2016 Business Predictions — Experts Weigh In

We’re a couple weeks into 2016, and we’re already starting to see some trends form. In our industry specifically, we’ve been noticing the following:

1.We are seeing a growth in small business s-corporation elections to minimize the risk of audit and put owners of the business on payroll to save on potential employment taxes. This is a trend because as small businesses incur more expenses (increasing minimum wages in many states, health care costs and the cost of employees), they are looking for ways to save on taxes.  Business owners who put themselves on form an s-corporation and put themselves on payroll are able to save on self-employment taxes because they only pay self-employment taxes on the salaried portion of their income (as long as the salary is reasonable) and not on the remainder of the income. 

2. We see growing number of small businesses looking to protect intellectual property (trademarks & copyrights) by filing with the US Patent and Trademark and US Copyright Offices. Trademarks have always been a way for businesses who invest in their intellectual property to protect their rights, however, when businesses are building a brand, they are seeing it more as a start-up step than something to deal with down the road.  Small businesses are investing in their intellectual property and realizing the importance of it as they grow their businesses.

3. Small businesses will be expected to provide over-the-top service by a customer based that is increasingly focused on service as a differentiator.  We have found that our customers come to us because they are looking for a higher-touch, more customer friendly approach.  While many businesses are moving toward automation to save on employment costs with a focus on increasing their return on investment, many times customer continue to look for service and support above automation.  While many thought that millennials and subsequent generations would not care about service, they actually happen to be looking for answers and information.  They like to communicate when they want answers.  So, assuming that focusing on next-generation services means automation and less interface, is, from our perspective, the wrong approach.  2016 will uncover that service continues to be a key area of business success for small businesses.

We wanted to ask our small business experts what trends they’re seeing in their industries, and overall for 2016. Here’s what they had to say…

“Education based marketing is starting to catch on for SMBs. They are beginning to understand marketing is not selling; but selling is marketing. 

By educating their potential sales leads and current customers, they are able to attract and retain the attention of those individuals. 

This type of marketing may take a little longer, but it is far more sustainable than the traditional product or pitch marketing. 

Social media sites especially LinkedIn for B2B businesses and blogs amplify this type of marketing approach.” –Leanne Hoagland-Smith, ADVANCED SYSTEMS

“Paying attention to Paid Social Media traffic, it is trending now and has been very cost effective to generate leads and sales with the right strategy. Additionally, content generation. The top websites that rank high on search engines invest in quality content marketing strategies that give great value to a new prospect to develop trust and authority. More businesses are realizing this is how to get customers long term.” –Rahul Alim, Custom Creatives 

“​For 2016 there is definitely an abundance of content marketing. This is when a company puts out content to educate its customers. This is typically in the form of ebooks, infographics, or webinars. It is a great way for a small business to position themselves as in industry expert.” –Octavia J. Gilmore, Creative Juice LLC

“One thing I’ve noticed is the sale mentality that everyone has these days. There are many people who won’t buy anything (including financial services software) unless they get a discount or it’s on sale. For 5 years I had never offered a sale or discount. Then last 4th of July I had my first ever discount and sent an email to my list of a couple thousand people (who get my free newsletter monthly). The response was amazing — 75 new subscriptions in 48 hours all taking advantage of the discount. The lesson is clear — no matter what your product you must have sales, coupons, or discounts, before some people will even look at it.” –Mike Scanlin, Born to Sell 

“I expect 2016 to bring all sorts of different customer service perks. More and more businesses are seeing the benefit of taking customer loyalty to another level and I am all on board with that one. Truly listening to our customers’ needs and making them a part of the solution is what I see to be the biggest business relationship builder.” –Roberta Perry, Scrubz Body Scrub, Inc. 

“I’m seeing companies much more focused on diversity and fostering environments consisting of unity, equality and inclusion. I’m also seeing a more significant focus on increasing the daily happiness and fulfillment levels of employees. Employees are much more concerned these days with the office atmosphere, the interactions with their colleagues, feeling appreciated by management and being encouraged to grow personally and professionally. Lastly, I’m seeing companies turn more towards technology to save money, streamline operations, assist with marketing efforts, and help owners achieve improved reporting capabilities.” – Tali Raphaely, Armour Title Company

“One trend that I’m seeing is the continued reliance on outside services marketplaces. I know I’ve relied on online marketplaces when I’ve needed design help, engineering help, or any job one can outsource. This is helpful for small businesses because these are critical needs that can be fulfilled by outside sources without having to hire someone full-time.” –Pete Abilla, Find Tutors Near Me 

“We are going to see a greater focus on data driven metrics in the ecommerce space which is going to allow for greater targeting of customers, this Big Data. Additionally, we are seeing a greater emphasis on on-demand services as retail stores close. Yesterday it was announced Macy’s is closing stores as well as Walmart, so we will see a greater peer-to peer marketplace.” –Freeman Lewin, Gimmee Jimmy’s Cookies 

“We are seeing, both in our company and in our clients’ businesses, a move towards marketing automation, which allows you to send personalized content to the right person, at the right time, at the right place. It then nurtures your leads and sells them through education, ideally turning them into lifelong customers. It’s all automated, meaning once you implement some of the details in to your chosen software, you don’t have to do a thing! (Well, not much anyways). Rather, trigger actions will initiate certain marketing content customized to the target prospect.” –Lauren Pawell, Bixa Media

“Social Media will continue to be a highly discussed business and marketing topics for corporations and small businesses. Instead of Facebook and Instagram dominating ad spend, Snapchat looks poised to be the next big medium that businesses will tackle. The nature of Snapchat will increasingly force brands and businesses to adopt a culture of 24/7 creation of micro content. All of this will lead to major questions, the most important being, how will businesses translate Snapchat success to their ROI.” –Jason Khoo, Ron Wave Design 

“In 2016, technology is playing a bigger role than ever in every business, but I see it especially in marketing. There is a convergence of marketing and technology so much that it is difficult to do any marketing without using a digital tool. This will only get more prevalent in 2016 and beyond, not just for marketing and especially for all small businesses. It makes our lives easier, comes at a cost and is instrumental in the growth of small businesses.” –Sandi Webster, Consultants 2 Go 

“With the advent and growth of Periscope, Blab, Merkat and other platforms, we will see live streaming video becoming even more popular and new platforms will emerge. Live streaming video is a must for marketers to communicate with their existing audience and fill their pipeline of prospective customers. Existing and new platforms will make monetizing videos available.” –Eileen Batson, Batson Group Marketing PR

“More success in trend-stacking to maximize the potential of having a viable product. This term represents combining 2-3 hot sales items that have attracted an outstanding following to create a super product. Additionally, we’ll see an increase in the need to use multiple income technology (MIT)–Multiple income technology allows business owners to tie all of their revenue streams together into one very smart package. The technology gathers data that allows owners to possess focused marketing strategies to their email lists based on their customers’ gathered and stored preferences.” –Linda Murray Bullard, LSMB Business Solutions 

“The business trends I see coming for 2016 is small businesses making the transition to cloud according to a study made this year companies will have to make the transition or will see lost in their revenue. They will have to adapt to the enterprise architecture. The other trend I see in the horizon is Integration. Integration will be an important key in 2016 and beyond platforms with the capability to integrate with other platforms will dominate the market.” –Taylor Murray, CallTools.com 

“I think the biggest trend in 2016 that will affect small businesses everywhere is the growing expectations of consumers. Not only will consumers shop for the best prices, but they will expect the best customer service and experience. I see small business owners viewing legitimate customer complaints as their number one priority moving forward in 2016. Competition will be fierce because of the growing demand of great customer experience established by Amazon. In a nutshell small business owners need to operate their business like your parents are watching over your shoulders. Honestly, authenticity and reliability will the three keys to staying a relevant small business in 2016.” –Lisa Chu, Black N Bianco Children’s Clothing

“I predict that businesses start moving from pouring budgets into SEO & web development to paid advertising, like Google AdWords and directing traffic to dedicated landing pages for high conversion.” –Jonathan Poston, Yiveo

“What we have seen in the tourism world, is that people are willing to pay for *experiences*, and even more so for unique ones! We are based out of Portland and without a doubt this city is going to be a hot destination for 2016.” –Skyler Lanning, Wildwood Adventures  

“Already I’ve been seeing the rise of the micropreneur and I feel that 2016 will really explode in that area even more. Entrepreneurs that are running a business from a cart or shared workspace VS storefront shops, employees and high overhead. With the rise of the digital nomad and more creative people becoming self-employed, the guy that has a food cart to sell “Designer S’mores” (Yes I’ve had one and it was awesome!) has tools like Square and an iPad and can open shop pretty much anywhere. Think like the small town that has its own micro-economy and prefers to do business with those they know personally VS bigger established businesses.” –Ely Delaney, Your Marketing University 

“An increase in mobile marketing and cloud computing over on-site deployment as well as an increase in B2B Startups as well as Subscription Box Retail. 

Cloud computing is quickly taking over way we do business, specifically in SaaS (Software as a Service) businesses as well as general small business website hosting. Considering the ultra-redundant reliability of cloud and its A. relatively low price tag, and B. Pay-Per-Use model employed by many hosting companies- Small Businesses are increasingly choosing to host and provide with cloud-based services. I see no reason to believe this trend will not continue. Mobile Marketing is becoming more and more popular as well- be that through SMS marketing or mobile apps there are few large businesses that don’t offer one or the other and the small businesses are following suit. As smart phones become more ingrained into our daily lives they offer a never before seen pipeline directly into the hands of the consumers and small businesses are taking advantage of that. There is no shortage of companies willing to provide this service and the costs of developing a mobile app or deploying an SMS strategy are becoming more affordable.” –David Dumas, MyLaunchKits.com 

“A few trends I am seeing in my small business are Apps, and wearable technology. 

It seems like anything we do in our day to day routine we are constantly using or looking for Apps on our phone. There are so many awesome app developers it is hard to stay away. Almost addictive. 

As for wearable technology it seems there are a lot of people wearing them and I can see why. You can track wellness and productivity all while talking and surfing the net all with one small device. Now that’s multitasking. I am sure there will be tons of new features for them in 2016.” –Teddy Poulos, Charlotte Locksmith Local 

“Reliance by small and medium-sized businesses on freelancers and independent contractors for administrative and virtual-assistant work, marketing, writing, media relations, website design and management and more. With the tight economy and increases in unreasonable government mandates on businesses, it’s become more risky and cost-prohibitive to hire employees for many jobs that used to be staffed in-house. Hiring freelancers and independents on a project-by-project basis eliminates much of the financial liability a business owner would otherwise have to assume and enables a company to pay only for the hours it actually needs and that the service provider is actually working. If someone turns out not to be a good fit for a job, there’s no hassle involved in letting him or her go because that simply means not hiring that person again for future assignments. This rightfully empowers business owners again to better manage their budgets, needs and short- and long-term goals. It also enables the service providers to accept or decline work/projects/assignments based upon their own availability. For instance, a busy mom or dad can accept work to do from home, around the children’s school schedule, and an independent service provider can schedule vacation time per his own preference rather than around the preferences of everyone else in his office or department. For years I’ve seen the newspapers and magazines for which I’ve worked shrink and rely more and more upon freelance correspondents like me.” –Nora Firestone, Step-by-Step Presentations

“I see people wanting to know who runs the company, what the company stands for as well as why the customer should trust the company. Many consumers are unwilling to buy from a brand on Amazon or from a store if they can’t find a trustworthy website that tells them about the brand.” –Louise Hendon, Paleo Flourish Magazine  

“Continued growth in mobile e-commerce, and more demand for websites and tools really built around mobile interaction (not just optimized versions of desktop sites.) 

Continued explosive growth in ecommerce in the developing world, playing into the mobile trend. A billion people are getting their hands on a smartphone and 4G network and starting to buy stuff online. 

The beginning of virtual reality for e-commerce-Samsung has come out with a VR headset for its S6 Galaxy and soon merchants will start to offer 3d shopping.” –Boris Kogan, Marketing, Bontact

“Thanks to the huge rise in internet enabled devices, the software and technology industry is currently seeing huge innovation in all directions. The latest trend arising for websites in 2016 is a change from the somewhat dull but traditional user experience of viewing a website page-by-page, with all the waiting time in-between. Instead, the latest wave of websites are becoming realtime, interactive, websites that constantly engage their audience, replicating the rich user experience that consumers have come accustomed to, from using mobile and tablet apps.” –Lewis Wright, TaskStack

“We’re already seeing that our customers are buying at more diverse times of the day, on more diverse devices, than this time last year. 

Traditionally we’d see people researching their choices and narrowing down the products they want in their home over the course of a week, and then buying at home on a weekend, from a desktop or laptop. 

But we’re now seeing 12-13% more users coming through and buying on mobilesand tablets at any point in the week, smoothing out the traditional peaks at weekends. It’s an interesting trend that we hope will continue – it means our manufacturing staff have a more consistent flow of work through, rather than peaks and troughs.” –Darren Green, Roman Blinds Direct

“As a firm that markets to and serves hundreds of small businesses and their owners, we are seeing a significant shift away from traditional employment structures. Our owners want to cut costs, avoid tangling with ACA, and outsource as many functions as possible to subcontractors rather than employees. The freelance economy is here.” –Chantal Sheehan, Team Holly CPA & Co 

“Lumentus is a digital communications firm. We have noticed that many companies that traditionally tried to stay under the radar, like financial services firms and B2B companies, are coming to us to launch websites, content strategies and social media. Businesses of all sizes and specialities are realizing that the business process begins with a Google search and results provide added credibility. Many people won’t do business with someone they can’t find online or someone that has a bad online reputation.” –Grant Greenberg, Lumentus