Trends. When you work in a small business, who has time to follow them?
While whether truffles are still cool, Brad Pitt is still shaving the side of his head, or if Uggz are making a comeback (they’re not) may or may not concern you, trends in business probably should. Because much like the often-less-relevant trends in food, clothes and hairstyles, these are ones you’ll need to be on top of in the coming year.
So what will be the biggest business trends of 2015? From recruitment practices to handling your social media to the businesses that’ll be the next Uber, here are the 10 trends to watch next year.
- Increased investment in training – There’s nothing better than waiting in line while the old man working the checkout stand struggles to understand the mind-blowing technological innovation that is the “void” button. And even if your company’s training is slightly more involved, keeping your employees up to date on your industry and the world around them is essential. So much so that The 2014 Corporate Learning Factbook showed businesses increased training and education spending 15 percent in 2013.
- Growing importance of work/life balance – While it seems your Facebook feed is full of people humble bragging about spending 80 hours a week in the office, it’s also strangely full of people posting pictures of scenic bike rides on a Tuesday. That’s because millennials value work-life balance more than they do money, and as more of them enter the workforce, it will become an essential recruiting tool. The days of working well-paid employees to the bone is over, even in a cash-strapped small business.
- Consumers preferring quality over price – Watching this economy is not unlike watching afternoon traffic: Sure it’s making progress but in the meantime everybody still seems pretty ticked off. That being said, things ARE getting a little better, so consumers aren’t only looking for the lowest price anymore. Charging more for a good thing – whether it’s craft beer, designer clothes, or a skilled hairstyle – isn’t going to scare people away.
- Increased and outsourced content production – The Content Marketing Institute found B2B firms are largely planning to ramp up content production for 2015. What does this mean for your business? It means having more information on blogs, social media, your website and the internet in general is going to be a driving factor in who comes through your doors. And how do you produce content with 28 hours-worth of things to do in a day? Outsourcing, the catchy little B-side to this content production trend.
- Social media driving consumer spending – As if Facebook and Twitter didn’t pretty much run the world already, now they’re getting into the direct sales games with convenient little “buy” buttons next to status updates, ads and other items showing up in your feed. So if you can get your product shown prominently on these social networks, and set it up so people can buy it, you may see some drastic improvements.
- Millennials and minorities becoming your largest growing markets – This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, just don’t let your business become that old man on the porch complaining about the kids. Even if you don’t think your product necessarily appeals to a younger or under-represented audience, find a way for it to do that. Millennials make up over a quarter of the population, and nearly half say they depend on social media to make purchases.
- Personalization of EVERYTHING – You know what else millennials love? Themselves. And since few seem to mind telling large corporations all of their personal and purchasing habits, it means they expect businesses to cater to them specifically. Big Data makes large amounts of consumer data available to small businesses, and since you’re smaller it’ll be easier for you to parlay that into personal promotions and services for your younger clients.
- Personal assistant apps – Along the same lines, personal assistant apps are one of the largest growing segments of the tech-service sector. And how do we know they’re primed to become a major segment in 2015? Because a couple of companies called Google and Yahoo just spend some serious cash to acquire Emo and Donna – both PS apps. And as they go, so goes the rest of the industry.
- Short-term access businesses – If you like reading things longer than listicles, The Atlantic Monthly recently wrote an interesting piece about how millennials are prioritizing access to large goods over buying them. Look no further than car2go and bike shares for proof of that. And since this market of lendership is accelerating, it can be applied to smaller things like high-end clothes, jewelry, and one-time-use super gadgets.
- Social responsibility – A Lab43 survey found that 84 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a product they felt was socially responsible. Whether or not that actually translates into what they DO is debatable – since Walmart still seems to be doing well – but as a small business you don’t have the resources to afford a bad public image. As social media drives spending habits, so does it drive attitudes.