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Top 7 Small Business Trends for 2017

If you’re a small business owner, you know it’s critical to keep track of trends that can affect your business.  Staying ahead of the curve, after all, is often where success lies.

By doing so, you can focus not only on business growth, but also on improving operations, customer service and retention, and all of the other functions and labor specializations that make up your business.

So, what are the main small business trends for 2017?

Here’s what you need to watch out for:

1) Automation, Automation, Automation

When you think about automation, you might immediately associate it with manufacturing.  But today, opportunities for automation are prevalent in all facets of business.  From the automation of sales systems, to accounting, to human resources systems, many companies are taking advantage of automation to help their employees remain focused on high-value activities, which the customer values most.

2) Millennials in the Workplace

As Baby Boomers begin to retire and a new generation enters the workforce, Millennials are changing the face of workplace culture.  In fact, Millennials now represent the largest segment of the U.S. population and are becoming leaders and managers.

As small business owners, this means that understanding and engaging this generation is vital when it comes to sustained business growth and employee retention.

3) The Cloud

Data is the key to the future, and the cloud provides small business with the tools to access, gather, and share data on the go.  Many small businesses are beginning to use the cloud to store their files and information, especially as working remotely becomes more popular and accessing information off-site is necessary for business operations.

4) E-Commerce

The Amazon revolution is here, and e-commerce will continue to transform how business is done—especially for small businesses.  It is more important than ever that companies adapt their selling and supply chain processes to today’s mobile and digital buying process.  The great news is that tools like Shopify and ePages make it easier than ever for companies to sell their products online.

5) The Totally Paperless Office 

Software tools, programs, and digital management solutions allow companies to become paperless in ways they never could before.  It’s a win-win situation for everyone: we help the environment, employee productivity increases, and organizations can save time on all aspects of operations that once solely relied on paper documentation.

At APTUS, for example, we’re a big proponent of being paperless. One of our favorite tools is Bill.com, which we use to automate bills into a paperless system.

6) Customer Engagement

We live in an information-flooded world where apps, videos, movies, and all sorts of things constantly fight for your customers’ attention.  And with the onslaught of available information comes a craving for authenticity and responsiveness.

Customers are no longer as loyal to brands as they once were.  They want companies who are responsive to their needs, engage with them regularly via their preferred media platforms, and provide content that is relevant to them.

Many small businesses are increasing their customer engagement through various means like social media, chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI), but most importantly, they are gathering information about their customers.  With the plethora of data now available, you can find out more about your customers, their buying habits, and what they care about, than ever before.

7) Business Specialization & Differentiation

Marketplace competition is on the rise, so small businesses are working hard to differentiate their offerings in ways that others can’t.  Let’s say you manufacture organic makeup.  There are now more organic makeup companies flooding the market than in the past.  How do you stand out?  Perhaps you can focus on a particular product, ingredient, or even method of manufacturing that makes you stand out from the crowd.

But sometimes it’s not possible to fit into a niche.  Maybe your services, or company products are difficult to differentiate; that’s okay.  You can use other ways to stand out in your market.  Convey your unique value propositions.  Define your brand in a way that no one else has.  Do things better, quicker, or more efficiently than your competitors.

Sources:

  • “2017’s Most Important Trends for Small Businesses.” Square, Inc., 2017, squareup.com.
  • Johnson, Williams. “Top 5 Trends for Small Businesses to Follow Right Now.” Small Business Trends, 24 May 2017, https://smallbiztrends.com.
  • McIntyre, Georgia. “The 14 Small Business Trends That Will Define 2017 for Entrepreneurs.” Fundera Inc., 1 Feb. 2017, fundera.com.
  • “Small Business Trends for 2017.” Accion, us.accion.org.
  • Uzialko, Adam C. “40 Small Business Trends and Predictions for 2017.” Business News Daily, 1 Jan. 2017, businessnewsdaily.com.