Just because your business is small doesn’t mean you can afford to turn a blind eye to the latest trends. On the contrary, small businesses need to keep up with the newest technologies and developments if they hope to thrive in the new year. Here are 10 small business trends for entrepreneurs to look out for in 2016.
1. Mobile Payments/Card Readers
Cash-only businesses may have been acceptable back in the day, but modern consumers prefer shops with more accessible payment methods. One point of sale (POS)-centric focus will be on mobile payments and EMV chips in 2016. Even though liability has already shifted from credit card issuers to retailers that have non-EMV-compliant hardware, many businesses are still in the adoption process.
Mobile payments, whether instituted with a wireless credit card or via smartphone, will also become more widespread in 2016. Some mobile payment options are actually superior from a security perspective, such as tokenization, which eliminates the need for card handling by utilizing a one-time-use token for a given transaction. Even so, every small business needs to make an effort to secure consumer data.
2. Wearable Devices
These days, it’s not enough to carry a cell phone everywhere you go. Many consumers are turning to wearable devices like smartwatches, a trend that is expected to affect the small business landscape in 2016. Not only can small businesses take advantage of devices like the Apple Watch and others to provide customers with more targeted ads, but they can also use this technology to assist brick-and-mortar customers without ever leaving their sides to check a computer.
Even in 2016, email marketing will remain an effective way for small businesses to reach consumers. However, if you want to score shoppers in 2016, you will likely need to add a more personal touch to your customer communication. As a small business owner, you have an opportunity to tailor your messaging to your customers with greater ease than many large retailers.
Whether they’re in your store, on your website or calling for support, address your shoppers by name. Consider their previous purchase behavior, and reward them for their patronage. As for email communications, use demographic information (e.g. location, age) to help you better target your emails.
4. On-Demand Services and Workers
The internet allows shoppers to have what they want, when they want it—sometimes as soon as the same day. Business owners can expect to see this trend continue in 2016 with smaller companies jumping on the on-demand bandwagon.
If you don’t have your own speedy delivery option, consider using an existing service like Amazon Flex to ensure you meet customers’ expectations in the new year. It may also be worth looking at local ride-sharing services that may also provide local delivery services in your area.
5. JOBS Act Title III
As a small business owner, it’s important to keep up to date with rules and regulations affecting your industry. One trend expected to affect many small businesses in 2016 is Title III of the JOBS Act, which allows non-accredited investors to participate in equity crowdfunding. In the past, only “accredited” investors possessing $1 million in net worth or more were permitted to invest in startups.
As a result of this development, small business owners have more financial options for getting their companies off the ground without turning to venture capital networks. There are some restrictions to be aware of, however, so plan accordingly.
6. Minimum Wage Increase
It’s not just large companies that are affected by the trend toward a higher minimum wage. If the U.S Congress passes a $15 minimum wage, many small businesses will have to find a way to afford the higher cost. Experts predict that small businesses will need to increase their prices and boost efficiency in 2016 to stay profitable as salaries increase.
7. Focus on Mobile Sites and Marketing
As a small business owner, you probably already know that a large percentage of customers shop online, and the numbers are even higher among those in the coveted millennial bracket. However, failing to adapt your site for mobile shopping won’t just cost you consumers in 2016; it may also affect your SEO ranking, as Google now has new mobile optimization guidelines.
For best results, make sure that your mobile site is easily viewable on as many unique devices as possible, and maintain a focus on mobile customer service, including online order tracking and payment. If your website isn’t viewable, or if customers don’t find what they want there, then that means less visitors and profit.
8. Google Algorithm Changes
Mobile isn’t the only factor affecting the Google algorithm in 2016, though sites with strong mobile browsing will certainly enjoy higher rankings. In the coming year, small businesses can also expect Google to prioritize links, original content and meta titles while penalizing sites that use “black hat” SEO tactics.
Additionally, social media results will display more prominently, and indexed apps will begin to play a role. When users search for particular terms, Google will likely start to show apps related to their queries. If your business features its own app, make sure that app is Google-compliant so that it can be found easily.
9. Changing Expectations
Gone are the days when shoppers were forced to choose from a limited number of stores in their immediate vicinity. Consumer expectations are higher than ever thanks to the internet. To keep your small business shoppers loyal, make an effort to respond to their comments and criticisms in a timely fashion.
Rather than just handing your disgruntled customers coupons, take time to apologize for a given mishap, and ask how you can make their experiences better in the future. The last thing you want is for potential consumers to find bad reviews for your business on Yelp and decide to shop somewhere else.
10. Move Toward the Cloud
Many of us already use the cloud to store pictures and music. In 2016, however, small businesses are expected to adopt cloud-based technologies—such as HR and financial management platforms—in greater numbers. Not only can you use the cloud to store data at a lower cost, but you can also easily share information with employees in different parts of the country and even the world.
In most cases, the cloud offers stronger security when compared to other forms of data storage, and can be easily integrated with other forms of technology. Human resources, accounting and marketing are just a few of the services that small businesses are expected to move to the cloud in 2016.
As a small business owner, you are responsible for making important decisions for your company now and in the coming years. By staying abreast of the changing small business landscape, you can keep your company in the black for 2016.