15 Small-Business Trends to Consider for 2016

Entrepreneurs and small-business insiders let us in on what they think will be the biggest small-business trends this year.
January 28, 2016

What does 2016 hold for small-business owners? While we don't have access to a know-all crystal ball, a few small-business owners and experts do have some thoughts on the matter. Take a look at their wide-ranging predictions on what should matter most for small-business owners this year—their insights may inspire you to make some long-term business resolutions.

Managing Money

"The Section 179 deduction is a big deal for small businesses. It lets you immediately write off qualifying capital items on a business's taxes as opposed to being depreciated over time. This affords small businesses the ability to buy more equipment, whether it's a laptop or truck, which can help companies grow at a faster rate."—Alice Williams of Business Bee

"There is a revolution underway in borrowing options available to small businesses—one that will continue to deliver more options throughout 2016 and beyond. One option that potential borrowers often miss are SBA 7(a) loans. This federally supported program is designed to provide access to loan capital for businesses that cannot secure debt under reasonable terms from elsewhere. The SBA is [also] addressing issues of matching lenders with borrowers with its own electronic marketplace, SBA LINC, and is rolling out an electronic loan application and management system, SBA One, to update and streamline their processes."—Rob Wilson, CEO of C7a

Building Your Team

"Small-business owners should be prepared in 2016 for navigating the complex issues of parental leave, and the need for return resources such as phase back planning, pumping room design and implementation, breast pumps and pumping supplies, back-up childcare and the like. As the question of national parental leave is an leading election-year issue, and the topic remains in the headlines in 2016, the private sector can choose take ownership and lead through their own policies."—Julia Beck of It's Working Project

"Part-time jobs will become more common. The number of people interested in part-time jobs is growing, and that means the pool of potential candidates for part-time jobs is also improving. Additional candidates for these roles may come from those who are looking for better career opportunities as well as recent graduates searching for entry-level positions."—Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology

When hiring millennial, small-business owners seek diversity and flexibility; when sourcing millennial, business owners will opt for labels that range from fair trade and human rights certified to environmentally friendly and more.

"Guess who’s starting and running small businesses? Millennials. This generation is following its passions and equate socially minded thinking and behavior holistically—it’s all part of one responsible enterprise. For that reason [corporate social responsibility] will increasingly be baked into business plans and operations moving forward. When hiring millennial, small-business owners seek diversity and flexibility; when sourcing millennial, business owners will opt for labels that range from fair trade and human rights certified to environmentally friendly and more."—Christen Graham, president of Giving Strong, Inc.

Getting Customers

"The rise of influencers [on social media] is more prevalent than ever, but the difference is that small businesses will have to be more careful about who they choose. There's been a backlash over unethical social media marketing, and small businesses are cautioned to pick influencers who are careful about how they showcase products to their audience."—Alice Williams of Business Bee

"Snapchat. Forget what you think you know about this app. The engagement is off the charts in comparison to other social apps. Small businesses will slowly begin to understand its power when they figure out how to tell their story in a way people genuinely care about. It's a great way to spread value and content to your audience, and it'll take over in 2016."—Ryan Bartlett, founder of SEO Direct

"One of the newest trends sweeping the Internet this year is the 'not-com' movement, which is changing the way businesses, brands and individuals choose names for their companies and Web addresses. After 30 years of stagnancy in online naming, there are now hundreds of these new domain name options, like .coffee, .fitness and .clothing, available for small businesses looking to stand out online. 'Not-com' domain names are meaningful, memorable and, because they're newer and the best names have yet to be purchased, available. These names work just as well—if not better—than their .com counterparts."—Jeff Davidoff, CMO of Donuts Inc.

"What will be increasingly important this year is omnichannel. Customers may not know what this means, but they certainly want it. The idea behind omnichannel is to provide a seamless customer experience across all channels. For example, if customers have a coupon pulled up on their phone from your website, they'll want to be able to use that coupon at your business right from the phone. Another example of omnichannel is customers seeing your inventory online and having that match what's actually in the store. If the two don't match up, then you can create a negative customer experience. Omnichannel also means that your customers get the same experience interacting with you via any communications channel they choose—phone, email, social media, chat, etc."—Rajeev Shrivastava, chief strategy officer at inContact

"2016 is going to be the year where small-business owners are going to have to accept the fact that social media is really a 'pay-to-play' game now. The days are gone where businesses can grow by way of organic posts alone. They're going to have to learn how to boost and target ads to their target market. I always tell my clients that social media is not free—if you want to succeed with it—but it is the cheapest, most powerful and effective way to get your message in front of a very specific target market."—Kelly Edwards, CEO of Lawton Marketing Group

Planning For Growth

"Consumer expectations are often set by big box retailers or online retail giants that have human and financial resources that are not options for the little guys. Consumers love small businesses because of the human touch and stellar service they receive, but they still expect the great selection, low prices and quick delivery they receive from larger retailers. As we move into 2016, the pressure to meet or beat customer expectations will continue to grow, and small retailers will have to decide where to make strategic investments to meet consumer demands."—Angie Stocklin, COO and co-founder of One Click

"​2016 will be the year of the independent cloud management platform. Independent cloud management systems allow SMBs to easily harness the agility and convenience offered by the public cloud. This trend will see more SMBs continue to increase their reliance on the public cloud for their computing needs and as a result see less computing servers deployed within offices and their associated data centers. Independent cloud management systems will also allow SMB to reduce their onsite IT costs by enabling for the migration off costly VMware platforms to more cost-effective hypervisor platforms like Microsoft Hyper-V."—Jay Litkey, president and founder of Embotics

"In 2016, accessibility to big data has reached an all-time high, and to compete with national chains, small-business owners are RSVPing to the big data party. Small businesses have two avenues to harness big data: managed services and marketing clouds. Managed services involves one-on-one interaction with a data sales representative. While the information derived from such a relationship can be extremely valuable, some small businesses find the fees associated with such personal attention to be cost-prohibitive. Marketing clouds that include access to and the ability to work with big data have low cost of entry, simple user interfaces and built-in applications that allow even novice marketers to execute sophisticated multichannel marketing campaigns. Such marketing clouds have been in existence for several years, but the feedback of early adopters have made them easier to use than ever before, making 2016 the year of data-based marketing clouds."—Sandra Ritchie, director of strategic services, Launchpad Marketing Cloud

"We believe that the new trend in business in 2016 is to think mobile—not only software and application but also physical locations. Not only have food trucks created a respectable avenue for chefs to launch a career, but more importantly they have shown that going mobile is a viable business model. This has spawned numerous other mobile ideas such as pet grooming, salons and barbershops, dentistry [and] retail therapy to name a few. Everyone is now looking long and hard at typical brick-and-mortar businesses and envisioning them as a mobile option."—Kush Kapila, founder and CEO of Sterlings Mobile 

"Procurement policies are changing at the local and national level with a stronger affinity for small businesses. There are several bills floating in Congress that will enhance small-business contracts. Additionally, many states, communities and anchor institutions—hospitals, universities—have enacted policies to procure locally; some even have established thresholds and mandates. At the Federal level, the Federal Bill measure H.R. 4341, aka the Defending America’s Small Contractors Act of 2016, received unanimous committee [support] and is now moving to the full House of Representatives for consideration."—Lyneir Richardson, executive director of The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers

For more predictions about small-business trends in 2016, check out the exclusive growth guide, "A Look Ahead to 2016." 

The information contained in this article is for generalized informational and educational purposes only and is not designed to substitute for, or replace, a professional opinion about any particular business or situation or judgment about the risks or appropriateness of any financial or business strategy or approach for any specific business or situation. THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. The views and opinions expressed in authored articles on OPEN Forum represent the opinion of their author and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions and/or judgments of American Express Company or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions (including, without limitation, American Express OPEN). American Express makes no representation as to, and is not responsible for, the accuracy, timeliness, completeness or reliability of any opinion, advice or statement made in this article.


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