Industry Insights That Could Impact Your Business

For many entrepreneurs, the turn of the calendar year represents the helpful push needed to launch a new business. As you formulate your business plan, it’s imperative to keep tabs on the industry insights that could impact your new business. Here are five major trends that are projected to bear substantial impact on the small business landscape in 2018 and forward.

Artificial intelligence is a worthy ally. In the earlier years, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been regarded as territory best left to the tech titans who own vast amounts of customer data. In the current times, AI is more accessible to even the smallest of businesses through third party tools. To be more competitive in 2018 and onwards, more small business owners will embrace AI as a critical tool in automating the workplace. AI can be very useful for mundane administrative tasks, unlock customer insights, and so much more. As you develop your business plan, consider how to integrate third-party tools into your business strategy and how to leverage on AI technology to get and stay ahead.

The rise of fluid workforce. Happening now is a rapid rise of the contingent workforce of freelancers and other on-demand talent. More and more, small business owners are turning to on-demand workers rather than hiring full-time employees to handle particular projects because of the incredible flexibility project-based freelancers afford companies and entrepreneurs. With freelancers and on-demand talent, businesses can now easily scale up or down with more flexibility based on demand. Consequently, a variety of tech tools and web-based platforms has made connecting with these workers simple and fast. To date, 42 percent of employing small businesses already utilize contract workers,and you can expect this number rise even more in 2018. Explore talent marketplaces like Upwork and Wonolo if you are considering this flexibility in workforce for your business.

Emergence of niche markets. Consumer interests and behaviors have been evolving continuously, resulting to the emergence of more defined niche markets for businesses to focus on. Millennials in particular, with $200 billion in annual buying power, have a stronghold in influencing the direction of niche markets. This demographic’s spending behavior has been driving the growth of things like microbrew beer and artisan coffee over the big traditional brands that have dominated for decades. In 2018, small businesses will continue to find themselves uniquely positioned to leverage on these niche markets and concentrate their marketing initiatives in that direction.

Digital payments. Most everyone by now has been transitioning to becoming a cashless society. Smartphone-based and online payment systems are the preferred methods of financial exchanges. From 2012 to 2015, the number of non-cash payment transactions increased at an annual rate of 5.3%. Going cashless is great for small business. It streamlines bookkeeping, promotes a safer business environment, and gives customers more flexible payment options. It’s how customers want to pay. Fortunately, cashless payments are getting easier with an ever-growing plethora of options for digital transactions. By 2018, more customers than ever before will expect digital payment options from businesses of all sizes.

Crisis preparedness. From Hurricane Harvey to the California wildfires, the natural disasters of 2017 have been a severe wake-up call to many who were unprepared for these beatings from nature. An estimated 25% of businesses remains non-operational after a major disaster hits, while more than 50% of small business owners say they are not prepared for the data loss typically associated with a disaster. This increasingly heightened awareness will encourage more small business owners to prioritize crisis preparedness in 2018. To get you started (if you haven’t already), check out The Small Business Administration’s disaster checklists as you prepare for the worst in the years ahead.

Some industry insights may be loose and fleeting, but these five are here for the long term, all certain to have a significant impact on businesses in 2018 and the years that follow. Why wait for the need to arise? Successful businesses will start shaping unique strategies today.