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5 Small Business Trends to Watch in 2018

The prevailing business winds tend to shift alongside the pace of technology – a pace that only quickens by the year. It used to be that companies could go for years before making the most minor of pivots, but that luxury is long gone. Thus, many of the small business trends likely to dictate 2018 may look different from those that ruled 2017.

One thing that will stay the same is that technology will do at least some of the talking. Whether it’s marketing, advertising or simply running a more efficient office, new advances in hardware and software can dramatically change the way small businesses operate and can even give them an edge.

That said, there are a few other major trends to look for, such as a generational shift and a change in the way businesses are interacting with their customers.

Small Business Trends to Watch in 2018

1. E-Commerce: We’ll start with a familiar trend that actually has been around for years, and simply keeps pushing ahead. Research firm Forrester expected e-commerce to make up 12.7% of all U.S. retail revenues in 2017, and believes that number will swell to 17% by 2022. That coincides with accelerating closures of brick-and-mortar retail stores, which the Wall Street Journal believes will hit 8,600 stores in the new year. In short: More money will be spent online, which makes it increasingly important for small businesses to have an e-commerce presence, and dedicate significant resources to making online purchasing as streamlined as possible.

2. Marketing Personalization: Google, Facebook, Twitter and other programs are allowing small businesses to collect valuable troves of data that tell them more about their customers than they ever thought possible. But that informational gift comes with an obligation: Plain old blanket marketing is being pushed out in favor of increasingly personalized campaigns. Technology, such as click segmentation, must be used to identify differences in user wants and behavior, then businesses must use that information to deliver specifically targeted offers, deals and even information to set themselves apart from the competition.

3. The Next Generation: While “How to please Millennials” has been the general thrust of the past few years, it’s time to start preparing for the economic arrival of Generation Z, which is the group of 70 million Americans born after 1998. These people are starting to trickle into the workforce and have a little bit of spending cash, so it’s important to understand more about them before they become an economic powerhouse. One valuable thing to know: Gen-Z’ers have been exposed to smartphones, tablets and the like for all or almost all of their lives, which means it’s essential to learn how to connect with them via technology.

4. Cybersecurity: 2017 was a miserable year from a cybersecurity standpoint that saw 143 million consumers, mostly from the U.S., have their information exposed thanks to a breach at credit rating agency Equifax. That’s not to mention the WannaCry ransomware outbreak, NSA hack and Uber’s revelation that its security chief covered up a 2016 breach that affected 57 million users. But if you think hackers have their eye on only “big” scores, think again. According to the 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, hackers have at some point cracked into half of America’s 28 million small businesses. If 2017’s steady drumbeat of hack-related headlines has a silver lining, it’s that 2018 needs to be the year that all businesses, large and small, need to start taking cybersecurity seriously and begin implementing systems to protect themselves and their customers.

5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence was one of the biggest buzzwords of 2017 – one so powerful that Wall Street drove up the stocks of companies associated with the technology in mere anticipation of the potential in the years ahead. In reality, AI is a young, emerging technology that we’re only really starting to understand, but small business owners still have a little AI at their fingertips as we enter 2018. For instance, Salesforce.com’s Einstein AI allows small businesses to predict consumer engagement or discover insights on social media, and Crayon AI can help you collect information on what your competitors are doing.

How can you prepare your small business for these and other trends that may emerge in 2018? Start with the professionals McManamon & Co. We offer general business consulting services, such as helping with strategic planning, but we can also navigate your business through a very different 2018 tax environment, and even help take your office paperless.

Don’t let 2018’s business trends catch you off guard. Call us at 440.892.9088 or contact us online to discuss how to best position yourself for the new year.


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