharing app, connects users who need a taxi service with available drivers. With a tap of a button, users can summon a taxi to a specific location, enter their destination and calculate how much their trip will cost. The app also allows users to locate the taxi. All of this speaks to the new “on-demand” economy.  As Forbes notes:

“The on-demand economy is all about ‘now’ and ‘transparency.’ I need my taxi now; I don’t want to pick up the phone to call or raise my hand to flag down a vehicle. Don’t tell me when my cab will arrive; show me on a map how far away it is.”

Naturally, not all services can easily be applied to the Uber model. However, there are properties it embodies which can benefit all modern businesses. Note, as Forbes did, the notion of “now” and “transparency”. By focusing on these two aspects, almost all businesses can benefit.

Immediacy

With the rapid pace of life today, consumers expect services and products immediately. Of course, it might not be realistic given services take time, products must be shipped and so on. However, immediacy can still be a factor in how we handle customers.

As we’ve all become more connected, this has played into shaping what customer-business relationships look like. Customers believe they should and can get something immediately. As Marketing Tech notes: “Living in this culture of immediacy, customers expect more from brands and can very quickly become disgruntled if access to a service becomes unexpectedly delayed.”

To solve this, businesses must learn how to navigate social media spaces, especially in learning how to respond to customer complaints and demands. Immediacy doesn’t have to mean giving customers the product, but giving them your time and attention. This could mean employing someone full time to answer emails and complaints. Customers know they can get an immediate response and, often, that’s all they want.

Ideally, we want customers to reach a point of sale, not frustration.

Transparency

Feeding into immediacy, customers want to know precisely what’s happening. By having answers, many businesses can usually prevent complaints from going too far. Customers can be persuaded to understand if situations are beyond your control. Often they merely want to know what is happening to their money or project.

Recognise customers prefer information rather than silence. The on-demand economy may have brought that to the front, but it didn’t create this desire out of nothing. It’s always been there. Now it’s time for businesses to respond.

How to sell green ideas

Everyone wants the world to be better. The various problems, however, seem so vast many struggle to care. While individuals can’t necessarily change the world, there are many ways groups of people can. Whether we mean individual companies or cities, change can occur and it’s a matter of finding ways to convince people to join. We see this in election campaigns, volunteer organisations and so on.

However, our current focus is on the environment and what businesses and cities can do to help promote a better world.

Why should businesses care about the environment?

For some time, many polls have shown people don’t care about the environment. This is particularly the case in affluent nations, where – as some have argued – the very systems that led to environmental disaster also created wealth. The task is difficult then: How do we you convince people to rethink or give up the very methods that led to their countries being wealthy?

Businesses must recognise there’s nothing totally at odds with profit-making.

Caring about the environment benefits businesses in numerous ways. There are many documents listing areas where taking an eco-friendly approach results in businesses succeeding. In other words, to convince businesses to be more green, we must convey that eco-friendly savings is business savings.

As Business Insider notes:

“Since 2008, [one program and its fellows] uncovered energy efficiency opportunities — from changing light bulbs to replacing old computers — that would save $1 billion in net operational costs over project lifetimes.”

There are all sorts of ways focusing on saving the environment also means saving on your expenses. Businesses should care because it benefits their bottom line.

Cities should follow green business

Similarly, this applies to cities. No matter the service, whether it’s light fixing or roadside assistance, all benefit from taking a greener approach. Indeed, entire small villages have emerged to cater to such demands. This happens in America and even in Africa.

Cape Town, for example, is seeing the African continent’s first car-free village. Called Blue Rock Village, the focus is on “the principles of open spaces, environmental sustainability, well-being and car free living.” It’s an enormous investment, but one that aims to create a more green lifestyle, for those who want it.

Though the focus is on being without cars, it speaks to a larger idea of reducing transport times. Reducing how long people spend on the road means improving the environment. But, again, notice that no one wants to spend hours travelling to work. It benefits both the individual as a business person, as well as the environment.

Though most businesses probably can’t support such a move, that doesn’t mean they can’t make similar steps. For example, businesses can’t eliminate commuting but can plan for working from home or reducing the number of days required to be in the office. Businesses can also switch to greener products and teach staff about recycling. Again, most of these benefit the business as well as the environment.

To convince businesses and cities to start being greener, we simply need to show how they benefit in large and small ways.

 

Treat your business finances like your personal finances

 

moneyWe’ve all become fairly used to managing our personal finances. So why does the mere mention of business finances send many of us into a tailspin? It may help to begin to think of your business finances like your own personal budget.

After all, every business needs a set of financial goals, just like every person should have financial goals for themselves. Goals all have one outcome, financial success. And why wouldn’t you want that for your business?

Think about these personal financial goals and how you can adapt them for your business.

 

Keep an emergency fund

 

This one is simple. An emergency fund, essential for both personal and business finance, ensures you have a little bit of cash spare should the worst happen to you. You really do never know when an emergency could happen to your business.

 

This could mean a client not paying their bill or expected work falling through. Your emergency fund should be enough to cover the running expenses of your business for at least a few months.

 

Spend less than you earn

 

The most simple lesson in finance but the most important. Don’t borrow money. Not to buy things and not to pay your bills. Doing this will mean you’re always behind with your expenses and can never get ahead.

 

Of course, the exception is when you need to borrow morey from the bank in order to expand your business. These loans, for machinery finance or other essential equipment, will be an important part of your business plan and cash flow projections. The outcomes of these types of loans should be clear and payment terms must be stipulated upfront.

 

Ensure your expenses are minimal

 

In the personal finance world, this involves living in a tiny house and driving an old car. In the business world, there are a number of ways to make this happen. You don’t need to have offices in the most upper-class part of the city. You don’t have to have an office so big that every employee has their own private space.

 

By minimising your expenses in these areas, you can already make a significant impact on the amount of money your business is able to save. And without having a negative impact on you or your staff members.

 

Increase your net worth

 

In personal finance, the goal of many people is to pay off all debts and save enough money to never work again. A business works in the same way, with a few differences – you do want this to continue, just not with your continued input.

 

In business, you should aim to pay off all loans and debts, and increase your monthly income so that you’ll turn a profit every month. Soon you’ll have enough cash flow that you’ll be able to pay your own salary and reinvest into the business.

 

Thinking carefully about both your business and finance goals is essential. These simple goals will soon see you making more considered financial decisions, in your business and in life.

Ads on bikes: The new spaces for marketing

Most of us would not consider a bicycle an ideal space to put an advert. Yet, that’s precisely what one business did. As BikeBiz reports:

“A start-up tech firm wants to pay cyclists to pedal – the cyclists’ bikes will be equipped with LCD screens that carry adverts. Because the screens are equipped with GPS chips they could be triggered by geographical locations. So, Londoners could be alerted to an Evans sale when the cyclist-with-a-screen passes close to an Evans store.”

This unique approach to marketing benefits by being flexible and responsive.

Marketing benefits

First, it allows for multiple business to advertise, to many people, at different times. Second, it is responsive in terms of only showcasing those businesses relevant to that area. There’s little point advertising a shop few in the immediate vicinity would know about or travel to. The whole point is the ad is quick, sudden and relevant: key qualities for effective advertising.

Lacuna Digital, the company behind this, wants to reward cyclists by virtue of the distance they’ve travelled.

Naturally, Lacuna Digital benefits by widening their area of effect for their service. This means more clients will use them. Cyclists, on the other hand, benefit in two ways. They benefit by earning and are incentivised to cycle further. This means they’re paid to be healthier.

All shops can be advertised. Whether it’s bicycle shops or clothes stores. Ideally, each one will prove relevant to the people around the cyclist.

Why unique marketing matters

Marketing is always about trying to convey an idea in a way that, ideally, generates a response. Whether it’s to sell a product or service, we want people to remember us. We want to be the company they think of when they require a particular service or product.

Given how crowded every industry is, however, this can be difficult. Sometimes we’re going up against giant corporations, who have long established themselves as the go-to places for various products. For example, few would consider buying MP3 players or laptops not created by Apple.

Eventually, we would like brand loyalty to do the heavy lifting marketing attempts. Until then, we need to be smart about precisely how we advertise.

A crowded market means either only the giant stand out or gazing at a sea of similar looking offers. Coca-Cola, for example, has begun marketing itself with heart-pulling adverts with universal appeal. They want to associate feelings of joy with their product and have done so successfully for some time. A marketing company, Jane St., used the power of humour, YouTube and women’s issues to create a hilarious ad campaign mocking themselves and others in the industry.

Many will still remember these, even if they never use the product or services.

Thinking outside the box isn’t just a good idea for marketing, but essential. While we can’t all encourage healthy living, like bike advertisements, we can follow that example and be unique.

Online shopping and African growth

The entire continent of Africa is regarded as the “mobile continent”. With a massive 70%  mobile penetration, the market is perfect for various investments focused on mobile technology. Combine this with continent’s median age of 19 and you can see why some internet-based companies are interested.

However, even companies like Facebook cannot find the immediate success they’re hoping for.

Investing in Africa

Manji Cheto, vice president of Teneo Intelligence, told Quartz: “Africa’s attractiveness to companies such as Facebook is a no-brainer… Yet, the continent’s low internet penetration was always likely to constrain the company’s ability to significantly boost its user numbers.”

This must be clarified. Just because there is a large mobile penetration does not mean there’s a lot of internet usage. Not all mobile phones are accessing the internet.

Despite this, more people are and there is greater investment in getting Africa connected. This will still take some time. As Sonia Jorge, Executive Director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, wrote on CNN:

“With just one in five Africans online today, Africa has a long road ahead. Though the technology to beam the Internet to every corner of the continent exists, billions remain shut out from the digital revolution for a simple reason: they can’t afford to connect. Internet costs in Africa are among the highest in the world, preventing many from experiencing the benefits of digital access.”

Retail importance

Despite this, we are seeing large growth in online retail shopping.

This is especially the case in South Africa. As one Paypal survey shows, online shopping in South Africa will rise to R46 billion in 2017. Further, six out of ten South African internet users over the age of 18 shopped online in the past 12 months.

Retail shopping in general is central to the country. For example, retail shopping could mean the country dodging a recession. Of course, all this depends on functioning, stable and well-managed retail sites. For example, a point-of-sale (POS) in South Africa requires the best software, to keep the store functioning.

Overall, we’re seeing a greater acceptance and introduction of more internet users in Africa. These users are mostly on mobile phones, too, thanks to the enormous market penetration. The more the internet is accessible, the more everyone benefits. We see this in terms of the economy and, therefore, the lives of ordinary people.