Whether it’s a brief fad of fashion or a significant societal shift, continual adaptation to outside forces is key to business survival. Automation, big data, cloud computing, interconnectedness and the maturity of millennials as a consumer force… we can surely place today’s major trends squarely in the category of cultural and technological shakeup. But for many businesses it’s not just about survival. Here we take a look at four industries where dramatic change is providing opportunities for unprecedented successes in the future.
The Food Service Industry
With the global economy on the mend, eating out has become popular again. But over the last decade, what and how people like to eat has changed a great deal. Every aspect of food service, from delivery systems to the eatables themselves, is taking on a new and different form. One of the key overarching trends is the healthy food revolution. Once considered to be nothing more than a niche, there is now mainstream demand for organic and natural ingredients, more transparency with regard to ingredients and provenance and a whole host of specific dietary requirements, such as gluten-free.
So far-reaching has the health food revolution been, it’s on its way to becoming the status quo. Forward-looking businesses in the industry have responded to demand from consumers outside their restaurant walls. When Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri expanded Pizzeria Vetri to Austin, his restaurant group issued four $2,500 grants to help local schools introduce more nutritious offerings in their cafeterias. Other chefs are looking to invest in local gardens and teaching healthy cooking classes.
In another trend, the line between the full-on restaurant experience and fast food has blurred: food trucks and stalls at farmers’ markets are a fantastic way for innovative chefs to try out new recipes and concepts without the massive investment a restaurant requires. ‘Street food’ customers enjoy the buzz of creative, homemade dishes at a lower cost, making them likely to eat out more frequently. ‘Pop-up restaurants’ are the latest incarnation of this trend – food outlets that operate from different locations at certain events or occasions. ‘Rotating restaurants’ are also keeping the industry fresh, featuring different chefs for six-month stints to refine and hone their restaurant concepts.
The prevalence of social media means that not only can consumers find new, temporary or out-of-the-way food outlets, they can review them too on apps such as Yelp, SquareMeal and TripAdvisor. Younger generations are now more likely to consult their peers’ opinions online than seek the approval of professional critics.
The Book Publishing Industry
Unless you were an established author, getting a book published used to be a very lengthy linear process. You would put together your manuscript, hire an agent to shop it to the major publishing houses, or if you were bold, you’d hawk it round yourself. If you were lucky or talented – or both – a publisher would accept your story and you would begin the lengthy process of getting it onto the bookshop shelves. The flurry of new self-publishing platforms like Issuu and Nook Press, means that authors are no longer reliant on publishing houses to get their work out there, or even to market it for them. In theory, it is possible to completely cut out the middlemen in this industry – a scary fact that publishing houses need to face up to. To survive, publishers need to rework and reposition the services they provide and give authors a compelling reason to use them.
The biggest explosion has been in format; people are now commonly reading fiction and non-fiction on computers, tablets, e-readers and smartphones. The fact that we can carry the equivalent of a library in our pocket or handbag has become a great opportunity for those publishers who are willing and able to take advantage. Print is by no means dead, but no industry player can ignore the equally important art of producing, marketing and selling digital formats.
The Automotive Industry
Car-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft have started to give travellers more convenient and cost-effective ways to get where they need to go without relying on trams, trains or taxis. The transport industry is being turned on its head and it’s only the beginning; some of the changes waiting in the wings, such as driverless cars, will alter the ways that we think about driving forever. The precursors are already on their way: Tesla’s Autopilot and GM’s Cadillac Super Cruise promise hands-free and feet-free driving.
The ramifications of driverless cars for the wider economy are huge: greater fuel efficiency, less traffic congestion as well as an increase in on-demand car services and deliveries to name a few. The major challenge now is for car companies to make it affordable, as Tesla is currently aiming to do with its electric car offering. It will happen: three years ago, the LiDAR laser sensors that allow Google’s autonomous vehicles to move safely around cost more than $70,000; this year, they cost a tenth of that. The first car companies to pioneer a financially accessible autonomous car will be ahead of the pack for decades to come.
A more immediate change taking hold of the car industry is the idea of ‘connected cars’ – cars with data plans. Such plans give passengers internet connectivity, update traffic data for the navigation system, deliver software updates to the vehicle and advise drivers on preventative maintenance. During the third quarter of 2014, AT&T had more new subscribers for car data (500K) than either smartphone data (466K) or tablet data (342K).
The rise of data-driven gadgetry is a double-edged sword for manufacturers however, as customers’ purchase decisions are influenced more by the availability of the latest features such as Apple’s Car Play or Google’s Android Auto and less by the vehicle itself. Manufacturers need to find ways to prevent their core product – the car – being eclipsed by the newest features it carries.
The Video Game Industry
Expected to grow to $19.6 billion in 2019 (according to PWC), the video game industry is far from child’s play. New developments are expected to drive these numbers even further, not least of which, the advent of VR and AR technology. To date, 234 VR startups have raised over $3.8 billion in funding, and without a single name yet dominating the market, the sector could stand to take even more entrants. Several major companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Samsung, HTC and Nvidia, are actively looking for investment opportunities in this space.
The launch of any new gaming technology always spawns a whole new category. Look no further than mobile games like Farmville, Angry Birds and Pokemon Go. VR looks set to be the next gaming goldmine, not only for the major players, but also for the millions of smaller game developers. New hardware creates big potential for anyone who knows how to work with it.
Business models are evolving in this industry too. In-game micro-transactions are gradually supplanting the older monthly subscription income model. By offering small cosmetic options or performance enhancing ‘boosts’ gaming companies are beginning to turn what would once be irregular one-time purchases into an ongoing source of income. In the popular MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game) genre – think Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, Club Penguin – the games are free-to-play but offer hundreds of micro-transaction opportunities. However, there is a fine line here, as an over presence of micro-transactions has led to backlash from parents and gamers alike.
The international videogame market presents players a lot of potential. The US, Europe and Japan have long been considered the main hubs for gaming, but other countries such as Brazil and India are now showing exciting demand. India, in particular, has a business-friendly government, an exploding smartphone market and favorable demographics – the perfect storm for game creators.