Another year is nearly in the books. For small business owners, that means the time to start planning for 2024 is now. While no one can predict exactly what the future will hold, there are plenty of trends entrepreneurs can monitor right now to stay prepared for challenges and opportunities in the days ahead. With potential impacts for both day-to-day operations and the long term picture, the following trends should inform your small business strategy in the new year.
- Artificial intelligence is here to stay. There’s no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot button issue with implications that go well beyond the tech space. AI is at the forefront of many sectors, including business. In fact, according to Constant Contact’s Small Business Now Report, 91% of small businesses who are currently using AI say it has made their business more successful. With benefits for marketing, operations, and more, it may be worth looking into how AI can improve your business.
- But don’t forget about the human touch. In a day and age that is becoming increasingly digital, soft skills are more valuable than ever before. Artificial intelligence may be the future, but emotional intelligence is still very much the now. A recent study by Redpoint Global found that 77% of consumers believe positive customer experience still requires human interaction — all the more reason to make sure you and your employees continue to hone your interpersonal skills. With courses such as “Understanding Your Customer” and “Sales,” the SBA Learning Center can help.
- Customer experience is everything. Price and product quality are important, but the concept of the “customer experience economy” reigns supreme. What does that mean for your business? Creating a positive customer experience at every level, from research to point of sale. Meet the customer where they are, whether that’s online or in-person, and personalize their journey as much as possible.
- Sustainability is important to customers. Few things are as critical to today’s customer as sustainability. According to a recent study by NielsenIQ, 78% of US consumers say that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them, and they want to patronize businesses that share those values. Luckily, the SBA has some ideas of how you can lower your carbon footprint.
- Cybersecurity is a must in a data-driven economy. As data collection and analysis become standard processes, consumers want to know that their information is secure and responsibly managed. 67% of smartphone users are concerned about data security and privacy on their phones. Fortunately, there are a variety of steps you can take to protect your customers, as well as yourself, from cyber threats.
2024 stands to be an exciting year for the small business community, and the SBA wants to help make sure you’re ready for whatever is in store. Consult our resource partner network for no- or low-cost counseling and training and visit the SBA Learning Platform for a wealth of educational materials. Be sure to follow SBA on Facebook, X, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up with more business trends throughout the year.