At the end of every year, accounting professionals look back on their industry trends and predictions from 12 months prior. We hope to see that we were right about most, and look to see which ones we can just carry over to next year’s predictions list. This year isn’t any different.
With 2016 already well behind us, we’re taking a look at some of the things we hope for 2017 to bring (and some of the things we may just carry over to our 2018 list next year).
Continued push to the Cloud (again)
You knew this would be at the top of the list, right? Every year (see last year) accounting professionals anticipate the coming transition into cloud computing for both accounting services and software. And every year, we seem to just almost get there.
Companies like Vancouver’s Bench.co are finding success as a purely digital accounting firm while the big guys like Quickbooks and Xero continue to refine their services to cater to the tech savvy financial professional.
While 2017 may not be the year we make the push to this “final frontier” of cloud computing, you’re sure to see things continue to move in that direction. Those who embrace the transition become more nimble and create a competitive edge for their firms. Those who delay adopting this new technology are likely to slip behind, being forced to play catch up later.
In today’s digital-first economy, the consumer has more power than ever. They also have more choices then ever. They’re demanding proof that you’re able to solve their problems before you ever get them to sign the dotted line. So how are you going to stand out?
Online marketplaces like Avvo.com (for lawyers) and RealSelf.com (for plastic surgeons) have created communities that give professionals the ability to communicate one-on-one with the searching consumer. Through questions & answers, advice forums, and direct communication, these marketplaces have given professionals the tools to interact with potential customers and demonstrate their abilities, giving consumers the information they need before making a decision.
Get involved in these communities where you can interact with potential customers and show them why you are the best decision for their business.
Relying purely on your website and SEO no longer work
Don’t get me wrong, Google is still the dominant search engine, but consumer search behavior continues to evolve as the Internet does.
With all the other platforms out there (social, marketplaces, ratings & review, etc.) you’re likely leaving a lot of business on the table if you focus purely on SEO. Look into other communities with an established user-base. You’re likely to find pockets where consumers are looking for solutions you can provide that many of your competitors are neglecting.
Organic social media reach continues to decline
Last year Convince & Convert published this piece on declining organic Facebook reach for businesses. The primary point of the article is that Facebook now expects businesses to pay for the visibility and reach that they used to enjoy free of charge. The publishing industry alone saw a 52% decrease in organic reach last year.
So what does this mean for accountants? You’re going to have to start paying to sponsor content you want to get in front of your Facebook audience. And if you think moving to Twitter or LinkedIn is the way around this, I have bad news for you. As these platforms reach their maturity level, monetization will become much more important as they look to increase value for their shareholders.
Paid social prices continue to increase
Okay, so I’ll start paying to increase my visibility across these social platforms. Hold on, just a second. Facebook ads operate in an bidding/auction platform. This means the more people in the market for these coveted ad spots, the more the placements will cost.
Above, we covered the fact that a decrease in organic reach has resulted in more people jumping into the Facebook ad market. And the more people in the market, the more expensive the ads get. So be prepared to spend several dollars per click on your ad, which can ad up quickly.
More millennials are realizing they need accounting services
Ah, the coveted millenial demographic. Whether you love them or hate them, they’re a major player in the U.S. financial economy. And as they continue to mature (along with their incomes) they’ll soon be in the market for regular financial professionals.
Know their language. Understand that many are making their first efforts to set up retirement and investment accounts. They’ll be looking for someone who can walk them through the process. Take this as an opportunity to teach and coach them through the process.
As mentioned earlier, they’re likely looking for someone who can prove their knowledge and capabilities before choosing a professional. Don’t be afraid to interact with them through Q&A and online forums to prove you are the right one for their business.
Desktop currently takes priority over mobile
For all the talks of an increasingly mobilized society, desktop still takes priority. A report from Econsultancy states “while 69% of companies agree that they know what proportion of traffic comes from mobile devices, only 40% have identified and track mobile-specific key performance indicators.”
The report goes on to discuss their survey that found “only 8% [of companies surveyed] identified mobile as the single greatest priority area.”
Continue to understand how mobile plays a role in your overall strategy, but don’t prioritize it at the risk of alienating non-mobile customers.
Ratings & reviews continue to sway customer decisions
Word-of-mouth will always remain a large business driver in the financial services industry, but ratings and reviews allow you to replicate and scale referrals in the digital world.
Last year’s study from BrightLocal found that “84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendations” while “74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a business more.”
With 11 months of 2017 still ahead of us, we’re looking forward to following these trends closely and seeing the overall impact this has on our industry.