Top 10 Small Business Trends For 2018 - December 26, 2017

In 2017, the United States experienced the lowest jobless rate since 2001. The economy is expected to end the year with a three percent growth rate. With positive conditions like this, it's no surprise that many Americans will consider either starting a new business in 2018 or re-investing in their current business.

As we look ahead to 2018, Promotional Consultant Today shares this two-part series on the 10 biggest small-business trends to expect in the coming year, as identified by Andrew Marder, contributing writer to Capterra.

1. Be ready to diversify. Marder explains that, according to many futurists, we are on the edge of a bubble—or more specifically—the burst of a bubble. The bubble is our economy. Price-to-earnings ratios are high, and the potential to significantly increase assets is triggering people to invest beyond their means. When the economy experiences a downturn, people have less in the tank to draw from if things go south and could be forced into selling at a loss to cover their expenses.

Marder says that small businesses can prepare themselves for downturns by diversifying their business's revenue streams. Don't rely on one customer group in the same profession or geographic area. Create multiple customer channels to provide a broader range of revenue streams during the down times.

2. Lead marketing with Millenials. Millennials seem to constantly make headlines, and here's one reason why: they are estimated to spend more than $1.4 trillion in 2020. Now that's some buying power. What's unique about this generation is that they prefer products and services that have deeper connections and that deliver value. Marder says, "As a generation, they've seen their parents' savings wiped out, they've exited college only to enter one of the worst job markets in decades, and they've lived through some of the worst attacks to ever take place on American soil."

To sell to Millennials, Marder says small businesses must find ways to be honest and transparent. Look for opportunities to empower your employees and hold them accountable.

3. IoT, AI and ML will be the ongoing buzzwords of 2018. The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are buzzwords that are typically associated with large companies. But now, small businesses have access to many of the benefits of these technologies at low or no cost.

The IoT is fueling hyper-local advertising and search while allowing businesses to track shipments and customers. AI lets you turn random data into customer insights. And ML allows for pushing your products and services to customers on platforms like Amazon. Marder says that in 2018, small businesses will touch this technology more than ever before and experience the returns—whether for more customer insights, more customer service or more customer reach.

4. "Made in America" will make its return. In recent years, many companies—from automotive and pharmaceutical to promotional products—have outsourced manufacturing to offshore companies because labor and the cost to make goods was less expensive than in the U.S. Marder says we'll see a shift back to Made in America in 2018. Adidas and Under Armour are among the brands that are building manufacturing plants in the U.S., and companies that make difficult-to-ship items—cars, heavy machinery and the like—are also onshoring jobs.

With more big players focused on the customer, the key, as a small business, is to make it clear that you understand the needs of your local community and are interested in being a part of something bigger. That can mean taking on interns, hiring employees from local and regional universities, or giving back to local charities.

5. You'll get hacked. Unfortunately, the reality is that you will experience a data breach at some point, whether personal or through your business. The recent Equifax breach that comprised the personal information of more than 145 million Americans is proof of that. And these data breaches are impacting the stock value of companies. Equifax stock went down 15 percent.

What can you do to mitigate this risk? First, be aware that this will happen and be prepared. Invest in a security plan, like Lifelock, and a password system, and have a step-by-step plan if this happens to you, including putting fraud alerts on your credit and other measures.

Yes, 2018 will be a year of change and opportunity. Want more tips for navigating your business next year? Read PCT again tomorrow.

Source: Andrew Marder is a writer for Capterra with experience in retail management, banking and financial writing.

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