We live in a world that’s driven by “connected” cloud-driven technology. The big problem with modern online business comes down to competition and innovation. In other words, future-proofing your business requires constantly striving to overthrow your competitors by doing a number of things to keep your product lines ahead of the trends, while keeping pricing realistic to your value offering, and giving customers the best service possible.
2005 is now 14 years behind us. The acai berry “daze” are long gone. Building and maintaining a true online business now requires true savvy, and an eye on building a brand that can sustain — regardless of the variables that are sure to try to take your business down as time goes on.
Our friends at French Knot, a thriving homewares and home decor online store established in 2011, share a few ways to future proof your business that you constantly need to work on.
Work on building partnerships
Partnerships have always been key to business success. Now, with business being increasingly done in the digital online space, it’s never been more important to have a variety of partnerships cemented as your business grows and moves forward. Partnerships allow you to do business all over the world 24/7. Partners help solve problems you’re not equipped to.
Good partners also introduce you to other partners, with different skill-sets and connections that will help your brand not just grow, but adapt to changing market demands and issues as they arise. Think of the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” The same is true in business, a village thrives while the lone wolves starve and freeze to death out in the cold by themselves.
The people you have working for you (Ie., paid staff) are also partners working toward cementing the future of your online enterprise. Maintaining the best staff possible means you’ll have a team dedicated to keeping the business growing throughout the years — growth is a major key to future-proofing a business.
Innovation needs to be on the forefront
Plain and simple: Modern customers demand innovation. Not just innovation in your proprietary product and service lines, but rather cross-industry innovation. Future proofing a brand is all about positioning yourself as indispensable to the market you currently work within, then expanding into other markets where you prove yourself integral to the complete customer experience.
In the modern business landscape, businesses are expanding — through partnerships, acquisitions, and marketing efforts — into other industries to make their products more capable to completing the customer experience without the need for them to pull their credit card out on a competitor’s site.
Consider the software space and the difference between Apple and Microsoft. While most still prefer Microsoft, Apple was a front-runner until late last year. Each has a net worth in the high hundreds of billions, so neither has taken the future proofing of their business with casual indifference. However, Apple edged out their desktop competitor for a long time because customers could get all the software they needed, for any task, right from the Apple Store without leaving the site to purchase needed tools from a third party.
Microsoft didn’t release their own app store until 4 years after Apple did, with the release of Windows 8, and it took them 6 years after that to innovate and catch up with Apple’s market cap. The software giant also had billions of capital to work with to achieve this goal — it’s very likely you don’t currently have that kind of financial R&D and marketing cushion to let innovation slip.
Personalization is key to a business’s survival
We could discuss technology and how it can help future proof your business for days on end. However, such information isn’t hard to find or implement into your current and future business plans. Cloud-based platforms and mobile apps are all over the Internet, and social media updates and such make it easy to keep up with that technology. The biggest reason any online business — or offline business for that matter — will fail is because they don’t offer a personalized experience to their customers.
Consider the example of an ecommerce pet store: If a first time customer signs up to your list after purchasing a dog brush, collar, leash, specialty food and treats, are they going to feel you understand their wants and needs if you send them an email telling them about a special upcoming sale on aquarium supplies? Likely not, and that also goes for other marketing efforts and AI-based tactics where you used harvested customer data to serve them ads on your site.
Keep things general and open-ended on social and search engine ads — that’s not an issue. However, once a customer makes contact and offers up their data, you need to immediately start cementing that relationship with targeted questions, content, and offers. AI-based software can help target pop-ups using cookie data, but nothing replaces the age-old tactic of simply asking a question via a quick survey or personalized email.
Final thoughts: Never place all your eggs in one basket
The example mentioned earlier referring to the acai berry craze that hit the ecommerce industry during the early modern Internet age offers limitless examples of so-called business owners who hinged everything they had on one bread-winning supplement. Acai was touted to solve everything from obesity, to diabetes, cancer, and virtually anything else that ailed human beings — and was quickly outed as a scam by the FCC.
Though most of the online store owners likely believed the products they were selling worked, they couldn’t argue when science proved they were in the business of selling false hope to people. Even when you’re running a legitimate business, market circumstances and consumer demand will always dictate the value of your products.
Once you find a winning product or two that offer big profits, immediately start to branch out into new product and service lines, and new industries. Use your profits to buy real estate, rent that real estate out or flip it. Invest in crypto, the stock market and other investments. Complacency is a sure-fire way to guarantee failure in the near future.