Small Business Labs, from Emergent Research, recently released their 8th annual top 10 small business technology, economic, and social trends list for 2015. Small Business Labs forecasts continued expansion in cloud and mobile computing tools, which it believes will drive long-term fundamental changes in business processes and structures. In addition, the U.S. economy for 2015 looks to be solid despite signs of a global slowdown, although economic uncertainty and a continued lack of job stability will spurn social shifts and changes in consumer behavior. Here are the top 10 forecasted trends for 2015.
Cloud Automation: New cloud automation tools are simplifying business processes in several areas, including accounting, payroll, inventory management, and HR and benefits administration. This will enable an unprecedented optimization of workflows, saving both time and money for small businesses.
Ambient Proximity: The growing deployment of beacons (which seamlessly and automatically connect smartphones with nearby computers) is enabling real-time interactions between retailers and their in-store customer. Look for a marked increase in applications such as in-store customer service notifications, special upgrade offers, and personalized marketing messages.
3D Printing: The technical shortcomings typically associated with 3D printing technologies have been resolved through improved hardware, cheaper and better performing input materials, and the emergence of 3D printing service providers. Look for 3D printing to become an increasingly viable small business prototyping tool in 2015.
Security and Privacy: With all the high profile cyber security breaches in the news of late and higher than ever rates of cybercrime targeting small businesses, data security and privacy have become top priorities for business owners. Expect 2015 to be a year where online security and privacy become top priorities for small business owners.
Energy: The rapid fall of oil prices of late will have both positive and negative impacts on the economy in 2015. While consumers will be able to enjoy lower energy bills, this will also slow the U.S. energy sector, which has been one of the strongest instigators of recent economic growth.
Crowdfunding: Since more and more small businesses have found success raising money via crowdfunding platforms, expect significant growth in this area. In 2015, it’s expected that equity crowdfunding will start to gain traction, with legislation making this a viable option in around a dozen U.S. states.
Shift from Jobs to Gigs: Workers are currently shifting away from the traditional job to create multiple streams of income via a mix of traditional jobs, independent contracting, and/or part-time gigs. This trend is projected to continue into 2015.
Growth of the Contingent Workforce: In 2015, expect companies to increasingly view the contingent workforce (consistent of freelancers, contractors, and independent consultants) as a strategic resource. Companies will look to independent workers to boost talent and increase workforce agility and flexibility.
“The Lean Years”: Millennial blogger Melina Coogan coined the term “the lean years” to describe the angst experienced by this generation due to economic instability and declining job security. The impact of this angst has resulted in everything from lower marriage and birth rates to a marked decrease in home ownership rates. This type of thinking is expected to continue into 2015.
Just in Time Learning: Independent workers and those seeking increased job security are turning to “just in time” learning programs: specialized training courses touted to improve and streamline business education. Expect these types of programs to continue to provide small businesses with the ability to adapt and adjust to changing market conditions in 2015.
King, Steve. Top 10 Small Business Trends for 2015. Small Business Labs. 12/16/14. (12/19/14.)