Most trend forecasts for SMEs focus on expectations of business confidence, financial status, use of technology and new online marketing habits, but futurist Ross Dawson has other ideas.
Dawson, business strategy advisor and ambassador for Officeworks, thinks SMEs are set to become increasingly focused on perfecting their health and work/life balance, as well as focusing on lightning-fast customer service is delivered without a moment of delay.
He told SmartCompany five of his predictions for the year ahead:
1. Tracking self-perfection
As personal data-gathering devices such as fit-bits become more commonly adopted, Dawson expects SMEs to become increasingly focused on monitoring their own sleep, exercise, calories and water intake in a drive for self-perfection.
“It’s the quantified-self movement, where we are getting more and more data about ourselves… In fact, the mooted Apple iWatch is expected to have a lot of these health and data tracking capabilities,” he says.
“The reason I think this is a small business trend is that generally those who work for themselves can be more focused on being their best.”
2. Big data gets easy
Big data has long been a buzzword, but for small business Dawson thinks the change will be that it gets easier to adopt.
“There are a lot of data storage options for less than $100, we do not need to spend a lot of money to store data,” he says.
“There are so many analysis programs available for small business. Small businesses are in a very fast moving world and are more nimble and able to take advantage of things quickly.
“In a retail situation you can use big data to see precisely when, and the types of people, who are entering your store, what they are looking at, and correlating this to school holidays or any number of other things.”
3. Lightning-fast service
Big business customers have come to expect exceptionally fast service, and small business customers are following suit.
“This is another case where big business has been there first and now little business can hop on board. For example, you can now pretty inexpensively get 24/7 phone answering and response for clients,” he says.
“Outsourcing is a very important tool for this, the idea of getting help from different parts of the world inexpensively and they can understand your business well.”
4. Co-working for networking
Dawson says the trend for using co-working spaces has up until now been dominated by start-up companies. Now he says small-to-medium businesses are adopting its use.
“One of the possibilities is for mid-size businesses in particular to give more flexibility to their businesses,” he says.
“You can say to staff ‘You don’t need to work in the office every day,’ but instead of working from home you can work in a co-working space that is close to where you live, and this provides a connection into the community, which can expose your brand, and what your company does, to talented people.”
As SMEs look to expand internationally, he says they are increasingly looking for co-working spaces for their teams to join in other countries.
5. 3D momentum
Dawson says as 3D printers become more common, small businesses will increasingly use them to create prototype models for clients, or to customise their offer.
“It will be used for prototyping, so you can make a model of something and talk about it…and make things for marketing, shop displays, to create things that are unique, things that people will pay attention to.”