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Last year, our predictions for 2019 included stress over Making Tax Digital, more cashless payments, the continued rise of veganism, drone anxiety, and the impact of Brexit.
Looking back, most of those predictions did have a role to play in the year’s events. The introduction of MTD for VAT saw more than a million businesses signing up to record and file their taxes digitally, and while some reported difficulties with the system, the rollout seemed to go relatively smoothly overall.
As for veganism, the year 2019 saw more businesses expand their plant-based offering, including the launch of Greggs’ headline-hitting sausage roll, a vegan food range from Marks & Spencer, faux leather Dr. Martens boots, and more.
And while the UK has not yet formally left the EU, it’s now looking likely that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will pass his Brexit deal before the current deadline of 31 January 2020.
Looking towards the first year of a new decade, what else can businesses expect?
“Climate emergency” was named 2019’s Word of the Year by the Oxford Dictionary, and the increase in the public’s awareness of environmental issues is unlikely to slow in 2020.
Under the combined pressure of policy change, campaign groups and consumer demand, we can expect more businesses to adopt environmentally-friendly practices.
For small businesses, going green could be an opportunity to appeal to a growing market of ethical consumers, but it could also be a way to improve your own efficiency. Saving energy and cutting down on waste can lower business costs, for example, as well as helping the environment.
Back in October, one UKBF user asked online business owners if they would consider accepting Facebook’s digital currency Libra as a payment method. (“I'll look at accepting it when Sainsbury's does,” said Ian J.)
In 2020, the next Bitcoin halving is due to take place, meaning the number of new coins awarded to Bitcoin miners will be halved. The effects of this event are hard to predict, but depending on levels of demand, it may cause the currency’s price to surge. Equally, some argue that it could cause the price to plummet instead.
Cryptocurrency isn’t the only reason to be interested in blockchain technology, though. Enthusiasts say its transparency and security advantages could have huge benefits for almost any industry.
We have yet to see the first widespread use of blockchain technology outside of cryptocurrencies, and it’s possible that could happen within the next year.
Momentum is already building for the next US presidential election in 2020. The first votes on party candidates are set to begin in February, with the results announced in the summer.
From there, the election campaign rolls on until the final vote on 3 November 2020.
Whatever the outcome of the election, and of President Trump’s impeachment trial, the unsettled state of US politics will undoubtedly have a knock-on effect on the rest of the world.
In general, politics has suffered from a loss of trust in recent years, with scandals like Cambridge Analytica and the online spread of misinformation making many people wary about what they see and do online.
Advances in technology, such as deepfakes, also mean it’s easier than ever to create and spread fake images and videos, some of which are scarily convincing.
All of this could make people more suspicious of online content, and what businesses are telling them. In fact, research by global communications firm Edelman shows that only 33% of people in the UK trust most of the brands they buy or use.
Combined with customers’ growing focus on social impact, and an increasing tendency for people to actively avoid advertising, this makes it more important than ever to prove that your customers can trust you – through what you do as a business, not just what you say.
On a more positive note, next year is a big year for sports – and that could mean a much-needed boost for businesses selling food, drink, sporting equipment or electrical items.
The UEFA European Football Championship starts in Rome on 12 June, with the semi-finals and final both hosted in London’s Wembley Stadium a month later.
Following this is the Tokyo Olympics from the end of July, giving viewers all the more reason to stock up on drinks and snacks as they watch from home, or even upgrade their TV set ahead of time.
In 2018, the Centre for Retail Research estimated that England’s run to the last four of the FIFA World Cup boosted consumer spending by around £2.4 billion. While the majority of this (£1.1bn) fell under food and drink spending, consumers also spent £349 million on sportswear, and £302m on TV and electrical goods.
If England can go one better this summer, it’s possible that we could see this kind of spending surpassed in 2020, which is just what many businesses need in an otherwise difficult time.
If you have any ideas on what the next year could have in store for UK businesses, leave a comment below.
I bet no--one could have predicted what has happened since this was written
Just what I was thinking...