Tag Archives: search

5 Trends Influencing Business Today

The world is presently in the midst of a wave of revolutions, spanning from massive changes in global politics to the ever-exploding presence of social media and online technology into our everyday lives. Through all of this, however, business must go on, but it isn’t business as usual. I recently wrote a short post on who might be influencing your next business deal.

After delving a bit deeper, and surviving some great brainstorm sessions (if you don’t have a group of trusted advisors, get one), I started to take a look at the bigger picture – not just “who” might be influencing business deals, but what are some of the major trends that are helping to redefine how we do business while the world around us transitions from the past of the 20th century to the new realities of the 21st.

Here are 5 trends that I think are worth watching:

1) The Importance of the Customer

The phrase “customer-centric” has never been more important than it is today. With the arrival of the “information age”, consumers world-wide know what is available, what everyone else is buying and how to find it online at the lowest cost. With this power has come the ability to shape markets, and define the products that they want. Manufacturers no longer have the power to define a market in their own closed space. The phrase “build it and they will come” no longer applies – you must know what the customer wants in advance if you want any chance of survival. And once you have delivered what the customer wants, your product and your customer support must both be perfect, because in this age, word-of-mouth doesn’t just reach family and friends, it reaches the world.

Place the customer first. Listen to them before you build your product and they’ll tell you what to make. Listen to them after they buy your product and they’ll tell you how to keep them as repeat customers (and brand advocates).

2) The Rise of Search

Search has changed everything. Anybody with a laptop, tablet or even a phone can find any piece of information they need. They can find just about everything regarding both a product and the company that makes it, including the opinions of others. But more importantly, search is becoming personal, and that is having a dramatic impact on both the consumption of information and the consumption of product and services. Search is no  longer “your father’s SEO”.

To drive revenue & growth, Google, Bing/Yahoo, etc. have always tried to present the most “relevant” search results (and advertisements) on your search page. Relevancy = dollars. But we’ve moved into a stage of technology, and “business to business” information sharing, where this refinement has evolved to where not just ads but content (search results) are now unique to individuals, based on their past search history, sites they frequent, their geographic regions, social/economic groups, etc. For example, Google uses 57 different “signals” to track who you are and what content is most appropriate specifically for you. Couple those 57 signals with information that they can obtain about you (either directly or through other “information partners”) and you have a powerful tool.

Businesses need to recognize the importance of personalized search, how it impacts their own online strategy and figure out the best way to leverage it to their advantage.

3) The Globalization of “Message”

There was a time when a brand’s “message” was local. Even corporations that had a global footprint (General Motors, SONY, Coke/Pepsi, etc.) still had customized messages that were appropriate (and targeted) at the local, or at least regional, level. And they stayed there.

Today, that world is gone. With the rise of the Internet and a population that increasingly views world travel as just another part of life, messages and brand images no longer stay where you put them. Instead, they go viral. They get picked up on YouTube. They’re seen by travelers. They’re found on the Internet (occasionally in a blog with a title like “the 10 worst marketing translations”). They are everywhere. Moving forward, the “message” that a corporation presents must be global in nature, or at the least, local and regional messages must be cultivated in such a way as to work on a global scale. From a business perspective, this isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, get creative with your international message and perhaps you’ll get lucky and it will go viral.

4) The Power of “Same”

Not only can you buy the same thing anywhere, people have grown to expect the same thing everywhere! While we still pride ourselves in finding that unique place or product, the reality is that the world is becoming one giant franchise. The “bland effect” (the ability to eat at a McDonald’s or Burger King in just about every country in the world) has moved into most major industries, from automotive to online, and shows no signs of slowing.

Perhaps the greatest example is the global domination of major online firms (Google, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, etc.) who have created wildly successful brands that require little or no customization to reach into any country. And if a business can’t get there themselves, the clones will. Here’s a great column from Shane Farley at Business Insider on how Sina Weibo (a Chinese version of Twitter) is outpacing Twitter’s own growth curve. If you are bringing a major product or brand to market, you must expect and drive global demand.

5) The Fall of Nations

What is more important in the world today: nations or businesses? I’d argue businesses. Who has more influence today: nations or businesses? Again, I’d argue for businesses. The globalization of brands, and the ability of consumer demand to occur on a world-wide scale, are tipping the balance of power. Commerce and trade, and consumer demand, doesn’t respect political borders. In fact, it makes them less relevant as, in this information age, we become a globe of increasingly “similar” consumers. Nations, of course, will push back and continue to try to regulate international commerce and trade. But in the long run, power is increasingly in the hands of the consumer, and the businesses that meet their needs.

What are the trends that YOU are seeing?

These 5 trends are a few of the trends that I see shaping and influencing the world of business today. What trends are shaping your business, and how are you adapting?


Does Microsoft bing + Yahoo = MicroWho?

Microsoft and Yahoo finally announce a deal that should have taken place 18 months ago and won’t be complete for another 24 months. Even then, it probably still won’t be a game changing move for any of the players.

Today’s big news is the Microsoft/Yahoo deal that will finally give Microsoft access to a much larger audience for its new bing search engine and give Yahoo some breathing room to focus on what it does best (I’m not sure what that is, and personally, I found the announcement of Kodak’s 1080p, Image-Stabilized HD Pocket Camcorder just as interesting as this announcement).

That said, this deal is still significant for a number of reasons:

  • It isn’t costing Microsoft anything (consider that they were willing to pay $9B for the same type of deal just a year ago),
  • Microsoft is hungry for bing-driven advertising dollars and user information, not to mention a way to improve their struggling image (let’s face it, Microsoft is not exactly a “loved” company outside of their employees), and
  • Yahoo has been going exactly nowhere since adopting a strategy of confusing its audience with a “we can do anything you want, oh, and we also still have a search engine” approach.

But realistically, this deal will take at least 12 months to begin to take shape and at least 24 months for the full bing integration and value proposition to begin to appear (check out CNN’s take for market-share and the potential financial impact). Unfortunately, it is also a deal that will likely not have a significant impact on the dynamic duo’s arch rival Google any time soon. For while this is a business-oriented deal, the market that they are targeting is driven not by business needs but by emotions and that is a war that Google is in a much stronger position to win.

Why? Yahoo has adopted what can best be described as the old AOL approach of being the window to the world, with every type of content – and advertising – known to mankind on its front page. Search is clearly a second seat to everything else available (just take a look at the next generation of Yahoo’s home page for a better example – a layout, btw, that I think is a clear step forward for their type of business). Unfortunately, the number of people that are comfortable with Yahoo’s current image strategy is not that large (granted, it is larger than Microsoft’s, with less than 10% of the search engine segment). In fact, many people bypass the Yahoo main/search page to get to the real value of Yahoo – pages like finance.yahoo.com, which is actually a decent site.

Google, on the other hand, has always kept their image clean, search-focused and fun. There isn’t much on the front page to distract from the fact that they are all about providing the best search experience possible (a point not lost on bing‘s marketing team as demonstrated by their zen-like home page at bing.com). Sure, Google offers a slew of apps (some of which should really scare Microsoft), but they treat those as secondary “opt in” value-adds (even though that is where the real value lies in Google’s future). The fact that more people emotionally connect to this approach when it comes to searching the web is shown in Google’s overwhelming control of the search engine market.

So while many people fear Microsoft as Big Brother, even though Google is much closer to Orwell’s vision of 1984 as smashed by Apple’s famous Macintosh ad, emotions and “comfort” will likely remain significant factors in how the new Microsoft/Yahoo partnership plays out over the next few years – a period during which Google will continue to:

  • expand their search capabilities (both through internal development and potential acquisitions of firms like Topsy and Collecta that are pushing the state of social network and real-time searching),
  • enhance their direct access to social media networks, and
  • improve their inroads into Microsoft’s application domination through increased “open” and “cloud-based” software tools.

What do you think? Is this deal really that significant? Is it too early to call a winner? Or is it likely to be more of a move that will keep Google in check without any significant long-term impact? My guess is that it is the latter.