Small Business Trends 2016: Are You In the Loop?

April 6, 2016 Alyson Shane

4 trends you have to know.

Small Business Trends 2016

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a freelancer or a small business owner with a dedicated team at your disposal, it’s crucial to stay on top of the variety of trends emerging in 2016.

As we move into Q2, many small businesses are looking for ways to increase brand awareness, reach more customers and optimize their business. We’ve seen some key trends emerging this year that may benefit your small business.

1. Adopting Agile Scrum Methodologies

Businesses who have adopted “agile” methodologies organize their project management workflows differently than other organizations by breaking projects down into two to four-week product development chunks. By focusing on more short-term goals instead of one long-term goal, businesses can increase their productivity and develop products faster.

Agile scrum differs from traditional methods of working for months or even years to develop a single product all at once, and forces businesses to focus on building smaller parts of a product at once, ironing out the kinks as they go and deciding on whether they should continue in the same direction or pivot based on the results.

Adopting this methodology allows small businesses to compete with larger organizations who have dedicated research and development departments because instead of wasting time with ideas that don’t work, they can quickly determine if the project is worth pursuing any further and choose to either continue in the same direction, to pivot and rethink the idea, or to abandon it altogether and invest their time in another idea.

2. Focusing on eCommerce and Free Shipping

The knowledge that online purchases have been increasing isn’t anything new, but a recent study published stated that 58% of global consumers are willing to add more items to their virtual shopping carts to qualify for free shipping.

With this in mind, if your small business runs an eCommerce store then consider offering a perk for shopping online. This can help you increase the number of items each customer buys. When customers start bundling their purchases it keeps shipping costs down and money in your pocket.

Simply adding notifications like “you’re $10 away from free shipping” can change consumer behaviour and prompt them to spend a little extra, so you don’t have to.

3. Content Is Still King

Businesses have always known that getting their message out there and connecting with their customers is the key to keeping the lights on. However, in 2015 a new player entered the arena and continues to dominate online conversations. It’s name? Content marketing.

Content marketing is a strategic approach to marketing that involves creating and distributing relevant, valuable and timely content to engage with a particular target audience. Instead of focusing on a product-based message, content marketing instead concentrates on the consumers and then tailors the message to be less formal, more consistent and less invasive than ever before. Think blog posts, social media messages, e-newsletters and the like. It’s about thought-leadership and providing true value to the customer through written formats, images, audio and video.

This is a boon for small businesses who don’t have large marketing budgets to spend on ads and media buys each month. Instead, it provides them with the opportunity to connect with their target audiences and do so in a friendly and helpful manner, which builds trust with your customer base.

4. Gain Leverage by Going Lean

If you’ve been running a tech-based business the last few years, it may have left a bad taste in your mouth as you watched “unicorn companies” (companies with a $1 billion valuation) gorge on investor money. However, according to sources like Inc.com and Fortune Magazine, 2016 is the year the IPO market will begin to slow. You may start to see valuations on companies like Evernote, Dropbox and Twitter begin to fail.

As a result, companies who have stayed away from aggressive investment and rapid growth have the advantage as we move further into 2016. In fact, companies who have adopted “lean” methodologies will have more staying power. Namely, not hiring huge full-time teams but rather, focusing on creating unique and meaningful products or services and then allowing your company to grow at a natural, organic rate will put you in a better position throughout the rest of the year.

Businesses in Winnipeg have been hip to this trend since 2015. In the past year, New Media Manitoba, a local non-profit dedicated to providing support and economic opportunities to local businesses, has been keeping their business finger on the “lean” pulse.

The organization has brought in Alistair Croll, the author of Lean Analytics, to speak to the startup and business community on several occasions about how to scale and grow in a sustainable manner. By tapping into the knowledge of one of the leaders in lean analytics and methodologies, dozens of local companies have already been taught tools and methods of thinking which will serve them well in 2016 and beyond.

Have you noticed any small business trends worth mentioning? Tell us in the comments!

About the Author

Alyson Shane

Alyson is a Winnipeg writer, content marketer and social media manager. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric & Communications from the University of Winnipeg and runs her own business providing businesses and individuals with their copywriting, content marketing strategy and social media needs. She lives and breathes digital culture and has been nicknamed the "Queen of the Internet" by her Twitter followers. When not online she can be found gardening, riding her bike or sipping fancy coffee.

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