Sure, technology will keep evolving but so will the psychology of the entrepreneurs and their customers..
Twenty years ago, the October 1997 issue of Entrepreneur magazine featured stories on:
How to use “your in-store sound system to amplify your sales and image” (since everyone knows up to “70 percent of all buying decisions are made while a customer is in the store.")
Why you should consider cable TV commercials (because this type of advertising has “the ability to geographically and demographically target specific customer groups” better than anything else available).
How to deliver good customer service via “letters,” “postcards” and “phone calls” to landlines.
It’s quaint to look back now and see how times have changed. What we really mean, though, is the technology has changed. It’s quaint to look back on stereo systems, after all.
Related: Redefining Technology With Innovation
Yet we seldom look at how we’ve changed. Specifically, how our psychology and attitudes have evolved. That’s not an academic pursuit. If you plan to be in business 15 years from now, not only will technology continue to evolve, so will its young inventors and innovators. Here are some predictions for getting along with them.
Not so obsessed with social media.
Today’s entrepreneurs either have grown up with or grown accustomed to the profits and pitfalls of social media. We cultivate our images to such an extent that we hire professionals to manage individual platforms. That may change tomorrow.
Already, college graduates are less concerned with their online appearances. In a poll of more than 1,000 people between the ages of 20 and 25, a majority of respondents said they weren’t going to do a damn thing to make their social media profiles more palatable for employers. Perhaps understandably, 86 percent had no interest in creating “fake social media accounts to fool employers.” Yet 68 percent said they "would never try to hide their social media accounts from potential employers.”
Here’s the most intriguing line from the poll, buried near the end of the report:
"Entrepreneurial graduates are confident that they can even turn party pictures into profit by promoting clubs, festivals, clothing, spirits and beverages. A new career asset, 'having a large following on social media,' didn't exist a decade ago. In 2017, 12 percent of respondents named this as a skill when asked what they had to offer employers."
Prediction: The next generation of entrepreneurs will care less about image than business success. Less than any previous generation, they’ll separate their own image from that of the company.
At home/not at home.
Are today’s entrepreneurs neglecting brick-and-mortar businesses that tomorrow’s customers will crave? Online shopping is now so easy, customers can enter the make and model of a car on sites like Amazon, then order everything from a new set of windshield wipers to new engine parts until the day they get rid of the vehicle. That’s amazing -- but ho-hum to young people. They actually like to “go” shopping.
“Fifty percent of millennials actually prefer shopping in-store,” says a new report from SmarterHQ, "meaning some retailers may be missing the mark in engaging this 80-million-strong demographic.”
Of course, millennials aren’t logging off and tuning out when they walk into a store: “95 percent of this demographic are doing other things while shopping, including working, watching TV or talking to friends.”
Prediction: The next generation will succeed when they stop thinking about shopping as either online or in store. It will be one continuous process that might start online and end in a store -- or toggle back and forth several times before the sale is made.
This means more innovation than enamors us today, as we marvel when Amazon opens a physical store. It might mean the opposite of what we think now: Scope out the product online and pick it up in the store. It could very well mean making the in-store experience an interactive distraction that results in the customer's journey home to actually make the purchase.
Embracing entrepreneurs -- until they grow too big.
“Millennials' preferences are killing dozens of industries,” Business Insider reported in August. These include business categories as diverse as yogurt and beer. Experts wring their hands and pose theories.
“While millennials have created new fitness crazes, like SoulCycle and barre classes, golf has failed to capture their interest in the same manner.”
“Motorcycle sales at Harley-Davidson, which represents about half of the U.S. big-bike market, were down 1.6 percent overall in 2016 versus the year before.”
“While millennials like to work out, they're ditching gyms in favor of boutique, class-centric centers.”
What do these all have in common? Millennials who grew up during the recession don’t value obvious displays of wealth. They want to impress their friends by being the first to make fresh new discoveries. They don’t want to spend their money on the same thing twice. Think about the explosion of craft breweries. How many millennials want to drink Budweiser?
Related: Dear Entrepreneurs: Small Is Still Beautiful
Prediction: In 2030, it will become easier to launch a business-to-customer startup because the next generation -- unlike its predecessors -- won’t be shy about the risk/reward aspect of trying new products. Once a brand or company becomes established, however, it might be ditched for the new "new thing."
No one has a crystal ball, so I've no way to be certain my predictions will come true. I do know this: In 2030, everything will be different, and not in incremental ways.