As we step into 2024, SME leaders may be thinking about what challenges and opportunities lay ahead in 2024
We asked a few of our experienced advisers across Money, Advice and Workspace to help demystify the big trends of this coming year. From embracing technology for efficiency to prioritising sustainability and green practices, we will delve into the emerging trends that we think will help SME leaders steer their operations toward success.
We will also discuss the importance of personalisation and customer-centric approaches, remote work strategies, and cybersecurity. By understanding and leveraging the latest in small business models, practices, and innovations, small business leaders can continue adapting and thriving in today’s dynamic business environment.
Sustainability and Social Responsibility
In 2024, eco-friendly and sustainable practices will be more than just a trend: they‘ll be a business imperative. From adopting renewable energy sources to reducing waste and using sustainable sourcing, businesses that prioritise sustainability can attract conscious consumers and reduce long-term costs. The popularity for sustainability has been rising for years and is continuing to rise. According to Deloitte, more consumers adopted a sustainable lifestyle in 2023 compared with 2022.
One of the most significant trends in sustainability is the shift toward net-zero energy. This means that a business is not releasing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than it is removing. Net-zero is an ambitious goal that many governments and companies worldwide are pledging to achieve.
According to a report by the British Business Bank, smaller businesses are responsible for nearly 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions emitted by all UK businesses. The report estimates that smaller businesses account for almost a third of all current UK emissions. This highlights the importance of small businesses in reducing their carbon footprint and prioritising sustainability. By adopting eco-friendly practices such as reducing paper usage, minimising water consumption, and reducing transportation emissions, SMEs can reduce their environmental impact and attract conscious consumers.
Remote Work Strategies
It’s undoubted that the global pandemic reshaped the way we work, and the trend toward remote and hybrid work models is here to stay. SMEs are increasingly offering flexible work arrangements, enabling them to tap into a global talent pool and reduce overhead costs associated with physical office spaces.
By offering flexible work arrangements, SMEs can attract and retain top talent from a much wider geography. This can help them to reduce costs associated with maintaining a physical office space, such as rent, utilities, and maintenance. Additionally, remote work can lead to increased productivity and employee satisfaction, as it allows employees to work in an environment that suits their needs. According to the Office for National Statistics, 78% of employees said that being able to work from home gave them an improved work life balance, 52% reported feeling more productive and 47% reported improved well-being.
However, it is important for SME leaders to ensure that their remote workers have access to the necessary tools and resources to perform their jobs effectively. This includes providing secure access to company data and systems, as well as training on how to use these tools securely. By extending data security to remote workers, SMEs can ensure that their sensitive information is protected from cyber threats, and that their employees can work safely and securely from anywhere in the world.
As SMEs continue to digitise their operations, cybersecurity threats are becoming more sophisticated and frequent. In 2024, SMEs will need to prioritise cybersecurity to protect their data and reputation. This includes implementing multi-factor authentication, conducting regular security audits, and training employees on best practices for data protection.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security mechanism that requires users to provide two or more forms of authentication to access a system or application. By requiring multiple forms of authentication, MFA can help to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive data and systems.
Security audits are an essential part of any cybersecurity program. They involve a comprehensive review of an organisation’s security policies, procedures, and controls to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats. Regular security audits can help SMEs to identify and address security weaknesses or risk exploitation from cybercriminals.
Training employees on best practices for data protection is also critical to maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture. This includes educating employees on how to identify and avoid common cyber threats, such as phishing scams and malware attacks. By providing regular training and education, SME leaders can help to ensure that their employees are aware of the latest threats and know how to respond to them.
Innovation and Creativity
Innovation and creativity are essential for SMEs to stay competitive and relevant. In 2024, SMEs will need to foster a culture of innovation and creativity to drive growth and success. This includes encouraging experimentation, embracing new technologies, and creating a work environment that fosters creativity.
Creativity is an essential ingredient for any SME. It’s what distinguishes them from competitors and helps them to thrive in a crowded market. According to GOV.UK, between 2022 and 2023, the number of UK SMEs increased by 46,000. There are now estimated to be 5.6 million SMEs in the UK making up 99.9% of the business population. As the population for SMEs continues to rise, it highlights the importance of creativity and innovation.
However, nurturing and developing creativity can be challenging, especially when you’re busy running your business.
SMEs can encourage innovation by providing their employees with the freedom to experiment and take risks. This can be achieved by creating a work environment that is conducive to creativity, such as flexible work hours, open communication channels, and a supportive management team. SMEs can also embrace new technologies by investing in research and development, attending industry conferences, and collaborating with other businesses and organisations.
In addition, SMEs can foster creativity by providing their employees with opportunities for professional development and training. This can include workshops, seminars, and online courses that focus on creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. By investing in their employees’ skills and knowledge, SMEs can create a culture of innovation that drives growth and success.
Finally, SMEs can encourage innovation by creating a culture of collaboration and teamwork. By fostering an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and working together to achieve common goals, small businesses can create a culture of innovation that drives growth and success.
Altogether, SMEs that foster a culture of innovation and creativity are more likely to succeed in today’s fast-paced business environment. By encouraging experimentation, embracing new technologies, and creating a work environment that fosters creativity, SMEs can drive growth and success in 2024 and beyond.
Customer Experience and Personalisation
In an age of information overload, personalisation and customer-centric approaches will set successful small businesses apart. By leveraging data and insights, businesses can tailor their products, services, and marketing efforts to individual customer needs and preferences, fostering stronger customer loyalty.
Personalisation is a customer-centric approach that involves offering solutions to individual problems through a personalised experience. According to a survey conducted by Salesforce, 73% of customers expect personalisation.
As we enter 2024, it’s important for SMEs to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is evolving at a rapid pace and its impact on business operations is becoming more significant than ever. With 59% of UK SMEs already using AI, it’s essential for the rest to consider using it to remain competitive in a digitally-driven market.
Some of the emerging AI technologies that SMEs should watch out for include advanced machine learning algorithms, natural language processing, AI-powered automation, predictive analytics for business intelligence, and AI in cybersecurity. These technologies can help SMEs level the playing field of business operations and handle complex tasks with minimal human intervention. SMEs should also focus on effectively integrating and leveraging AI technologies to improve their operations, strategies, and success.
Consumer Attention Span
In today’s fast-paced world, the average attention span of humans has decreased by 25% to 8.25 seconds from 2000 to 2015, according to a study conducted by Schiller. This shift in the way people consume media has made it increasingly challenging for SMEs to capture their attention. To keep up with the changing times, SMEs must adapt their marketing strategies to cater to the needs of their audience. One way SMEs can achieve this is by creating short and engaging content such as snappy headlines, short videos and infographics that are visually appealing and easy to understand. SMEs can also use social media platforms to their advantage by creating content that is shareable and can reach a wider audience.
SME leaders must continue adapting and thriving in today’s dynamic business landscape. By understanding and leveraging the latest in small business models, practices, and innovations, businesses can steer themselves towards success.
Here at Newable, we can give you advice on how to keep on top of these upcoming trends. We have a team of experienced advisers passionate about helping SME leaders by providing fully funded advice. We give a range of external support and can help you to understand how to implement our advice.
For over 4 decades, Newable has been supporting thousands of businesses every year through the provision of Money, Advice and Workspace. An employee-owned business with a commitment to creating positive impact in all that we do, our team are on hand to help your business today.
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