For business owners, a quick look at growth forecasts for 2015 is likely to trigger mixed reactions. While global business confidence has plummeted to a five year low as a result of significant decline in the Eurozone and political instability in the Middle East, for example, firms in the UK are showcasing the highest level of sentiment across four continents.
This is good news for the British economy, as it suggests that British companies will look to expand and drive widespread growth during the fourth financial quarter and into 2015. As markets become more competitive as a result, however, it is only creative and innovative firms that will be able to stand out from their rivals and claim the dominant share of the consumer base.
3 Innovative ways to Grow and Expand your Business in 2015
With this in mind, what innovative methods can you use to develop and expand your business further in the next twelve to eighteen months? Consider the following ideas:
Immerse yourself and your Brand in the Local Community
Consumers are increasingly aware of social and environmental issues, and they are therefore more likely to prioritise firms that actively drive positive change. In fact, the 2013 Social Change Impact Report suggests that a staggering 91% of customers prefer to partner with brands that demonstrate responsible behaviour towards its consumers, the natural environment and the communities where they operate. So while it is easy for small and independent businesses to become preoccupied with their own performance and growth objectives, those that take the time to interact positively with local community members and projects may experience longer term success.
In Practice: In practical terms, small businesses should focus on offering simple and practical assistance to local community products where possible. One way to achieve this is to embrace crowdfunding, as though this requires you to make a financial investment you can choose from a range of locally relevant projects and donate a token amount. This way, you can drive growth in the community without exceeding your existing financial budget. Alternatively, you can partner with regional projects where your products or services can offer practical and real-time assistance, as this offers a more cost-effective and interactive solution if your staff members are willing to participate voluntarily.
Integrated Virtual Reality into your Business Venture
Facebooks’ acquisition of Oculus Rift (which ironically started out as a crowdfunding project) has brought virtual reality into the mainstream consumers’ conscience, while its potential applications are particularly exciting for small business owners. Its integration into social networking sites and independent software will also reduce the cost of integrating the technology into your business model, offering you an opportunity to transform your proposition and offer an enhanced experience to consumers. Whether you want to create interactive design prototypes or create virtual business conferencing, the application of advanced technology can enable you to develop your venture and steal a march on your competitors.
In Practice: As with any new and exciting technology, the key is to integrate it gradually into your business and scale it accordingly. As a starting point, it is worth noting that a standard Oculus Rift development kits typically cost £500 on average in the UK market, while the commercial version of this technology is likely to become available at some juncture in 2015. It will be important to follow these developments throughout the next twelve months, as doing so will ensure that you stay ahead of your competition and become one of the first to integrate virtual reality into your business model. Remain cautious in your approach, however, and have a clear application for the technology in mind before trialing it on a minimal scale.
Create Simple Technological Solutions that Aid the Consumer Experience
While the application of virtual reality technology will help to create a more interactive and satisfying consumer experience, however, it should be noted that there are simpler innovations that can achieve a similar objective. The development of contactless payment solutions provides a relevant case in point, as statistics released by industry stalwart Card Cutters suggest that an estimated 70% of customers will walk out of a retail store if there is a long or slow-moving queue. The fact that they will take their business to a market rival is even more distressing for bricks and mortar firms, as this translates into lost earnings and a slowly diminishing market share.
In Practice: For bricks and mortar business owners, the main objective should be to create a quick, efficient and seamless customer experience at the point of purchase. This not only involves the integration of contactless payment technology, but also the installation of self-service payment booths in an area that does not compromise the layout of your store. It is also important that your overall layout is contrived to offer convenience to consumers, so that they can collect products and any affiliated hardware from a single space and reduce the time taken to find their desired items. Such relatively simple measures will play a pivotal role in boosting customer retention rates and creating a more pleasant consumer experience.
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