The world is changing and global events can have an effect on our small enterprise.
How can we be proactive, stay ahead of the game, and create new business opportunities in this changing world?
Whatever industry you are in, somewhere, experts are making predictions about the future, commenting on technological advancements, and discussing new competitors. And, in today’s fast-moving world, it is wise to listen.
We need to find out what is being said about our industry and how it’s changing. Is technology going to change the way you operate? Is China or some other emerging nation going to be your competition? Are raw materials going to be hard to come by? Are you going to be able to get qualified staff or is there some other local threat?
One thing that can affect many businesses is the rise of e-commerce. The value of Canadian business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales in 2004 was $8.5 billion and business-to-business (B2B) was $19.8 billion. Some 42.5 per cent of Canadian businesses used the Internet to purchase goods and services. However, only seven per cent of Canadian companies actually sold goods or services online.
What does that tell us? Either a very small percentage of Canadian companies are doing a great deal of business, or a lot of sales are going overseas. What is obvious is that 93 per cent of Canadian businesses are not exploiting a growing market. Don’t let that be you.
The Canadian labour force is growing extremely slowly — less than one-per-cent annual growth — and, coupled with a declining birth rate, this presents significant challenges to Canadian businesses. In order to fill the population gap, there has been an increasing reliance on immigration. In fact, Social Development Canada says that it expects by 2011 that the entire net labour force growth will come from immigration.
Moreover, the country of origin of immigrants has changed significantly. In the 1960s, over 75 per cent of immigrants came from the U.S. and Europe. Now new Canadians are primarily from Asia and the Pacific (69.8 per cent); 12.3 per cent from Europe and the UK; 9.8 per cent from Africa and the Middle East; four per cent from the U.S.; and 3.8 per cent from South and Central America (Source: Immigration Canada).
What this means is that you need to start increasing your cultural intelligence quota and become familiar with the way people from other cultures shop, buy, and do business. How well we understand the changing world and the changing people in it will determine our long-term success.
Regardless of the changing cultural demographic, consumers in general are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They have access to more information about your industry, product lines, and competitors than ever before, and those competitors are not necessarily close to you — they can be half way across the world.
The modern consumer has a thirst for knowledge and is increasingly likely to purchase goods and services online. I looked on the Internet for an antiquarian book and could have bought from any of 13,500 professional booksellers around the world.
People want to have a level of control. This is why the Internet is so popular — there are no sales people, and consumers can create a product or service that meets all their expectations at a price they are willing to pay.
So, how do we cope with this new and demanding generation of customer? We need to provide greater choice and offer our customers the ability, wherever we can, to create their own product or service.
There will always be a demand for off-the-shelf solutions, especially at a good price, but today’s consumers want something unique, something that they have had a say in developing. More than this, we have to provide a unique, personal experience and show we understand our customers as unique individuals. We have to expect them to be knowledgeable and respect their need to tailor it to their needs and, possibly, their culture. To do this, we have to develop an awareness of our place in the global community, both in a business and a personal sense.
Written by Mike Wicks for Douglas Magazine.