7 small business predictions for 2017
2017 is here, and there are many opportunities for small businesses to take advantage of in 2017. While other trends and regulatory changes should be considered when formulating a strategy and budget for the new year, they may take awhile to become part of the fabric of the business environment, and there are various signals we can watch that hint where things are headed.
As such, trends become critical signposts for small business owners to notice, should they need to pivot in their strategy, make further investments in technology, or add new types of tactics that can assist with their growth goals. Here are seven of my small business predictions for 2017:
1. Benefit packages will become more important (and hopefully more accessible/affordable)
Business owners have faced a huge challenge with benefit packages, whether seeking them out for themselves or as a “carrot” to attract talent. Most available benefits programs cater to larger companies that can then afford the competitive pricing, while programs for small businesses have either been priced way out of the realm of possibility or have just not been available at all.
However, the increased ranks of small businesses has given benefits companies a new angle to tackle for revenue streaming. By creating affordable packages that include health, dental, vision and life insurance for smaller companies, these companies are now targeting smaller businesses and business owners. All signs point to new benefit package options coming to small businesses in 2017.
2. Further investment in digital technology will be necessary
For small businesses that want to attract more customers, there will be a need to further digitize all processes that involve the customer experience.
This can include everything from cloud computing — so that platforms and tools are available to a small business owner no matter where they are working — to digital payment options, digital help desks, and mobile platforms.
Since more consumers and businesses will grow to expect this digital experience, small businesses will need to keep up with these expectations–or find themselves left behind for good.
3. Cyber security, data privacy, and compliance will be a top priority
Many stories concerning the issue of data breaches, hacking, and identity theft affecting businesses big and small have people paying special attention to this troubled area. New compliance and regulatory frameworks for these fields also have small business owners’ and freelancers’ attention.
It’s important to adopt additional security measures in 2017 to maintain customer trust and brand reputation, avoid fees and penalties, and discourage further cyber attacks.
Small business owners can address these trends by hiring IT security consultants for annual security assessments and solutions, migrating to the EMV card acceptance, partnering with payment companies that can provide the necessary assistance, and creating a sound security strategy and risk mitigation plan.
4. More small businesses will recognize the benefits of expanding internationally
The online business environment and new tools that help address currency, language, and compliance issues, are opening a whole new world of opportunity to small business owners. Both e-commerce businesses and service-based firms are discovering a world of cross-border opportunities. Companies that work toward attracting more international business will be able to rapidly increase revenues, brand recognition, and competitive advantage for themselves in 2017.
5. Freelancers will gain credibility as legitimate small business owners
Just a few years ago, freelancers weren’t taken as seriously; they were viewed as temp workers and were not able to create and maintain the professional image they have now obtained. The clarity and the advantages for all business to cultivate relationships with the freelancer business world will continue to develop in 2017 and beyond.
The change in this business sector has rapidly occurred — just since 2014. Millions have joined the ranks as freelancers, who are now considered small business owners with recognizable, in-demand skills. More and more corporations will use freelancing services in the new year to help lower their overhead costs and access top talent.
6. Funding and lending opportunities will grow for small businesses
With the recognition that small businesses are now a big economic power, more companies are interested in helping fund the growth of these businesses by offering more accessible and affordable business loans and funding. Last year showed a sizable increase in the number of crowdfunding platforms, especially with the approval by the SEC that will now allow unaccredited investors to make equity investments.
The trend points to increased activity in this niche funding area, and a significant higher volume of capital available to fuel small business growth.
7. Big data will resize itself to accommodate small businesses
While big data was originally positioned to be of use only to large corporations, new areas have developed within the analytical sciences that have illustrated how it can be used to help small business owners, as well. As the vision of how well big data can be used for smaller businesses has become clear — 2017 will help to crystallize it and illustrate how smaller firms can use surveys, opt-in email programs, and other tools to gather critical information to identify patterns in shopping, needs, and purchasing habits.
With the seven trends listed here, there’s a lot for small business owners to digest and determine how they might address each potential growth area in the coming year. It’s a good idea to read up on each of these trends to see how they will individually impact a small business, as well as to understand what resources and tools might be available to help leverage these available opportunities.
2017 will be an exciting year to watch all of the competition play out, while trying to gain a favorable position within the small business arena, including the freelance business.
Each business has the opportunity in 2017 to find its niche in the marketplace by incorporating the new trends which will guide a business to experience the growth that will come with those decisions.