Like no other year that has come before, 2016 is shaping up to be a very encouraging year for both long time and newly minted small business owners, due in no small part to an increased emphasis on “tech” in a broad range of business functions. Thanks to the swelling numbers of Millennials in the workplace, there is a reinvention in the way businesses manage employees and get things done. On average, millennial workers are concerned about staying innovative, and for them that includes transparency in the activities of the businesses they choose to work for and early adoption of new technologies almost immediately once they’ve been introduced. In general, that’s translated to a move towards low-cost, high-quality solutions with a focus on the internet and social media that stand to shake up what we consider business as usual.
One of the most prominent shifts is how small businesses are building and maintaining their web presence. Businesses are wising up to the prospect that the web allows for tighter control over message and branding, and social media combined with a strong web presence can help to increase customer engagement. Though almost half of small businesses don’t have a web presence that number is steadily changing, in large part due to services that make obtaining a website much easier.
We’ve talked a bit about how cloud hosting is beneficial for small businesses, and many businesses are taking this to heart, using the technique to manage and grow their web presence on a budget. There is also an increase in the use of services such as Wix and Squarespace to build straightforward, to-the-point business websites. Their drag-and-drop interfaces and integrated storefront services options, along with minimal need of coding knowledge are making them a favorite of those trying to get their web presence off the ground without breaking the bank. For those businesses that don’t quite have the time to update social media every day, there are new services including 99 Dollar Social that are coming to the rescue and managing social feeds and blog content for a monthly fee.
Ecommerce continues to blossom, again emboldened by names like Squarespace. That’s not the only name out there making a change though. Plenty of other services are getting in on the action, prompted by the growing number of consumers turning to electronic shopping for more and more of their needs. There’s an ever increasing number of these payments being done via smart phone, creating a burgeoning area of focus known commonly as m-commerce, along with the use of social media (also called social commerce) to move goods and services. Of course, the rise in online transactions also creates an increased need for those transactions to be secure. In the wake of repeated data breaches, it has become essential to better safeguard consumer information against the fraudulent actions of cyber-criminals.
Small Business Lending is also getting a tech makeover. Whereas in the past doing a traditional bank loan was one of the only options for a young business to get initial capital, the internet has given a rise to new kinds of lending partners that are getting the word out online. These innovative teams of money professionals are revolutionizing the ways that smaller and mid-sized organizations generate working capital. Expect an upswing in similar services, as well as peer-to-peer lending platforms that connect institutional investors directly to small businesses through complete online marketplaces: Lending Club, Prosper, Fundera, etc. The options don’t end there, however. There’s also a popular trend towards crowdfunding. AngelList, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter are all generating large amounts for those looking to fund cutting-edge business prospects.
Lastly, data analysis in the form of business intelligence is another process leading a big wave of trends. BI allows executives and business managers to make use of a variety of software tools to collect data from various sources and perform computational analyses that are transformed into actionable strategies. It’s a growing field poised to make changes in optimizing internal organizational efficiency, identifying new revenue streams, spot market trends, and in general gain competitive advantages over business rivals. The most advanced of these BI programs function as “business dashboards” that allow users to view all their pertinent information in real-time.
Clearly, technological support, especially small business, will continue to grow, with many of the most useful apps developed by micro start-ups with big visions.