There’s no greater time in business than the final quarter leading into the new year. Everyone’s hustling to finish the current one out on a high note by maxing out sales quotas, eating junk food and turkey like there’s an impending famine, and speculating on what’s to come in the new year. This is a particularly great year to be predicting the future of small business in North America — unemployment is down, the stock market is strong, and consumer confidence is the highest it’s been since before the tech bubble burst in 2001.

Here’s the top trends set to shape North America in 2018:

Small business will continue to help lower unemployment rates:

A study released by the Microsoft Store polled 1,300 small business owners and asked them their hiring plans for the coming year. Astoundingly, over 90% of those asked said they plan to hire at least one, if not two new employees in the coming year. Obviously, when consumer confidence rises, so too does sales for businesses across most all industries.

Among the reasons cited for these hiring plans, business owners claimed they will need help with new product releases they’re planning, the execution of new marketing strategies in the coming year, and the need for help implementing new technologies into their business.

small business trends 2018

Transparency will become the linchpin in marketing to millennials.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve felt my stomach tighten at the mention of this group of cautious consumers who want businesses to pander to their every whim and need. Fact is, we’ve been talking about the rise of millennials for so long, it’s tough to remember when it began, or predict when their reign will end and “Zee” will take over. Still, millennials want their purchases to be an old school experience — no gimmicks or overly salesy attempts to get their business — they want to connect with the brands they spend their $600-billion dollars on every year.

This group of North America’s youth have lived through the last depression and are more financial and brand savvy for it. They’re sick of hearing how you donate “XYZ” amount of profits to charities, or that you’ve installed solar panels on your roof and replaced your hand dryers with old-school towels in the washrooms. Millennials want transparency among all other things, and with spending power set to rise to over a trillion dollars in the next two years, small businesses will have no choice but to adapt fully to millennial marketing and buying preferences.

Hyper-local will make advertising popups less annoying and small businesses more visible.

North Americans, like most who live in developed countries around the world, absolutely cannot live without their phone in hand. The days of mindless ads to play FarmVille, House of Fun, or some other silly Facebook game are coming to an end. Hyper-local ads based on a user’s location, preferential shopping data, previous search history, and even the time of day are quickly becoming the norm for the average smartphone user.

This means a big opportunity in the coming year for small businesses all over. Imagine a hungry customer driving near your pizza shop at lunchtime and seeing an ad for your slice & pop deal? Or for a clothing retailer who can use hyper to target customers currently in their shop and give them a notification that you have exactly the handbag they searched for on their home computer just a few days ago?

Technology acronyms will replace buzzwords in 2018.

We’ve all been hearing the acronym IoT (Internet of Things) bandied about for years now. The Internet of Things is becoming increasingly useful to small businesses because of the power it’s put into the hands of established companies and even those who just managed to launch a business in this past year. Local search advertising, hyper local marketing campaigns, shipment tracking, and consumer data acquisition are all made possible by the IoT, and small business owners will embrace this acronym even more in the coming year.

Other acronyms that small businesses will be buzzing about this year include AI (Artificial Intelligence), which is helping creators make better sense of data and innovating the way shoppers shop online, while helping those consumers make the best choices and save the most money. EdTech (Education Technology) is another big acronym that’s taking over the marketplace, with emerging companies like Guy-Kawasaki-endorsed Zeqr literally making it possible for people to find experienced industry professionals to mentor them from the comfort of their own home.

small business trends 2018
Image Credit: Marcus Brown/Flickr

Trump will make America (business) great again!

Now just settle down already! I’m not going all political on you here, but whatever you may think of The Donald, he’s 100% focused on “Made in America” currently and the administration is pouring over trade agreements and looking for ways to help protect American brands and insulate them and their consumers from foreign companies. Whether this will all work out or not is open to hot debate. However, the fact the government is so focused on this issue should make clear the fact that the majority of consumers want to be more self sufficient in terms of the products they buy in order to protect local jobs, boost after-sale service levels, and improve quality standards.

This should be of particular interest to SMEs who manufacture their products here in North America, and also those in the service industry. In 2018, “Made in America” can be proudly displayed on your websites, promotional taglines, and even be part of your logo design/redesign. While free trade benefits everyone globally to some extent, Americans have become very aware that the costs savings offered on certain foreign products often mean making too many compromises.

Share your opinions/ideas.

What do you see as the top small business trends shaping North America in 2018? Something you read above, or do you have some juicy insider details you can share with the Noobpreneur crowd?

Main Image Credit: Canadianbusiness.com