By Rieva Lesonsky
Is the number of U.S. small businesses about to soar? Yes, if you believe the QuickBooks Future of Small Business report from Intuit. The study predicts a 3.3 percent growth rate for small business in the next 10 years, compared to the current 2 percent. As a result, Intuit predicts, the number of small businesses will hit 42 million by 2026—up from 30 million currently.
The report spotlights five factors behind the prediction:
- Affordable technology: The growth of low-cost, scalable infrastructure and new technology has made it more affordable than ever to open a small business. When launching a business is more affordable, the risk of doing so declines, making it easier for entrepreneurs to take chances. Being able to use cloud-based services and pay only for what they need makes it easy for small companies to scale up and down quickly without getting locked in to high technology costs. No wonder the survey reports that 62 percent of small businesses use the cloud, an increase from 37 percent in 2014.
- Diving into data: Tools such as website and social media analytics offer small business owners unprecedented insights into how their customers think, what they want and how they buy. There’s so much data available, in fact, that small business owners are still struggling to take advantage of all the information at their fingertips. The good news: In the coming years, the report predicts, “machine learning” technology will help sort through the deluge of information, and will make it easier for even the smallest businesses to dig deep into the details about their customer base.
- On-demand workers: The growth of a “freelance nation” may not make all employees happy, but it is definitely benefiting small businesses. When you need additional help, you don’t necessarily have to hire a permanent worker. Instead, you can reach out to independent contractors to fill your staffing needs whenever you want. Small business owners who rely on what the report calls “contingent workers” will be happy to know these workers are projected to account for 43 percent of the U.S. work force by 2020. That means you’ll have no shortage of resources as your business grows.
- Online marketplaces: Being able to sell products and services online, either on your own website, on marketplaces such as Amazon.com or both, is a game changer for small business owners. No matter where you’re located, you can now reach customers worldwide by setting up shop online. Plus, you can target very specific niches, and can build a successful business online selling a product that lacks a big enough local audience to support a physical store.
- Online advertising and marketing: More than ever, savvy small business owners are tapping into the power of the Internet to drive attention, awareness and traffic to their businesses. In addition to using free marketing tools such as search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing, smart small business owners are expanding their marketing arsenal by adding online advertising to the mix. Advertising online has a couple key advantages: It’s more affordable than many other types of advertising, it’s highly targeted, and it’s easy to change your strategy quickly based on what works best for your business.
What do these five trends have in common? All of them are driven by technology. In fact, the report contends, technology is what will make the next decade “the decade of small business.” If you’re not already harnessing the latest developments in technology in your business, now is the time to start.
Do you agree with the Intuit report? And is your small business taking full advantage of the power of technology to thrive and grow?