Big Opportunities for Small Business: Six Predictions for 2017

55019217-happy-new-year-2017-with-fireworks-backgroundSmall business owners are cautiously optimistic going into 2017.  According to the PNC Economic Outlook Survey, 71 percent of business owners are optimistic about the U.S. economy — the most since the fall of 2005.  When asked what term best describes their feelings about their business prospects, 55 percent chose “hope.”

The positive attitude should bode well for small businesses who want to seize opportunities and prosper in the New Year. Here are some of top trends that are destined to give small businesses a boost.

1.  Cloud-Based Software.  The use of technology to accelerate small business growth will continue in 2017. Cloud-based solutions give small firms the ability to access sophisticated software programs affordably, allowing them to compete more effectively with larger entities. Many of the SaaS providers are designing programs specifically for the SMB market.  New data from Intuit and Emergent Research reveals that by 2020, 78 percent of small businesses will be “fully adapted” to cloud computing. That’s more than double the current 37 percent adoption rate.

2.  Mobile.  Once a “nice to have”, a mobilized Internet presence is a “must have” today.  More and more people are turning to their mobile device than ever before.  The adoption rate for mobile use is 8x faster than web adoption in the 1990s and early 2000’s. The number of small businesses with a mobilized presence should nearly double in the coming year.

3.  Big Data.  Big Data is another hot trend for small businesses in 2017.  Once considered a resource only available to large companies, small businesses can now access big data and use it to make wiser business decisions.  There is big data in the broad sense in terms of what is trending, demographics, etc. which is accessible via resources such as Google Trends or Small businesses can also compile and mine their own data for decision-making.  Leveraging opt-in email programs, social media platforms and surveys, small firms can gather critical information about their customers’ buying habits and needs.

4.  Crowdfunding.  Access to capital has long been an issue for small businesses and crowdfunding was a new way for small firms to circumvent traditional lending. In May, 2016, the SEC issued regulations to allow unaccredited investors to make equity investments in crowdfunded businesses. As such, 2017 will bring a burst of activity in this market, significantly increasing access to capital.

5.  Online lending. Another area of growth in 2017 for small businesses is online lending. In this environment, small companies can go to one website, fill out an application and get responses from a host of traditional lenders. This gives a business owner the chance to shop for the best option without going to each financial institution individually.

6.  Benefit packages:  As we reach full-employment in the U.S., small businesses who are ready to hire are finding it more difficult to compete for the talent they need to grow. As such, during the coming year I believe we’ll see more firms making an investment in comprehensive benefits packages that feature non-medical must-haves, such as dental, vision and life insurance. Not only will these programs attract new employees, but they will also retain existing talent. According to “The Benefits of Benefits for Small Businesses” from MetLife, benefits are an important reason why employees stick around. The report shows that employees are 35 percent more likely to stay in companies that offer 5 or more benefits.  Popular benefit packages include more than the standard fare, and we expect there to be increasing attention paid to unique benefits, such as legal services.

Now you have my six predictions for 2017.  What do you see in your crystal ball?

Editor’s note:  This content is sponsored by MetLife, but all throughts and opinions are entirely my own.