Forrester predictions: 5 areas to keep an eye on for 2021

To state the obvious, this year has certainly been an unexpected one. Safe to say, digital transformation and eCommerce emerged as two of the popular trends this year spurred on by the pandemic. According to recent predictions by Forrester for 2021, the Asia Pacific region is expected to emerge from the crisis first - just like how it was first hit earlier this year. Additionally, Asia Pacific is also predicted to be stronger in areas such as cybersecurity and employee experience, and be the frontrunner in new areas such as platform business models and 5G business innovation.

So what are some of the areas to watch out for?

Innovation expected to dip for 25% of APAC firms due to employee concerns

Employees are predicted to overlook higher-order needs such as self-actualisation in favour of avoiding risk and maintaining the status quo.

Forrester expects this muted workplace engagement to lower productivity and discretionary efforts to minimum acceptable levels, especially in Asia Pacific verticals that already fall behind in terms of employee experience, such as media and entertainment or retail. 

There are two factors making up the innovation problem. Firstly, Forrester said the lockdown moved unpaid work largely to women, with fewer returning to the workforce. Also, employees prioritise their well-being over standard benefits. Hence, companies must manage the pandemic as a people problem first and a business problem second.

Companies should enable their employees via technology to spur productivity and innovation, as well as consciously inspire and empower them.

Values-driven firms will rebound sooner and grow faster than profit-driven firms

Brands that take on complex economic, environmental, and social challenges with integrity, competence, and transparency will earn the trust and loyalty of values-based consumers. This comes as more consumers are predicted to vote with their wallets and engage with brands that commit to corporate ethics and support the local businesses and community next year. The number of Certified B Corporations, those that balance purpose and profit, are predicted to increase from 394 in September this year to 500 in 2021. 

Senior business leaders, including board-level decision-makers, must adopt strategies and frameworks that better balance purpose and profit to win and retain values-based consumers’ hearts and wallets.

India will become primary battleground of platform wars

The rapid emergence of Jio Platforms — founded in 2018 worth more than US$60 billion — and Amazon’s expanded offerings will ignite a platform war in India - one that also includes Paytm and Flipkart.

In fact, it is safe to say the wars have already started legally. Recently, Amazon sent a legal notice to Future Group, one of India’s largest retail chains, for breach of contract terms following the sale of Future Group’s retail and wholesale business to Ambani’s Reliance Retail for a reported US$3.4 million, according to TechCrunch. The sale to Reliance came after Amazon acquired a 49% stake in Future Coupons, owned by Future Group’s retail business which gave Amazon a 3.58% stake in Future Retail. This also allowed Amazon the right of first refusal to purchase more stake in Future Retail.

Meanwhile, Facebook also recently struck up a deal with Ambani’s Jio platforms for an acquisition of a 9.99%, costing Mark Zuckerberg US$ 5.7 billion. Many argued that the deal could pose a threat to the eCommerce players such as Amazon and Flipkart, along with smaller eCommerce players, given both Facebook and Jio sit on massive amounts of data and could lead to an unfair advantage and monopolistic behaviour.

As 2021, rolls around, Forrester says we will see a shift from experimenting to pragmatically connecting the ecosystems essential to their customers.

Beyond India, competition across the region will also intensify among Alibaba,, and Pinduoduo in China; among Gojek, Grab, and Shopee in Southeast Asia. The race will also kick off amongst banks, tech giants, payment firms, and accounting software providers racing to build small business ecosystems. Incumbent firms, especially financial services institutions, should swiftly build or connect to platforms that provide essential goods and services in order to avoid losing relevance with customers and falling permanently behind platform businesses that have both agility and economies of scale.

(Read also: Analysis: Can YouTube actually take on Amazon and Alibaba with new eCommerce offering?)

China will become the epicenter of 5G innovations in 2021

China is predicted to test and scale successful business models next year, becoming the frontrunner in 5G adoption for carriers and users. The region will expect to witness key 5G initiatives in major verticals such as healthcare and manufacturing, as well as for smart cities. The rapid growth and adoption of highly connected technologies such as computer vision, commercial drones, cloud-native, blockchain, edge computing, and virtual or augmented reality are expected to generate synergies that unleash 5G’s potential.

Forrester also expects disruptors built around early-stage 5G-enabled business models to surface in China, with fast-follower markets in Southeast Asia benefiting from these pioneers in 2022.

Brands in Asia Pacific should be prepared to learn from China's innovation surrounding 5G, including advanced use cases in retail, financial services and manufacturing.

Join us on a three-week journey at Digital Marketing Asia 2020 as we delve into the realm of digital transformation, data and analytics, and mobile and eCommerce from 10 to 26 November. Sign up here!

 At least one government expected to embrace a Zero Trust cybersecurity framework

The approach towards Zero Trust among Asia Pacific governments has been wait-and-see as of now, lagging behind the US and Europe. Zero Trust is a concept which is anchored on the belief that companies should not automatically trust anything inside or outside the organisation. Instead, they need to verify everything trying to connect to its system before allowing access.

This, however, is about to change, Forrester said, with the global pandemic accelerating cloud adoption and the proliferation of remote working. Additionally, consumers are also taking into account data privacy when making purchase decisions and the lagging security practices make Asia Pacific ripe for "a crippling cyberattack", Forrester added. While many governments in the region already adhere to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, Forrester predicts that at least one will go further and require firms to transform their security services by adopting NIST’s new ZT Architecture standard.

Get ahead of the curve: Adopt Zero Trust for your organisation, build a pragmatic roadmap, and sell your vision.

Join us this 8-11 December as we address the new realities for PR and crisis communicators, explore how brands are dealing with the impact of COVID-19 , and discuss areas of priority for communications. It's an event you would not want to miss out. Register now!

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