It’s an exciting time for small business owners, and modern technology and innovation has created an unprecedented number of opportunities for small businesses to compete head-to-head for market share with larger rivals.
However, innovation has also led to a number of new challenges for small businesses, and leaders are forced to constantly adapt to the evolving economy or run the risk of falling behind the times and becoming obsolete.
Here’s a look at five small business trends from Credibly that might surprise you.
The Decline of Organic Social Media
No, social media is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it has become more important than ever in terms of brand awareness. However, with the growing number of paid advertising content and the sheer flood of business-related information being dumped on social media platforms, it has become nearly impossible for a small business employee to single-handedly make a meaningful impact on business by managing social media accounts.
In fact, Contently.net claims that any brand with fewer than 1 million Twitter or Facebook followers is better off paying the two sites for sponsored update promotion than paying an employee to post content.
Crowdfunding is certainly not a new concept, but the ink is not yet dry on Title III of the JOBS Act. Title III, which gained approval in late October of 2015, allows non-accredited retail investors access to equity crowdfunding for the first time ever. That means that small businesses will have access to capital from thousands of small “micro-investors” that can pool their money and provide alternative financial backing.
Women Taking the Reins
Women have gained a lot of social, political and business traction in recent decades. Despite the major strides, women still hold less than 30% of the leadership positions in U.S. businesses. In addition, only 15% of Fortune 500 companies have women in a top leadership position.
While there is still plenty of progress to be made, women’s role in small business leadership has surged. A recent Salesforce survey found that 40% of small business leaders are now women. The Institute of Women’s Policy Research also found that the number of women-owned businesses has climbed 68% since 2007.
Replacing Jobs with Gigs
Part of the fallout from the Financial Crisis and the Affordable Care Act has been the explosion in part-time employment. The result is that much of the workforce has now cobbled together careers working multiple part-time jobs and utilizing a variety of skills.
Small business owners, particularly ones that have a total number of employees near the new 49-employee maximum for exemption from the health insurance mandate, are increasingly taking advantage of the abundance of skilled workers seeking part-time work.
Hiring multiple part-time workers rather than a single full-time worker can also allow for more efficiency and specialization. Even as the U.S. economy has recovered, the ratio of part-time-to-full-time workers remains near all-time pre-crisis highs.
What kind of proper trends list would this be without at least one technology buzzword catchphrase?
Ambient proximity refers to the ability for smartphones to autonomously interact with local “beacons.” Apple and other retailers have begun using beacons for in-store customer service notifications, special offer promotions, and personalized marketing messages.
This technology can also be used for businesses to collect crucial customer demographic and behavior data. For example, businesses utilizing this technology can send personalized messages and deals to customers’ phones as soon as they walk into the store based on customer preferences, previous shopping habits, location and other data.
The relatively inexpensive beacons offer an excellent opportunity for small business to take a first step into the connected business world.
This list is just a small sample of some of the more surprising and lesser-known trends in small business, but there is certainly a lot more happening. Small business also continues the push toward more commonly-known trends, including cloud storage, alternative energy, 3D printing, and mobile payments technology. With all these exciting trends changing the small business world on a daily basis, there has never been a more exciting time to be a small business owner.
Wayne Duggan contributed to this article.