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We are in a transformative moment, with “once in a lifetime” technological innovation, economic conditions, and climate events colliding to create change at a rapid pace. To inform business leaders on how to adapt and how digital transformation is shaping business today, I’m sharing the five latest business trends I believe will be most impactful in 2023, based on Salesforce research.
In this article, we’ll explore the growing importance of data, business intelligence, and the promises and risks of generative AI. Then we’ll dive into personalization, corporate social responsibility, automation, and what businesses need to know to capitalize on them and stay ahead in a constantly-evolving landscape.
Trend #1: Maximizing business impact through data insights
What companies need to know about investing in digital skills training
Data insights and business intelligence are increasingly crucial as businesses navigate uncertainties. According to Salesforce research, 80% of business leaders say data is critical for decision-making at their organizations. In 2023, I believe there will be a growing trend of businesses using real-time data to provide key insights and trusted decision-making to mitigate risk in unstable conditions and maximize business impact. To do this, companies will need to invest in data skills training and tools to turn data insights into actions that drive business outcomes.
I expect the adoption of predictive analytics — which uses AI, including machine learning (ML), to identify patterns and predict outcomes — to rapidly climb. For example, 48% of Harvard Business Review readers say they use predictive analytics today, with 80% planning to within two years.
Recent fluctuations in the supply chain showed the importance that real-time analytics can have for businesses. Teams that cannot collect and interpret relevant data in real time are an inherent disadvantage when it comes to adapting rapidly to changing conditions.
Maximizing (and Demonstrating) Impact
In addition to mitigating risk in 2023, teams will have a solid incentive to gain analytics skills to maximize and demonstrate impact. Four in five workers use digital skills in their day-to-day work, but only some report using skills beyond collaboration technology, digital administration, and digital project management. Currently, one-third of business leaders said they could not generate insights from data, which is likely why 73% of companies plan to maintain or increase employee training on data skills.
Four in five workers use digital skills in their day-to-day work.
One place we can see this is in marketing, where proving the impact of campaigns is a common challenge. Currently only 51% of marketing teams have employees dedicated to analytics, but I predict businesses will seek to increase the number of employees with these skills. I foresee a deepening divide across all fields between those teams with analytics expertise and those without. Teams without analytics skills will be challenged to prove marketing’s value in challenging economic conditions where budgets are tight.
Trend #2: Understanding the potential and pitfalls of generative AI in business
What companies need to know about the rapid uptake of generative AI in business
Generative AI has incredible potential to perform integral tasks but is risky without the proper safeguards. In 2023, businesses — and humans — will need to learn how to partner with generative AI to bring out each other’s strengths.
Given the technology’s potential, 84% of IT leaders believe it can help organizations better serve their customers. Underinvesting in generative AI could be a huge mistake. It is already seeing widespread and rapid early uptake, with over half of IT leaders experimenting with or actively using generative AI in their businesses.
However, IT leaders also note that it can be risky to apply the technology without guardrails or sufficient human supervision. The hot new trend of using generative AI for content creation can backfire in cases where the AI outputs aren’t totally accurate. With its firm grasp of language, AI can sound confident and convincing. Still, it lacks a human’s common sense and world knowledge, and can only be as accurate as the data it’s trained on. This is particularly important when using AI in customer interactions, where data inputs must be up-to-date across every touchpoint to deliver effective results. Moreover, inaccurate AI can lead to broken trust with stakeholders or worse, liability issues — major risks for any business engaging with new technology.
The hot new trend of using generative AI for content creation can backfire in cases where the AI outputs aren’t totally accurate.
There is also a skills issue. Conversational AI enables anyone to use technology with natural language prompts. However, it’s important to understand the technology’s strengths and weaknesses to mitigate risks associated with relying on generative AI systems. Currently, 66% of IT leaders say their employees don’t have the skills to leverage generative AI successfully — such as the data literacy and creative problem solving to generate effective prompts. Accordingly, 97% of workers believe businesses should prioritize AI skills in their employee development strategy.
To rise above the competition, companies should approach their AI strategy carefully, use trustworthy products with thoughtful safeguards, and enable their workforce across every department.
Trend #3: Data personalization across touchpoints
What companies need to know about the role of real-time data in modern personalization strategies
Personalization has been a buzzword in business for some time now, but in 2023, it’s set to become even more essential. As consumers become more discerning about where they spend their money, businesses that offer personalized experiences in real time will stand out from the competition and inspire loyalty.
As consumers become more discerning about where they spend their money, businesses that offer personalized experiences in real time will stand out from the competition and inspire loyalty.
According to Salesforce data, 73% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, and 65% of consumers say they will remain loyal to companies that offer a more personalized experience. This can’t come at the expense of speed, either, as 72% of consumers say they will stay loyal to companies that deliver faster service. Savvy companies will tap into real-time data to offer these experiences across every touchpoint.
Consistency is also important. Eighty-five percent of customers expect consistent interactions across departments, but 60% say it generally feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, not one company. Because 65% of consumers say they stay loyal to companies that offer a more customized experience, companies must address this disconnect to deliver a seamless, personalized experience that retains customers.
Another new business trend I see regarding customer personalization is how companies use data. Currently, 75% of marketers say they rely at least partly on third-party data, but this strategy will need to change in light of looming changes in privacy regulations. With third-party cookies being phased out, businesses need to pivot. To better position themselves in the long term, they must move to zero-party data, which users explicitly provide, and first-party data, which companies collect directly from customers.
Fortunately, 61% of consumers say they are becoming more comfortable with companies using their relevant personal information in a beneficial manner.
Trend #4: Ethical challenges for businesses in a changing world
What companies need to know about ethically deploying AI and other technologies for a positive impact
With so much changing — including increasingly powerful technologies embedded in all aspects of business — companies are forced to grapple with new ethical questions, and customers are watching closely. A recent study found that 66% of customers have stopped buying from a company because their values didn’t align. Companies should consider three areas to ensure their business upholds ethical standards worthy of their customers’ trust.
Proactively avoid causing harm with AI technology
Seventy-two percent of customers are concerned about the unethical use of AI technologies, and only 57% of customers trust companies to use AI ethically. At the office, 83% of IT leaders believe businesses must work together to ensure generative AI is used ethically.
Proactively do good with technology
Beyond the simplicity of doing the right thing, 78% of customers say companies’ environmental practices, for instance, influence their buying decisions, as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) regulations are gaining momentum worldwide. Businesses can use technology to ensure sustainability data is auditable, to forecast and reduce risk, and more. By using technology to promote sustainability and good corporate citizenship, companies can improve their reputation and positively impact the world.
Communicate business values with clarity
Ultimately, companies must define their values for themselves and communicate them clearly to customers. A recent survey found that 88% of customers expect companies to state their values clearly — but just 50% say they do. By making sure their values are clear and align with those of their customers, businesses can build trust and loyalty with their customer base.
Trend #5: Optimizing, integrating, and automating for profitable growth
The key strategies companies need to drive efficiency through integration and automation
Today, most businesses have laid the groundwork for digital transformation — but few have fully optimized it. Incomplete digital transformation initiatives can cost companies $9.5 million annually, making extracting maximum value from existing technology more critical than ever. Businesses must drive efficiency and profitable growth by optimizing their existing technology and process initiatives to remain competitive.
Failing to complete digital transformation initiatives costs organizations an estimated $9.5 million annually.
AI technology developments fuel this new business trend, in which companies are increasingly focused on driving efficiency across existing workflows through automation and integration.
Integrating automation with everyday work
Automation demand surged in over 90% of companies from 2020 to 2022. Businesses have saved up to 109 billion hours a month using automation tools that enable employees to focus on higher-value work. Demand for additional automation remains high, with data science (64%), product (62%), business analysts (61%), customer support (58%), finance (57%), marketing (56%), engineering (56%), and HR (52%) all reporting a need for automation in their departments.
Driving integration in business practices
Organizations use over 1,000 applications today, but 70% remain disconnected from one another and the core business. Composability, or reusable integrations, offers cost-saving opportunities for businesses. On average, 47% of organizations’ internal software assets and components are available to developers to reuse, providing an opportunity for greater integration efficiency.
Moving forward, I see companies focusing their strategic digital initiatives on extracting the most value from their existing technology and processes. For instance, marketers say their number one challenge is the ineffective use of tools and technologies, and their number one priority is to improve the use of these tools. Similarly, sales reps often need more sales tools. Rather than replacing existing solutions, most IT leaders prefer to update or upgrade existing solutions wherever possible.
Moving forward, I see companies focusing their strategic digital initiatives on extracting the most value from their existing technology and processes.
By centralizing around chosen solutions that have proved most beneficial and leveraging automation and integration strategies, companies can drive efficiency, increase productivity, and achieve profitable growth.
As more and more revenue comes from digital channels, businesses that don’t prioritize these initiatives risk falling behind their competitors. Conversely, businesses that dedicate time and resources to addressing and optimizing data insights, generative AI, personalization, ethical standards, and automation and integration will reap significant rewards in 2023 and the coming years.
- See Salesforce’s latest research in the Stat Library, an easily navigable database full of all the latest business trends