As another year winds down, it is time for business owners and entrepreneurs to start making plans for 2017. Do you know what the coming year has in store for your business?

Looking ahead to 2017, it is shaping up to be an even more tech-heavy year than the last. With a greater number of millennials entering the workforce, labor costs rising, and consumer expectations evolving, we will see technology play a large part in this year’s small business trends.

1.More SaaS

As minimum wage costs rise, overtime labor laws change, and more competition crops up, small businesses desperately need a way to run leaner without losing productivity. Automation is the key to cost savings and improved efficiency, and this is why affordable and easily scalable Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions will play a bigger role in the small business landscape.

2. 24/7/365 Monitoring

We already see large brands with the funds and resources providing full coverage of their channels 24/7 (on email, social media, websites, apps, review sites, news outlets, and more). In 2017, this is something small businesses can no longer ignore. With customers’ expectations much higher than they were a year ago, this means that small businesses need to be ready to meet their multi-channel audience wherever they are, whenever they are.

3. Real-Time Video

Back in the day, if you wanted to shoot a video for your company on a small budget, you usually ended up with something cheesy and low quality. Nowadays, our mobile devices allow us to create quality videos on the fly and in real time—with relatively low to no cost to do so. Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope have shown us that there is an audience for live video, and this is something we will see more small businesses using in 2017.

4. Location Marketing

Remember all the buzz about Pokémon Go this summer? Well, even if that trend has simmered down, the beacon technology used within it is not going anywhere. Small businesses with a physical storefront would do well to take advantage of this trend as location-targeted mobile marketing and personalized service have already proven beneficial to businesses.

5. More Connections, Less Selling

While the focus on millennials used to be on how “entitled” or “lazy” they were, discussions on this group now revolve around their desire to make genuine connections with brands and to take part in meaningful interactions and pursuits. For small businesses looking to connect with this younger audience (as consumers or as employees), we will see a dramatic shift in how they approach “selling” their company in the future.

6. Digital Storefront Focus

It is no longer difficult to create a good-looking or high-functioning website—which is why any small business still lagging in this department will need to fix that in 2017. With content management systems like WordPress, Wix, and WooCommerce readily available and easy to use, we will see more small businesses with super-glossy, powerful websites, replete with flexible payment options, a steady stream of new content, and other features to rival enterprise sites.

7. On-Demand Delivery

We have heard about restaurants starting to make use of third-party delivery services like UberEats to handle food delivery. So why shouldn’t other small businesses outsource the delivery of their products to providers who specialize in delivery and, consequently, allow them to maintain a laser-like focus on their business?

8. Remote Work Opportunities

Another small business trend heavily influenced by the millennial generation, we will see more small businesses offer remote work opportunities in 2017—especially as more SaaS is integrated into their operations. And since studies continue to show that flexible work environments lead to greater productivity, this seems like something most companies will be willing to get on board with.

9. Personalized Experiences

As small business owners turn to automating their operations and finding new ways to connect with their multi-channel audience on all fronts, what happens to all this data? Well, if the right systems are put in place, that information can be analyzed and used to deliver more personalized experiences for each customer. Big data is no longer a luxury only the largest of enterprises can afford. Small businesses now have access to tools that enable them to offer a high-touch experience, too. See how Xerox ConnectKey offers a personalized user experience

As a small business owner, you know you have something great to offer your consumer audience. However, as other influential elements surrounding your business change, you will find that your business needs to be more adaptable while still meeting consumer demand. This is why it is especially important for small business owners and entrepreneurs to stay on top of 2017’s small business trends.

Ramon Ray, Marketing & Publisher of Smart Hustle Magazine and Small Business Evangelist, Infusionsoft. He frequently blogs about tech at SmallBizTechnology. Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com/ . Visit his Small Business Solutions Blog Author Page to get in touch on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

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