Friday, September 26, 2014

Hot Business Trends to Watch

Bill Rancic, winner of the first Apprentice
Earlier this month, I was able to join over 1,500 of my peers at the Annual Conference for America's Small Business Development Centers in Grapevine, Texas.  Conference highlights included a keynote address by entrepreneur and television personallity, Bill Rancic, hundreds of workshops and a special appearance by Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), and of course some Texas barbecue!

One of the most popular sessions each year is an annual update of business trends by Rieva Lesonsky, owner of GrowBiz Media and a nationally recognized speaker and small business expert.  

SBDC Trend Watchers
Ms. Lesonsky encouraged the crowd to "Be a trend-watcher" and gave a rundown of current and forecasted business trends, and also described rising industries to watch.  She looked at three rising and emerging trends that impact small business:
1.  Global
2.  Mobile
3.  Demographics and marketing


Global business, global commerce and international trade opportunities continue to be on an upward trajectory. According to the U.S. Commercial Service, "Exporting can be profitable for businesses of all sizes. The United States is known throughout the world for high quality goods and services.  U.S. companies that export not only grow faster, but are nearly 8.5% less likely to go out of business than non-exporting companies."  Nearly two-thirds of the word's purchasing power in in foreign countries.  (


Location based mobile
Mobile continues to be changing the way businesses and consumers operate.  Use of mobile devices, E-commerce websites and mobile responsive sites are just a few items to consider for small businesses, in addition to being aware of how its customers are shopping and searching for information.  

Levonsky notes, "Mobile is the one thing that consumers adopted faster than businesses". In a January 2014 Pew Research report, it states that 90% of Americans own a cell phone; 58% have a smartphone.  Mobile devices have transformed consumer spending habits, the way we use our time and how we collect information.  

Demographics, Business and Marketing

Levonsky gave an excellent snapshot of the different generations and why paying attention to the commonalities and also the differences are so important to small business owners.  "The key is marketing the right products to the right market", she notes.  She adds that commonalities are shrinking, so within a generation such as the baby boomers, there can be subsets.  

Some examples of demographic trends that are driving consumer spending:

  • Teens have a lot of disposable income and spend it on fashion, beauty, food and entertainment.  There are 74 million Americans under the age of 18.  Generation Z not only has $44 billion in disposable income, it is estimated $500 billion in "Pester Power".
  • Kids are a major influence in the restaurant and food industry.  Children pull a lot of weight in deciding where a family will dine out for dinner.  If you have children, you know this is absolutely true whether it is the menu, age appropriate amenities like coloring pages, free ice cream or gaming tablets. 
  • Boomers and seniors consider 50 the new 30.  Businesses have to change its marketing mindset when marketing to seniors; older people do not want to think they are old.  

HOT Trends

Levonsky also spotlighted some HOT businesses and industries to watch, including:
Image courtesy of artur84

  • Weddings
    • Millennials are waiting until almost thirty to marry.  This demographic starts in 1988 and population-wise, it is larger than earlier Generations (Boomers and X). Read more about why young adults are waiting to marry in Pew Social Trends.  
    • With the legalization of gay marriage, a whole new market has opened up.  Lesonsky commented that gay marriages tend to have fewer attendees, but the couples will spend more on the wedding and honeymoons.
  • Pets as People
    • Crazy as it sounds, this is big business, to the tune of $73 Billion annually.  There are huge opportunities in areas such as designer pet supplies, supplements, pet spas, innovative products and services and even gluten-free snacks.
  • Clean Technology
    • Solar jobs are projected to increase, and the tax increase is set to expire in 2016 leading to a potential boom next year.  In addition, watch for ancillary type businesses such as online applications, home energy management and usage monitoring by smart phone applications.
  • Men's Grooming
    • Formerly called Metrosexuals, Young Urban Males (YUM), ages 18-34 that treat themselves to beauty services such as manicures, facials and body waxing are part of an expanding movement. There is a lot of opportunity in men's spa services and grooming products.  According to Levonsky, men typically spend more than women and will partake of services more frequently.  
    • For example, a man will spend $37 for a facial and have one weekly, whereas a woman will spend around $23 and get one every six months. This is a $3 billion industry and is expected to double by 2017.
  • Food Bites
    • Artisanal food and beverage will remain popular.  The local food movement and locally sourced ingredients could present a big opportunity for suppliers.  
    • Food halls are making a comeback. 
    • Fancy food reinvented.  For example, tator tots with truffle oil.  (Yes, they are a thing and they are delicious!)
    • Gluten Free continues to buck trends.  "This industry showed 28% growth during the recession" added Levonsky.  "35% of consumers think it's healthier."
    • Hemp.  Commercial cultivation is still banned in the United States, but with the legalization of Marijuana in Washington and Colorado, she suggests this industry is one to watch.
    • Death of cupcakes?  Are cupcakes out?  What is coming next?  
  • Food Trucks aren't just for food anymore
    • Mobile is growing and it just is not for cell phones.  Food trucks are becoming more accepted and there is a growing popularity with the convenience for mobile services.  The Spokane community has seen a big increase in food trucks at local pubs and events, as well as other mobile units like a portable fashion truck, mobile pet grooming and personal training studio.

Ready for what's next?
Staying on top of trends and influencers can help businesss maintain an advantage over the competition.  

Taking some time to develop a marketing plan, key messages or new direction can help business owners strategically plan for new markets and opportunities, rather than a shotgun approach, and will pay off in the long run.