Small business trends in 2024.
  • Category:
    Small Business Energy Savings
  • Published:
    February 2, 2024

Small Business Trends for 2024

Emerging small business trends are reshaping how businesses will operate this year and beyond. Technology that was recently only available to larger corporations with big budgets is now within reach of small businesses. Innovations in energy and sustainability are also more accessible to small businesses. The global economy and societal changes are creating new risks–and opportunities.

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Staying on top of small business sustainability trends will help you cut costs, contribute to a healthier environment, and help your business earn the respect and loyalty of customers. You may find opportunities that will help you achieve your business sustainability goals.

Energy and sustainability trends for businesses in 2024.

1. Sustainability continues to be a priority for customers

Sustainability matters to your customers. When it comes to consumers, 60% say they are willing to pay more for a product with sustainable packaging, and 78% consider maintaining a lifestyle that is sustainable is important.

B2B customers also consider sustainability to be vital to business. Many are beginning to follow the GHG Protocol Corporate Value Chain Standard for measuring, accounting for and reporting “Scope 3” carbon emissions along the value chain. That includes carbon from inputs to products and services you may provide.

For both businesses and consumers, small business energy trends focus on sustainability and efficiency.

2. Businesses are making sustainability a core business practice

One of the most significant small business trends for 2024 is, indeed, the mainstreaming of sustainability. You have many options for adopting sustainable practices that can slash your small business energy consumption.

From rethinking product inputs, manufacturing methods, packaging and distribution to offering public transit credits and work-from-home options, your business can reduce its environmental impact. Don’t overlook waste reduction, recycling, upgrading to energy-efficient equipment and even buying carbon offsets as ways to be more sustainable.

3. Transparency and sustainability data collection is becoming increasingly important

To ensure your sustainability efforts aren’t seen as just green-washing, you will want to measure and document your efforts and your results. Transparency is among the trends in small business gaining traction now. Government regulations and third-party guidance are helping companies accurately disclose sustainability information. Beyond compliance with reporting regulations, you have plenty to gain when you tell your small business sustainability story with specificity and with proof.

4. AI is creating new opportunities for saving energy

Smart hubs and smart devices that use AI can optimize resource use, improve energy efficiency, and ultimately help reduce your business’s environmental impact. AI apps are coming on the market that capture your energy usage data with real-time monitoring to identify where you are wasting energy. They can look through patterns and trends and predict your future usage. Using smart assistants in the workplace, they can then optimize usage throughout your facility for energy and cost-savings.

Small business technology trends for 2024 include applications that improve efficiency and help you find new opportunities. Technologies that provide data, insights and controls create options that you can use in your small business planning and operations. Here are the top small business technology trends that may be useful for your company.

Top 8 small business technology trends.

1. Generative AI and automation are speeding up daily tasks

Machine learning, also called generative AI, is rapidly gaining acceptance in many kinds of small businesses. It can simplify and speed up tasks, lower costs, increase productivity, reduce risk, and make your company more flexible and responsive.

You may find it worthwhile to add chatbot features, for example, to your website and phone automation system to help people quickly get answers to common questions. Popular CRM platforms are offering AI for analyzing and optimizing your communications. AI is streamlining accounting and pointing out risks early. You can also use generative AI to automate many business processes. You may be able to trim staff or move your people to more valuable tasks. It is no wonder that some 41 percent of businesses have adopted AI solutions already.

2. Digital integration is transforming how small businesses work with their space

The rise in remote work is causing businesses to rethink their processes, tools and even staffing decisions. Technology trends in small businesses are opening opportunities to innovate for efficiency and profit. Converting to a paperless office is now a necessity, with staff working across town, across the country, and even across the globe.

Now is a good time to explore smart sensors and similar office productivity gadgets that can make space and resource use more efficient. For example, smart plugs and smart thermometers can monitor energy use and office climate to give you the data your systems need to improve energy efficiency.

3. 5G wireless technology is improving communication and data processing

Communication and data are vital to every business. Reliable and fast connections using fifth generation connectivity technology (5G) can improve speeds–up to 100 times faster than 4G.

More data on more devices powering more activities means you can better collaborate and share large files and rich data. Online meetings are now commonplace. Many conferences offer a virtual option in addition to in-person meetings. Visualization technology is offering immersive virtual experiences that are ideal for product demonstrations. Monitoring and AI are capturing more data and making it more useful.The possibilities are just beginning for this 2024 small business technology trend.

4. Hybrid and remote work models are continuing to evolve

The number of people working from home more than tripled from 5.7% of workers in 2019 to 17.9% of workers in 2022, according to a U.S. Census Bureau Report released in early 2023. A Pew Research survey reports that 41% of people who have jobs that can be done remotely now work from home on a hybrid schedule that mixes at-home with on-site work. Working remotely has become the “new normal.”

The result is that many companies are investing in ways to make telecommuting more attractive and feasible. You may wish to look into ways of adapting your in-person business model. Remote work opens your company to a wider pool of qualified workers. You can keep valuable employees, even if a spouse or partner moves to a new job, negating the need to hire and train a replacement. Productivity is higher, as is job satisfaction.

Remote workers usually operate from their home offices, sometimes using their own computers, printers and other equipment. You may not need to spend now to replace outdated technology in the workplace. Perhaps you can use that money instead to add technologies such as digital conferencing, shared virtual workspaces, and secure file transfer protocols.

5. Big data is helping create a personalized, seamless customer experience

It is increasingly likely that your company is capturing more data and that you can buy data to help you understand your customers better. This so-called “big data” is useful for market research, trend spotting, predicting demand, optimizing your operations, and planning investments. When you understand your customers, you can personalize a customer’s experience and anticipate needs–possibly better and faster than the competition.

6. Cybersecurity is becoming essential for protecting company and customer data

The future of business technology is rapidly evolving. Cybersecurity is essential to all businesses, no matter how small. Companies increasingly rely on CRMs, augmented analytics and edge computing to be more efficient and to eliminate mistakes. Data has also become more valuable and more attractive to thieves.

Investing in cybersecurity technology, processes and training should be a priority to protect your customers and your business. With the rise of remote working and cloud computing, cybersecurity is both more challenging and important. Compliance with national, state and local cybersecurity laws and regulations is a complex problem for many small businesses and can come with significant costs.

7. Small businesses are finding ways to use VR and other immersive technologies

Not too long ago, virtual reality was science fiction or something for the gamer world. Now, businesses are finding uses for virtual, augmented and mixed reality to create immersive experiences. Companies are jumping on this small business trend for training employees, conducting market research, demonstrating products, conducting virtual meetings and providing virtual shopping experiences.

8. Social media is continuing to help businesses digitally engage their customers

Though social media has now been around for decades, the pace of change and the way it is being used by small businesses continues to evolve. We can still talk about it as a small business tech trend even as we enter the third decade of the social media revolution.

Companies are becoming more adept at using social media platforms for customer service, marketing and public relations and even crowd-sourcing and co-creating business ideas. As a tool for reaching customers digitally, social media remains a way to experiment and engage, with a blurring of lines between your website, advertising and social presence.

The Facebook platform remains popular, but TikTok has become a force to be reckoned with, especially with younger people. You will need a multichannel approach and have to keep an eye on new platforms and new use patterns.

World events, domestic politics, and social evolution across all markets have put pressure on the economy and financial institutions. From cryptocurrency to the decline of cash, to deficit spending, things are happening in the world that make it important to stay vigilant and nimble. You will need all your fingers and toes to count the ways the financial world is changing–and that will affect your business.

1. Inflation is projected to fall compared to 2023

Inflation is on the minds of small business leaders, affecting the cost of goods, prices, and what you pay to finance operations. Keep in mind that energy costs don’t always follow general economy price trends. For businesses, they are often one of the biggest costs in your budget.

The latest Consumer Price Index rose 3.4 percent over the last 12 months from December 2022 to December 2023. That is down from 9.1% in June 2022. The trend of slowing inflation is expected to continue. It remains worthwhile to understand how inflation and energy costs affect your business. Controlling costs is likely to remain a necessary strategy in 2024.

2. Interest rates are likely to remain high

The U.S. Federal Reserve targets a 2% inflation rate. Slowing inflation will make your planning easier and will relieve stress on your finances. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has held interest rates steady for the time being, but may reduce them in 2024.

Not everyone agrees these goals and predictions will become reality. Financial leaders like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Peter Schiff, CEO and chief global strategist at Euro Pacific Capital and others, see an economy and interest rates that continue to challenge businesses. Using extreme care when it comes to debt is the best way to face the uncertainties and risks of the coming year.

3. Consumer spending is expected to slow in 2024

Given the dual effects of higher prices and credit that is more expensive, spending is likely to slow across the board. Two quarters of negative growth used to be the definition of a recession, which happened in 2022. We saw a slowdown in 2023, as well. The declines were slight and were contradicted by other indicators. A real recession, however, is possible for 2024, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Keeping an eye on general small business trends will help you understand the context for your business in terms of technology, energy efficiency, sustainability and your finances.

That said, how these factors will affect your industry, your region and your business can vary tremendously. Your business can certainly boom in a down economy. The ability of your business to save energy and pursue sustainability targets will depend on your situation. The same goes for taking advantage of small business tech trends.

What can be said across all trends is that it is always possible to find opportunities. You’ll also see risks to avoid. The important thing is to always be on the lookout for both.

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