40 Small Business Trends and Predictions for 2017What do business owners, professionals and experts expect 2017 to hold for small business? After a tumultous election season, entrepreneurs can finally expect a little bit of certainty and stability. Keeping an eye on key trends and new developments, of course, is always imperative for any business that wants to position itself advantageously. Business News Daily got in touch to find out what are some of the biggest things for you to keep an eye on as your business prepares for the dawn of a new year.Here are 40 key ideas, trends and predictions to keep in mind in order to make the most of 2017 for both your business and the people it serves.
Entrepreneurial confidence in the economy could spur new investments
"In 2017, increased confidence among small business owners regarding the economy and their overall performance could lead to trends in business investment. Both the economy and stock market have shown signs of strength during the final weeks of 2016, and this helps increase business owner optimism." - Carla Freberg, Director of Sales, Vendor Services Group, Balboa CapitalNiche companies will find success"Business success wil come from further focusing on smaller, very specific audiences. Going extremely deep with customized messages and specialized platforms to a highly receptive and loyal audience will replace wide approach "shot gun" marketing. [We'll see] more soft or no ask/call to action marketing focused on community building, experiences and lifestyle over product specific messaging." - Kyle Golding, chief strategic idealist at The Golding Group
Finance and investmentCrowdfunding will play a key role in financing small business"Crowdfunding will continue to be an invaluable resource for entrepreneurs. Crowdfunding platforms allow entrepreneure to easily validate and fund a new product or service all while growing their customer base." - Michael Banks, founder of FortunateInvestor.comInvestment assets will shift to reflect an uncertain market"We'll see more money go into cryptocurrencies, probably Bitcoin as it's still the leader, and potentially precious metals. Stocks, bonds and real estate are all in bubbles of one sort or another. One of the consequences of central bank intervention with money printing is that all the mainstream asset classes are tightly correlated. So with the economy worldwide looking precarious right now, we'll see people managing risk by shifting capital from over-valued asset classes into an under-valued class. When all the major asset classes are in bubbles, there is no 'cheaper' asset class to shift capital into, so it has to go elsewhere. I can see gold and cryptocurrencies absorbing that money and rising appropriately." - Brandon Ackroyd, head of customer insight at Tiger MobilesMoney will no longer flow freely to new tech startups"While investment dollars and market opportunities in the tech sector are still plentiful, the era of adoration and adulation of the world of startups seems to be drawing to a close. This is as much a result of high profile flops ... as it is by the sheer volume of startup activity." - Matt Harrigan, co-founder of Grand Central TechThe art of "house-flipping" is back in vogue"Last year, due to a lack of inventory, the housing market could not keep up with buyer demand and we definitely noticed an influx of home loan requests. Home-flipping is making a comeback and big bank lenders are starting to extend credit lines to companies specializing in home-flipping. From what we can predict, the housing market will continue to stay strong in 2017, especially in commercial real estate and home-flipping." - Dean Sioukas, founder of Magilla LoansOn-demand business models will become more common, even in B2B spaces"[We] were one of the earliest pioneers in the crowdsourcing and sharing economy movement. We have watched as the marketplace business model has expanded and grown, and I don't see any of that momentum letting up. In fact, as the use of these marketplace apps and sites like Airbnb, Uber, Lyft and Taskrabbit become so mainstream among consumers, it's driving even more momentum in the corporate and B2B space." - Patrick Lewellyn, CEO of 99designsSupport services will emerge around a growing freelance workforce"2017 will herald a lot of additional services and products that will enable freelancers specifically to have access to credit or additional payment options. If I were an entrepreneur with a service or product that could be tailored to freelancers, I would be looking at how best to service this growing segment of the economy. This segment will only continue to grow and represents the most disruptive segment in terms of growth and innovation." - Keisha Blair, co-founder of Aspier-Canada [See Related Story: The Gig Economy's Growing Influence on the American Workforce]
TechnologyAI use will grow among small businesses"Businesses are rapidly embracing artificial intelligence to gain a competitive edge and stay relevant to consumers as brand engagement will be re imagined next year. But you should decide if you want to be B2B or B2C, because it is very difficult to scale if your try to do both." - Jana Eggers, CEO of Nara Logics [See Related Story: Amazon Web Services Releases 3 Artificial Intelligence Tools to the Public]Ease of access through the latest technology will be a priority"[Companies] that use newer online payment options such as Square, Bitcoin currency, Apple/Google payment options, etc. have a major edge over competitors. When you're a young company that was built to begin with on a fluid, ever-changing, Web-based economy, it's easy to adapt. On the other hand, larger companies, even when they are willing to step out of their comfort zones, have to overhaul larger, more-entrenched payment-processing systems that have existed for years or decades." – Joel MacDonald, founder of EnergyRates.caE-commerce will become more competitive"Generally in the US every market is developed and the number of people chasing the markets has been growing faster than the market. Therefore things are going to tougher since the global e-commerce market is saturated.” - Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt.Internet of Things (IoT) technology will mature"The enterprise has paid attention to IoT for some time, though this year will be the year we move past the 'wow' phase and into the 'how do we do we securely and effectively bring IoT to the enterprise, how do we handle the high speed data ingest, and how do we optimize analytics and decisions based on IoT data.' Those will be the questions enterprises will need to solve in 2017. " - Leena Joshi, VP of product marketing at Redis LabsMarketing automation will reduce the human labor required in advertising"In 2017, marketing automation will be more important than ever before. Taking the manual labor out of essential marketing functions, such as email blasts and social media posts, marketing automation will help companies reclaim valuable time. It will allow marketing teams to refocus their energy on bigger projects, as well as monitor campaign success and customer engagement more efficiently." - Adam Binder, founder of Creative Click MediaAugmented reality will become more common in 2017"While virtual reality is once again a hot topic ... 2017 will really be the year of augmented reality. The barriers to entry for delivering a quality AR user experience are much lower than for VR, because the VR experience still suffers from a variety of issues. Meanwhile, vendors can already deliver a terrific and affordable AR user experience with today's technology." - Ryan Donovan, SVP of product management at SitecoreCustomer Relationship Mangement (CRM) is about to get a whole lot smarter"In 2017, smart data discovery will emerge as a major force in CRM analytics, as well as business intelligence more generally. With the acquisition of BeyondCore by Salesforce, CRM vendors are positioning themselves at the frontline of new developments in smart data discovery, which leverages machine learning and other technologies to detect patterns in data and transform them into stories that humans can understand. [These solutions] will increasingly shift humans away from actually analyzing business data themselves to vetting the accuracy of machine-generated insights." - Daniel Harris, market researcher at Software AdviceHybrid cloud and multi-platform will emerge as the primary model"With users needing access to their data on the go, there has been an accelerated move towards the cloud. This means that organizations are no longer keeping their data in just one location, and are instead using a hybrid approach of cloud and on-premises data." - Dan Sommer, senior director and market intelligence lead at Qlik
CybersecurityHackers will test security of the digital wallet"With the growth of financial and budget planning applications, increased pervasiveness of new payment methodologies such as Apple Pay, and the growing pervasiveness of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, there will be increased attacks against applications, plugins, digital wallets, and the companies holding authentication datat allowing access to these digital currency streams. With the incremental adoption of each of these technologies, the potential windfall from a dedicated attacker increases. Soon, it will be more than enough to attract organized criminals who previously flocked to the banking Trojans of the past." - Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of MalwarebytesFurther attacks on customer data retained by companies"As the push for convenience drives retailers to expand the ways in which they digitally engage with consumers, retailers are amassing huge amounts of personal data about their customers beyond credit card information; everything from buying habits to location [are tracked]. It is becoming easier for hackers to make use of big data tools to assimilate details about their targeted victims. Retailers, small and large, need to protect their data; no one is too small to be a target." - Chris Richter, SVP of global security services at Level 3 Communications
Marketing and social mediaExpect changes to the way web pages are ranked in search engines"With the rise of Google's AI learning and a shift towards user experience, we can expect to see big changes in web design. How a user interacts and experiences your web page can either halt a transaction or create momentum to push your business past your competitors ... Think in terms of adaptability and do just that: adapt. Study heat maps and evaluate and improve your areas of weak interaction." – Noah Henderson, Nextrend Furniture.Targeted spending is an ever-increasing must in social advertising"Reaching users the old-fashioned way on social media is no longer going to make the cut. Algorithms are increasingly limiting the percentage of your own audience that sees your posts. In 2017, businesses should start investing a portion of their marketing budgets into native ads and promoted posts to successfully reach audiences. It can be highly targeted, plus it's easy to track return on investment in terms of views and clicks." - Ryan Holmes, founder and CEO of Hootsuite.Digital advertising prices will increase"One major trend is the surge in digital ad prices, which can be particularly straining on small companies that may not have the money or resources to invest in digital advertising." – Alejandra Lopez, RLM Public Relations.The importance of video will grow"Video will be all over in 2017, and businesses need to keep up. This includes Facebook Live, Snapchat, YouTube, video series and more." – Mike Arce, founder of Loud Rumor.Social media will be increasingly used as a sales platform.“You can now buy through Facebook and even Instagram through third party apps. This is great for startups and those who don’t have the resources for an ecommerce store.” – Joselin L. Estevez, digital marketing and social media director at X Factor Media.Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Brands Focused on Offline Marketing and Selling"DTC brands will continue to move offline both in terms of marketing and physical selling in order to create omni-channel experiences. We’ve reached the point where traditional retailers and landlords are designing spaces specifically for brands that want to continue to own this direct experience with the customer. Expect to see major innovation in the physical retail model largely driven by this need." - Adam Tishman, co-founder of Helix
STARTUPSOn-demand services will improve access to new startups"Because of the ease of getting your business started, with everything from on-demand legal services, website creation, automated financial software, marketing tips and tools and more, businesses will be more easily able to be operated by just one or two people. The small business of 2017 will take total advantage of the path paved by other small businesses and startups to make them more efficient and be able to go from idea to job with a small, but mighty team." - David Rusenko, co-founder and CEO of Weebly.Non-technical entrepreneurs will enter the tech industry in large numbers"There will be a drastic rise in non-technical entrepreneurs starting tech businesses. In the past, it was unthinkable to start a tech startup without knowing how to code or attracting a technical co-founder. Now, due to the rise of tools like Bubble, Zapier, and other, entrepreneurs can build complex apps with logic instead of code. As a result, business acumen, sales skills, and industry knowledge are becoming more important than coding ability." - Vladimir Leytus, founder and co-CEO of AirDev.More e-commerce startups will appear on the market"Companies like Amazon, eBay and Etsy have transformed the way we make purchases. As a result, online retail has become a convenient way for potential customers to shop anywhere, even when they're on the go. Similarly, cloud-based solutions like ePages, Shopify and Despatch.cloud are making it easier for today's businesses to take advantage of the e-commerce wave and extend their sales online at a faster rate than seen in previous years. Next year, we'll see an increase in the number of businesses using cloud-based solutions for online sales." - Francesco Cetraro, head of operations for .Cloud
Growing industriesAscendant cannabis industry will experience innovation and disruption"Like every industry heading into 2017, cannabis is primed for disruption—from software and data analytics platforms to producer technology and social media platforms, tech businesses in the cannabis industry are reading themselves to reap massive benefits as more states turn green. Look for these companies to expand as large markets such as California, Nevada, and Florida open their doors to cannabis." - Brendan Hill, co-founder of Paper & Leaf.The drone industry's growth will offer entrepreneurial opportunities"Tens of thousands of new drones are being added to the rapidly growing pool owned by everyone from mine-hunting non-profits to individual enthusiasts. Given the nature of flying and using drones, they are inevitably going to be plenty of crashed or damaged items; this is great news for an aspiring entrepreneur because it means there is an opportunity to start an online drone blog, advice and repair business.” – David Mercer, tech entrepreneur and founder of SME Pals.Solar collectors will become more accessible to consumers“I think the next big idea that is going to take hold in the luxury market, then transition into the mass market, is rooftop solar collectors. The really big money will be made not in new roofs, but in developing attractive, easy to install and maintain solar panels the can help homeowners across the country take advantage of the free power that the sun offers." – Pamela Danziger, market researcher for Unity Marketing.Home healthcare poised for big gains"Starting a non-medical home care agency is typically less complicated and involves less costs … according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare occupations and industries are predicted to have the fastest employment growth between 2014 and 2024. Entrepreneurs should capitalize on this fast growth." – Alice Williams, communications specialist with Frontier Business Edge.
Government regulation and tax policyPrepare for overtime regulations, even if it ultimately gets struck down“Make sure that you have your employees properly classified as exempt or subject to overtime, even if the new overtime regulations don’t go into effect. Make sure that you have your employees classified as W-2 if you are paying them as 1099, since they are not likely really 1099.” – Scott Behren, owner of Behren Law Firm.State governments will get creative with sales tax regulations"It's no longer only tangible products that are subject to sales tax; more states will reclassify things like digital services to make them taxable. States will put through local legislation to get out-of-state companies that sell across state lines to register to calculate and collect taxes on their behalf. As a result the tax landscape will become even more complex, and many small businesses will outsource their tax compliance management to respond to changing nexus and avoid penalties." - Marshal Kushniruk, executive vice president at Avalara.
Employees and the workplace
Even more millennials will enter leadership roles"Millennials now represent the largest segment of the U.S. population. They are poised to take on management positions as more than 3.6 million company chiefs retire. They are revitalizing the traditional workplace formula with freelance jobs worked from remote office." - Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.comAverage employee tenure will continue to shorten in the tech industry"The technology industry has the lowest average employee tenure, and this will continue to be an issue in 2017. This can be attributed to the increased access job seekers have to information about available job opportunities, via multiple portals. Hiring managers no longer see job hopping as a red flag when hiring employees, but rather a commonality." - Yarden Tadmor, CEO of Switch.The rise of the "paperless office""The paperless office will be a growing trend in 2017. In the past, businesses would physically print paperwork to be reviewed, signed and scanned. In addition to hurting the envrionment, this causes a significant drain on employee productivity. Fortunately, new software tools are being developed that allows companies to securely manage files online. This means improved efficiency at a lower cost." - Sofie Knowles, web developer and co-founder of PDF Pro.Amidst 401(k) lawsuits, know your obligations under the law"Employer self-administered retirement plans are in the news, and not in a good way. New lawsuits appear to crop up almost weekly against yet another plan sponsor. The bulk of these lawsuits are being brought on behalf of present and past participants, or employees of corporations facilitating retirement plans. Smaller companies ... need to be well informed about the current laws, avoid conflicts of interest and fully understand what it means when they assume fiduciary responsibiities." - Matt Bradley, CEO of BenefitGuard
Customer experienceMore collaboration across industries means knowing your partners well"The app economy will only increase the number of these mashups, which, in theory, are good for everyone: They allow individual companies to focus on what they do best, while coordinating almost seamlessly with other specialists. But handing a customer over to another company carries risks. A company shouldn't hand off a critical customer interaction without rock-solid, brand-appropriate performance guarantees." - Thomas A. Stewart and Patricia O'Connell, authors of "Woo, Wow, and Win; Service Design, Strategy, and the Art of Customer Delight" (HarperBusiness, 2016).Customers will look for quality offline experiences"The more we connect digitally, the more we feel disconnected in person ... As we continue to strive for new technology, there will be a growing appreciation and deeper craving for quality offline experiences. In essence, if you are not dedicating time or learning how to make time for offline quality experience, you are going to miss out." - Monica Kang, founder and CEO at InnovatorsBox.Companies will harness tech to enhance the user experience even further"Consumer-driven technology preferences will continue to drive business decisions in 2017. Adopting cloud, mobile and SaaS technologies will officially become a sink-or-swim necessity for businesses of all sizes in 2017, even for businesses that have yet to fully adopt modern technology." - Steven Fredette, president and co-founder of Toast.
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