9 Small Business Trends to Watch in 2018

With 2018 in full swing, now is the time to evaluate and plan for the growth of your business. Often times, trends provide you with insight as to what is currently happening or right around the corner, allowing you to prepare and capitalize.

From new trends in technology, to trends in the workplace, here are nine small business trends that you need to be aware of as we continue through 2018.

1. Higher budgets will be allocated for AI.

“With AI (artificial intelligence) advancing and becoming more available, small businesses will allocate more money towards penetrating their industries using new available technologies. When many people think of AI, they think of robots and highly technological advancements, but there are simpler, more readily available applications, like Amazon Alexa and voice applications that are quickly becoming more popular. Voice search is something every small business needs to look into, as more consumers are now using these features to search and shop online.” — Christopher VanDecar, CEO of Optimally Organic.

2. More small businesses will adapt alternative payment options.

“As technology advances, and more consumers adapt a mobile-first approach for everything, expect to see more small businesses accept more alternative payment options. Mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay are becoming more popular because of their convenience. Expect to see a rise in acceptance, both online and at the point of purchase in retail settings. One of the largest payment gateways, Stripe, already has Apple Pay integration available.” — Ryan Hulland, President of Netfloor USA

3. Remote work will be more acceptable.

“Small businesses are constantly looking for ways to reduce overhead and transitioning from a traditional office setting to a remote structure not only eliminates the cost of a monthly office space, but it also gives employees what they want, which is the convenience of working from home. While it was once only practiced by Silicon Valley startups, it’s now something small businesses are adapting, as it’s an opportunity to operate much leaner, drastically reducing monthly operational costs.” — Marc Webb, Managing Director of Real PDL Help.

4. Improved company culture.

“Startup culture was the first to heavily stress the importance of company culture, and now it’s something that large corporations are focused on, as well as small businesses. A strong company culture has many positive by-products, including stronger company morale, improved productivity and increased sales and revenue. This year, watch for more small businesses to focus on building a strong company culture and improved working environments.” — James Goodnow, Founding Partner of Lamber Goodnow.

5. Brands will target Millennials via personalized marketing.

“Millennials require a different approach when it comes to marketing to them, and now it’s come to a point where they almost demand personalized marketing. When you, as a brand, are able to connect with them on a personal level you not only generate sales, but you create a loyal customer that becomes a brand advocate. This is very valuable, as it often results in free promotion across social media, as well as word of mouth marketing.” — Jim Kang, CEO of VAPOR SOLO USA.

6. Larger focus on a ‘fun’ workplace.

“Happy employees are productive employees, which is why we are seeing a major shift when it comes to creating a fun workplace. Also, it helps directly with employee retention rates and turnover. Employees that feel welcomed and feel like they are well taken care of stick around longer and became a more valuable asset to the business. From posh break rooms to team outings, more small businesses are focused on making their teams happy.” — Michael Angel Plaza, CEO of Compare the Financial Markets.

7. Outsourcing will be more common with small businesses.

“Outsourcing used to be something that large corporations did in an effort to save money. Now, small businesses are taking advantage of outsourcing, for both the cost savings as well as the convenience. It allows them to identify specialist for smaller jobs that they wouldn’t be able to handle with just their in-house employees. The many different freelance marketplaces available have also helped to introduce many small business owners to the advantages of outsourcing.” — Neil Peterson, CEO of Repair.Credit.

8. More attention will be focused around cyber security.

“After the Equifax data breach last year, cyber security became a hot topic among small businesses. Spending the time and money to make sure the business, as well as its customer’s data is safe, is now a major focus point. More small businesses are also realizing that in addition to safety measures, they need to invest in testing to ensure they are up to par.” — Adam Boalt, CEO and founder of Travel Visa.

9. Small business will use more micro-influencers.

“Influencer marketing has been extremely popular, especially with large brands, but as we head into the new year, expect to see more small businesses getting in on the action, specifically with micro-influencers. These niche-specific influencers not only have a much more precise and targeted audience, but their cost is much lower than more well-known social media celebrities and influencers.” — Jake Braun, Co-founder of Kapok Marketing.