Start 2017 Right: 7 Trends You Need to Watch

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Seven is a great number for many reasons. Even psychologists confirm that something magical and lucky surrounds it. So, as we head into 2017, let’s focus on these seven trends and predictions that can lead to prosperity for your business.

1. You can’t just serve a beer anymore, you need to serve up an experience! The customer has always been king, but now he is the entire royal family. This is not so much a trend as a reality of business. It has always been the case, but because of the power of social media and review sites, delivering exceptional service is more important than ever before. Heading into 2017, the entire customer experience is critical to wowing your guests. The 80 million Millennials who spend with you are especially “experience oriented.” Here are more ways customer expectations have changed. Make sure you’re delivering the experiences guests value and use the data that’s available to you to personalize your marketing and offerings.

2. Find (and attract) new customers…with just a ping. Data (especially geographic data) is readily available. Because of the proliferation of smart phones (approximately 2 billion worldwide) you now not only know who your prospective customers are, you can identify where they are. Small businesses are also able to take advantage of location-based advertising (LBA), a category that’s expected to hit $15 billion in spending by 2018. Geo-fencing enables you to target your advertising within a very specific area. As with all new media, make sure you’re working with vendors you trust, test different approaches and messages, and learn what works best for your market.

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3. Pay attention to what your customers are doing on their devices…snapping photos, writing reviews, and more. In addition to being tethered to our mobile devices, consumers are now sporting their technology on their wrists, necks, and other body parts. More than 111 million wearables are now out there. Proprietary apps abound. Wine lovers, beer drinkers, foodies, and other sub-groups are commemorating, reviewing, and sharing their experiences of places and products. Be sure you’re on their screens!

4. Reality is no longer enough. Virtual reality and augmented reality are on the upswing. Virtual reality is the creation of an environment (using technology) that simulates a real-world experience. You can use it in your marketing to “sample” your experience for potential club-goers, or to entertain your guests (and generate new revenue) with virtual reality games. Augmented reality simply enhances a real experience with simulated computer-generated aspects. Still confused? Here’s a great explanation. Our industry will probably never be completely replaced by technology, but you should look for ways VR and AR can be applied to your marketing.

5. Your alphabet starts with a Z! How you hire, manage, train, and work employees is rapidly changing. Gen Z (born between 1996 and 2010) is now in your workforce and they are fundamentally different from Millennials. They represent about 25% of the population. Although they are very entrepreneurial, they also value work/life balance and career stability, according to this study. Prepare yourself to serve them and work with them in the years ahead!

6. Is 2017 the Year of the Woman? Women are starting businesses at the highest rate in history. Here’s more about the trend. Women are also launching female-targeted spirits brands. (I’ll be leading a panel at the upcoming Nightclub & Bar Show about how women are shaking and stirring our industry.)

7. Technology + People = A Profitable Combination. In numbers 1 through 6 we covered three technology-driven marketing trends and three people-related trends. But the real power lies in combining digital superpowers and human needs to facilitate hiring and managing, and retaining talent and delighting your employees. Automated scheduling systems (like When I Work) give your team more control of and input on their schedules, and inventory management systems (like Partender) take some of the drudgery out of mundane – but necessary – tasks. (Watch this video about how one bar underwent a “tech makeover.”) In 2017, employees will not only influence how their managers use technology, but will make decisions about where to work based on how digitally advanced your venue’s practices are. As Millennials become business owners, technology won’t be optional in their operations – it will be a way of life.

Although “lucky 7” is a great concept, we cannot rely on good fortune alone. Stay savvy and connected…and use technology and data to deliver the best possible customer experience. We can’t control the future, but we can certainly prepare for it!

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