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The Future of Export in a Digital Age

I have been meaning to share the notes I made at a very interesting event that I attended last month in Gloucestershire.

The keynote was presented by the fascinating David A Smith of Global Futures and Foresight. He's a futurologist, which all sounds a bit mystical, but I can assure you his talk was very relevant.

As with all future predictions, there is guesswork but the trends seem reasonably likely.

Your first question may be "why am I going to something like this?" Well, half my business is now in digital marketing. My background in commerce means that my remit with clients can often expand beyond the original brief of designing a website or social media support. I have helped develop export markets for a couple of businesses in recent months. So it helps to have as wide a knowledge as possible on issues that may impact future business strategies.

Below are some interesting points made during the day. I know there are "lies, damned lines and statistics," but I think these statistics are worth thinking about when developing new strategies for your export markets.

1) "We do the old things using new technology." The point being, recent inventions are often used for existing activities, but their convenience is not established for a number of years. For example, tins were invented in 1810 but the tin opener wasn't patented until 1858!

2) Is the world economy going full circle? In 1820, China was the world's biggest economy and India was second....

3) The world middle class continues to grow. By 2020 it is estimated that 52% of the world population will be middle class. This will have a massive impact on consumption. Further more, by 2040, it is estimated that Africa will have 2bn more people in the middle class.

4) The top 75 cities in the world will generate 30% of world GDP by 2025. 40% of these cities will be in China, 13 in the USA and 3 in Europe (London being one of them).

5) 24% of people currently live in countries where Islam is the main religion. This is estimated to grow to 33% by 2050 and 37% in 2100. Are your products suitable and available in these markets?

6) The population is ageing. Mature economies will have a third of their population (up from 22%) above retirement age by 2025. In the developing world it will increase from 9% to 20%. This means we have to think about how we communicate with older people - is the font on our websites large enough for people to read?

7) Internet usage will double worldwide by 2025 - to 2.5bn people.

8) Mobile usage will surpass desktop usage this year. It's time to ensure that your website is optimised for the mobile web. At present, only 33% of websites are.... The internet and mobility will converge.

9) Consumers are changing from a transactional model to an engagement model. Social media is central to these changing dynamics.

10) Game theory and behavioural science will become more and more important. People will become more and more used to 'game playing' with retailers, service providers and Government. This shifts the dynamics to stopping telling people what to do; to encouraging them to do something. For example, in a recent test, cars were filmed speeding. All those that sped were still fined, but the difference was that the fines were shared out between all those who had not sped!

I hope that you found the above as fascinating as I did.

We have an interesting and challenging future ahead. Things will change, as they always have done, but it is those people and businesses who embrace change who will benefit most from it.