What will be the trend that defines the life of a business in 2018? As Yoda from “Star Wars” might say—“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth guessing. Riding the wave of momentum created by massive business trends is one way that small businesses like yours can not only survive, but thrive—especially if you have a leg up on your competition. For that reason, let’s explore the potential trends of 2018 while recapping the year that was:
The Top Small Business Trends from 2017
Before looking forward, let’s look back on the year that was and recall the trends that defined life as a small business in 2017:
- The #MeToo movement highlighted sexism in the workplace. Workplaces large and small must both make key strides if they’re going to accommodate workers of all types. The #MeToo movement pushed Hollywood whistle-blowers into the limelight while also highlighting a vital issue of office dynamics and social equality.
- Renewed emphasis on security and data protection. Remember that big Equifax data breach? As it turned out, millions upon millions of Americans—perhaps as many as hundreds of millions—found that their data had been exposed. Even just recently, we saw that security issues with Intel pushed its stock price down. The result was an increased emphasis from small businesses on better password management and enhanced data security practices—or, at least, we hope so.
- Video marketing. Maybe this is more of a sector of your marketing budget than it is a specific trend, but as Forbes pointed out last year, some 80% of people watch more videos online than they did a year before being polled. This trend may continue in the future, with Cisco projecting some 82% of "consumer traffic" moving into video. If you’ve noticed more video marketing consultancies forming, it isn’t a coincidence—video is as popular a medium as ever.
- Remote work. Though remote work is nothing new, the Staples Business annual survey points to some 43% of workers saying that remote working is now a “must-have.” With the favorable economic conditions we saw in 2017, more plentiful jobs means that competition for remote workers will heat up—as will employee expectations.
2018 Small Business Trends and Predictions
What’s next in the world of small business? Your guess is as good as mine. But based on what we saw this year and what we know thus far from early 2018, we know there are some trends definitely worth watching.
Generation Z Enters the Workplace
In recent years, the news has focused on the culture of millennials—what millennials do with their savings, how millennials expect to work in the office and small business environment, etc. But millennials are older than you might thing. At the upper end, millennials are now in their mid-30s, which means they’re moving into higher-level positions while a new generation prepares to make waves.
That would be Generation Z, the first generation that will have matured in the age of the Internet. Generation Z grew up on faster connections, smarter phones, and the expectation that news is available at a moment’s notice via social media. And if you’re interested in employing young people at your business, it helps to know what Generation Z will expect in the workplace. According to Forbes, the attitudes of Generation Z are pragmatic and results-oriented, partially thanks to the experience of the Great Recession.
Fusing Markets—and Old Businesses Meeting New
Last year, Amazon made waves when it purchased Whole Foods, broadcasting an increased interest in the physical presence of retail. Walmart, a traditional retail store, has amped up its online efforts in recent years to compete with Amazon.
This fusion of old-school retail with new-school digital shopping will drive competition even in the sector of small business. Thanks to the services offered by these behemoths, 2018’s small businesses will be expected to:
- Have a mobile-friendly site with fully responsive features, including online ordering and easy shipping. Remember: you’re not competing in a vacuum. Online, you compete with everyone—including the big companies.
- Market more effectively. Now that cookies have made it possible for advertisers to specifically target customers when they browse certain items, you’ll be expected to make a customized pitch before many customers are done with their order. This is possible through Sponsored Search, but the platforms are always changing. A small business always has to keep up.
- Build long-term relationships with customers. Brand loyalty is still a thing. If you can earn it with effective digital access to your small business’s products and services, that’s great. But customer retention will be just as important as ever in this dynamic environment.
Employment in the Cloud
Cloud-based software makes it possible to host a remote team of digital workers—an advantage for any small business. But given the “gig” nature of today’s economy (thanks to services like Uber and online freelancing), many aspiring workers are looking for what amounts to cloud-based employment.
Running a small business means you’ll have to hire people occasionally. If you want to hire the right people, you’ll have to compete with the benefits of what some might call “cloud employment,” which includes:
- Remote working. Many jobs offer telecommuting—but there might come a day when telecommuting from a home office is expected, not just a bonus.
- Benefits. Health insurance, retirement benefits, etc.—these are the perks of working full-time for a company. If you don’t offer those perks, cloud-based employment is a more enticing alternative.
- Scheduling. A “gig” worker can set their own hours, and the 40-hour workweek is a product of 20th century thinking. Today’s work is adaptable, which means small businesses will have to be just the same.
No matter what the trends of 2018 end up being, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of the world of small business. Continue to read headlines, talk to other small business owners, and follow social media as the new year develops. You’ll be glad you did.