A roundup of some of the key trends in Nigeria’s dynamic business space.

If catching up on the latest business trends doesn’t tire you sometimes, you’re probably not doing it right. They’re moving that fast. Think about how frequently “a next best thing” gets announced these days: marketing strategies, analytics, industry fads, even goings-on in your local environment.

But you do have to stay in touch with the market. It’s the way businesses can remain relevant in today’s rapidly changing world. If you take your eyes off customers’ changing demands or don’t know the best technologies for enhancing your businesses’ performance, you’ll wind up being less competitive than you need to be.

I'm going to help you with this. We can’t run a list of very specific innovations for business; that will be a huge collection, and it’s likely going to lose relevance in little time. But I'll give you a sweeping picture of the bigger shifts in the commercial landscape, one that lets you see the grand picture well enough to enable you make decisions for your business’s future.

The Trends to Watch

1. User Engagement on Instagram

It’s fitting to start with social media because it’s become a huge ground for business, whatever the scale. And we do so with news you should be taking notice of.

Elsewhere on the planet, there’s been a growth in the more visually rich social networking platforms. For example, it’s been known for a while that younger people in the US were ditching Facebook for Instagram. This is a big deal, given the importance of the younger demographic to the future of business. 
We haven’t seen large scale shift of this magnitude in Nigeria. At least not yet. But the signs are that it could be coming.

While Facebook dominates Nigerian social networking with its 22 million users within the country, Instagram’s user numbers appears to be growing quite steadily as well. Although its 5.7 million users is just a fraction of Facebook’s, research shows that it’s a probably a better channel for customer engagement. A report from Terragon, a market research group, estimates that page engagement on Instagram is ten times greater than on Facebook.

2. Brands turning to video content

A big part of Instagram’s growing success as a platform for photo sharing. But it’s also tapping into a growing trend toward video content, with its introduction of Instagram TV and video chat.

In fact, some estimates suggest that 80% of all online content could be video by 2019. Asides Instagram, video based platforms, such as YouTube, have become more popular with the online audience in these parts. And just as it is with pictures, it’s the visual appeal of videos that draws people to them.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking to take your business to a bigger audience, you should consider marketing your venture with engaging videos. Video content that’s done brilliantly could get a lot more people interested in what you do- because they can see what it is you’re doing.

3. Employees working remotely

This, like the other two trends, is actually happening across the world. There’s a surge in the number of people who aren’t working from traditional office locations.

This trend is being driven by a number of factors. Technology makes this possible (we’ll dive deeper into this in ‘the cloud’ below). Workers believe the flexibility makes them able to do more. And employers, seeking greater efficiency, are outsourcing certain jobs to contractors and freelancers.

It turns out that working remotely is an aspiration for many people in the ‘very tech driven’ occupations. In a survey of Nigerian software developers conducted by Devcenter, about 79% of respondents said they hoped to work remotely in the future. That report shows that 32% of developers already work from locations other than a traditional office.

4. Coworking

For many budding entrepreneurs, coworking spaces are a much better alternative to either a typical corporate office or a home office. This is because they offer much of the comforts of an office- and more -for a fraction of the rent payable for a typical office.

One great thing about coworking spaces is that they have several entrepreneurs working on their own businesses within their premises at a given time of the day. It offers good opportunities for networking and building useful partnerships. What’s more, many hubs offer mentorship and incubation support for startups operating from under their rooves.

Many of Nigeria’s major cities have at least one coworking centre. You might consider working from one, if you’d like to cut business costs and work amidst entrepreneurs like yourself.

5. The adoption of Artificial Intelligence

Businesses are increasingly relying on chatbots to communicate with customers. These automated systems are programmed to respond to queries put to them by potential and existing clients on web platforms.

Some of the well known examples of this include Diamond Bank’s ‘Ada’ and UBA’s ‘Leo’. You’ve probably had a chat with a few AI systems online without realizing that they aren’t actually human.

Chatbots are eliminating the need for actual online customer care agents. If you’re keen on having a digital representative who isn’t really extra staff, you could go the AI way.

There’s more that AI can do for Nigerian businesses. They’ll certainly play a bigger role in commerce as time goes on.

6. Digital payments

The Nigerian fintech space holds great promise. Digital payment channels already process a huge volume of financial transactions in the country on a daily basis- which means that a growing number of Nigerians are choosing to make and receive payments digitally.

This trend is being driven in part by the growth in Nigerian ecommerce. The convenience of online purchases appeals to a largely (but not strictly) younger demographic, one that’s open to innovative solutions. Products and services bought online can be paid for via digital money transfers, thanks to payment channels built by fintech companies.

7. The cloud

More businesses are using cloud based services in their daily operations. From work tools like Microsoft Office 365 and Google Suite, to accounting and payroll software, there’s a lot they have to thank the cloud for. But many don’t even know what it is.

The cloud is in fact a system of servers hosted on the internet, on which data can be stored and processed. In simple terms, it allows you create, save and work on files hosted over the internet.

The benefit? With it, you can work on a single file or project with persons in different locations at the same time.