7 Top Business Trends for 2024 That All SMEs Should Know About

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Navigating a path to success in 2024 can feel like an uphill struggle. Ongoing global conflict, stagnant economic growth, high interest rates and strained supply chains are just a few of the challenges that ambitious SMEs must contend with on the path to success and prosperity.

And yet, despite the persistent maelstrom of challenges and obstructions, there are ways in which businesses can give themselves a competitive edge and improve their chances of thriving even in these tumultuous times. Capitalising on new technological advances, business growth areas and consumer trends can help you to position your business for success. With that in mind, we take a look at some of the defining business trends of 2024.

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1- Expanding online offerings

Despite a slight dip compared to the previous year, eCommerce sales accounted for 32% of all retail sales in 2023. This percentage is expected to remain relatively stable from 2024-2027. As a result, it makes sense that retailers of all shapes and sizes are expanding their online offerings. While this invariably means opening their own eCommerce stores it also encompasses other digital channels, including Amazon, eBay and social media platforms.

A multi-channel approach allows businesses to open up new revenue streams, grow their brands and meet the consumer on their favourite online platforms.

2- Investing in business continuity

The 2020s are an ongoing lesson in expecting the unexpected. Economies, geopolitics and even the climate are in a state of seemingly constant upheaval, while new digital frontiers also mean new cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

Businesses are investing in resilience and business continuity in 2024. Some of the ways in which businesses are addressing potential threats to business continuity include:

  • Investing in robust protections against ransomware
  • Examining the impact of climate change on operations
  • Auditing supply chains to identify vulnerabilities
  • Implementing cloud-based solutions to mitigate the risk of mission-critical data loss
  • Carrying out rigorous competitor analysis
  • Adopting a preemptive approach to compliance and watching emerging legislative changes
  • Examining the impact of AI on business operations

3- Embracing AI, but not at the expense of the human touch

Businesses of all shapes and sizes are considering the impact of generative AI platforms like ChatGPT, Midjourney, Alphacode and Github Copilot. These platforms can create all kinds of digital artwork, code and copywriting deliverables. This has the potential to revolutionise business operations, making short work out of repetitive tasks like writing large volumes of product descriptions or handling frontline customer queries.

For all the opportunities provided by AI, however, there are also inherent risks. Legislation has yet to catch up with the technology and businesses enter something of a technological Wild West when they integrate AI into their operations. AI platforms pull from vast datasets that are undisclosed to the public. As such, there is an ever-present risk of inaccurate, biassed, offensive or even plagiarised content being generated. This is why retaining the human touch is so important. With human oversight, editing and quality control, businesses can get the best of both worlds.

Today’s consumers are becoming aware of the telltale signs of generative AI and the data shows that they are at best lukewarm about it, with 61% of consumers stating that humans understand their needs better than AI. This impressive generative technology can certainly create operational efficiencies, but should not come at the expense of the human touch.

4- Offering flexible payment solutions

The perilous economic landscape has been rough terrain for businesses and consumers alike. Just as business leaders have had to make tough decisions regarding spending cuts, households have also had to think twice about which purchases fit their budgets.

As a result, more and more businesses have begun offering flexible payment solutions that allow customers to Buy Now Pay Later. This makes the purchase more manageable for the consumer while also affording businesses a sale that they might otherwise have lost. As households continue to grapple with rising costs, this is likely to be one of the significant small business trends of 2023.

5- Getting serious about sustainability

2023 was the hottest year on record, and the first year ever where each day of the year was over 1°C warmer than in the pre-industrial period. And with temperatures likely to rise with each subsequent year, consumers are more aware than ever of the impact their lifestyles have on the planet we all share.

Even in these economically challenging times, consumers want to do business with companies that operate with a minimal cost to the environment.

2024 is the year in which brands are renewing their commitment to ethical and sustainable operations and being transparent about their goals and progress. In an age where consumers are more wary than ever of greenwashing efforts, businesses should ensure that sustainability is accounted for in every link of their supply chains.

Brands like Patagonia have made headlines for demonstrating their commitment to fighting climate change, and consumers have begun to expect this from businesses they buy from.

As such, more companies are buying locally, reusing and repurposing, disposing of waste more consciously and ensuring that others within their supply chains do the same.

6- Making meaningful use of data

Data is perhaps the most important commodity a business can accumulate. What’s more, there has never been a more robust range of tools to help businesses make meaningful use of that data. With the right business intelligence and analytics tools, business leaders can be more agile, making faster and better-informed decisions.

What’s more, access to customer data can help businesses create a highly individualised customer experience that gives consumers more of what they want, providing them with more relevant product recommendations, personalised offers and (combined with generative AI) personalised messaging at scale.

7- Getting paid faster to optimise cash flow

Maintaining healthy cash flow has become more important than ever for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Rising inflation has put a squeeze on profit margins, requiring most businesses to rethink their pricing strategies, tighten up on operational spending and reduce the time spent waiting to get paid. Finding more efficient ways to get paid quickly is not just one of the year’s biggest business trends, it’s the key to ensuring solvency in a financially challenging future.

As such, businesses are investing in software that can facilitate better cash flow management through more efficient invoicing, automated payment reminders and support for a wider range of payment methods.

Contact sales

Contact our sales team to learn more about how Square could help your business.