2017 may be flying by, but no matter what time of year it is, it’s always important to keep an eye on the biggest small business trends you could be taking advantage of in your office or storefront. Some of these trends may fall out of fashion quickly, and won’t help your business reach new heights. Others may prove to be extremely valuable, spurring new growth and positive change within your organization. But how do you know which trends are worth following, and which might be a poor choice for your business? The truth is you might not always know, and you may have to experiment a little to find out what works best for your business. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up 6 promising small business trends to explore in 2017.
1. Niching Down
It’s so difficult to get your marketing message across when you’re trying to target everyone in this digital world. It just doesn’t work—you need a specific audience. The struggles of retailers who are trying to do everything at once only illustrate this point—you can’t speak to your audience if you don’t know who that audience is. As a new startup or a small business, finding a niche you excel in might be one of the best decisions you can make. As an example? Take American Giant. This clothing company excels in making hoodies—and very little else. As the word got out, however, they couldn’t keep those hoodies off the shelf, because they were ethically made and designed to last—features that spoke to their ideal customers. Think this might be a good idea for your business? Just make sure you’re making your niche something timeless—something there will always be demand for. The exception to niching down? Giants like Amazon, who have managed to hyper target their advertising to individual customers, based on big data and past history.
2. Sustainability Initiatives
Sustainability is an issue that affects everyone, but the Millennial generation is often the most highly focused on it. As we move into an era in which this generation wields the greatest spending power, sustainability is coming in on many small businesses’ radar for financial reasons. Nielson reported that about 3 out of 4 of these customers are willing to spend more on sustainable products, which makes investing in developing or redeveloping products to be more sustainable an attractive option for even small businesses. It may cost more to produce these items, but businesses can charge more for them and enhance overall brand image.
With so many Software as a Service (SaaS) companies popping up to help small businesses automate internal systems, it’s becoming easier and more economical than ever to streamline a small business’s processes. Since staying lean is important for a small business’s survival, automating as many processes as possible is a great way to cut down on costs and make the most of employees’ time. Freeing them up from the easy, boring, and repeatable tasks leaves employees more time for creative projects and other duties that are impossible to automate.
4. Engaging with Customers in New Ways
Now that we have the data and communication tools to engage with customers online, it’s becoming important to customer service and marketing to use them to their full advantage. Chatting with customers through facebook messenger, on live chat, and through other mediums like video and mobile. Customers expect businesses to be responsive and helpful in whatever medium is most convenient for them.
Crowdfunding for small businesses is about more than just getting some extra money in the bank for a new product or expansion. It’s a great way for small businesses to test the viability of a product idea with the actual customers. People who back crowdfunding projects are the eventual target market and they can give vital feedback on the product in its early stages.
6. AI Use
Though AI still has massive limitations in practical application, it continues to become more sophisticated and relevant every day. Chatbots are one example of AI’s growing role in the business world. These bots enhance the customer experience by being available at all times, while assisting the human side of customer service. While some AI options are cost prohibitive for small businesses, the technology will only get cheaper as it becomes more readily available.