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The Six Biggest Trends in Small Business

12/02/2014 12:43 EST | Updated 02/01/2015 05:59 EST

This past year presented new and interesting challenges for small businesses. As we approach the year end, here is a round-up of some of the game-changers from 2014 which have had a significant impact on the small business ecosystem, and which I believe will continue making waves well into the coming year.

Mobile: For small businesses, new mobile payment technology is a game changer because it now means they can make sales anywhere they choose -- the craft market, farmer's market, a retail location or even at their customer's home. Any entrepreneur can use technology that they already own (like a smart phone or tablet) as a transaction terminal, allowing them to accept credit, debit or mobile payment on the spot.

Social and savvy: Social media as a marketing tool for small business is no new trend, but the way that we're using social networks is changing. Facebook, Twitter, Google and LinkedIn all offer robust advertising options that are cost effective and allow for very specific targeting. In fact, spending by small businesses on social advertising is up almost 20 per cent this year over last, showing that 2014 was the year that social got strategic.

Meaningful business: We often think that it's only the younger entrepreneur who is driven as much by social and environmental goals as the pursuit of profit. But according to RBC's research, 78 per cent of entrepreneurs who are making social causes a priority are over the age of 45. Social or meaningful enterprises tend to be found in professional services, sciences and tech. Another myth dispelled: these companies ARE profitable and more likely to build high growth businesses than companies without a core social-driven goal."

Digital: From mail to banking, small businesses have had to update their online operations and digital strategy to ensure they have the most efficient processes. When Canada Post announced major changes to postal rates, many small businesses had to change the way they invoiced, did payroll and advertised to customers. While it's been a significant shift for some small business owners, it's certainly one that has provided the nudge needed to move these processes online.

Multicultural business: Canadian entrepreneurs should take a multicultural mindset. The Canadian landscape is changing rapidly with an estimated 250,000 newcomers making Canada their permanent home. Paying attention to this increasing segment of customers and consumers is smart business. Secondly, newcomers are starting businesses at a faster rate than born Canadians (an estimated 19 per cent compared to 15 per cent) with a presence in every category, across all industries. Businesses need to pay attention to these newcomer competitors and suppliers who have both local and global connections

Global Thinking: The Internet and social media makes the world smaller and can provide a true global reach, for even the smallest business. Newcomer customers and entrepreneurs also have a broader, global perspective which has increased their buying power and influenced purchase decisions.

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