A young woman uses head-mounted virtual reality goggles.
Changes are in store for small business in 2024. SMB owners can compete by implementing artificial intelligence in their operation and sharpening their digital marketing skills. — Getty Images/Eva Katalin

From technological advancements to shifts in consumer and employee demand, small businesses must continuously adapt to market changes. With 2023 winding down, many entrepreneurs are looking ahead to 2024 and adjusting their strategies to meet the needs of the business climate.

To help entrepreneurs position themselves for success in the coming year, seven business leaders share their predictions on how small business will change in 2024.

[Read more: 9 Small Business Growth Strategies]

The adoption of AI will increase

With ChatGPT’s release at the end of 2022 — and its subsequent influx into the mainstream throughout 2023 — the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) by small businesses has only increased, noted Ammo.com Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer Sam Jacobs.

“Expect [AI use among small businesses] to grow fast in 2024,” said Jacobs. “AI implementation (e.g., in marketing, HR, customer service, and logistics) and marketing automation help small and midsize businesses cut down on manual mistakes, save time and resources, grow faster, and profit from the added efficiency and productivity.”

Small businesses will leverage AR/VR for more immersive experiences

Another technology that has grown rapidly in recent years is the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) sphere. Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, predicts more businesses — especially those in retail, real estate, and hospitality — will use AR and VR in 2024 to create immersive customer experiences.

“Imagine allowing your customers to virtually try out clothes before purchasing or giving them a 360-degree tour of a property from the comfort of their homes,” Morgan explained. “These immersive experiences will revolutionize the way customers interact with businesses, leading to increased engagement and customer satisfaction.”

As a best practice, invest in upskilling your team in digital marketing and analytics. Platforms like Google's Digital Garage offer free courses that can be beneficial.

Sergey Solonenko, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Algocentric Digital Consultancy

Business teams will need to build their digital marketing and analytics skills

Sergey Solonenko, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Algocentric Digital Consultancy, expects that digital transformation will influence the small business landscape in 2024.

“As a best practice, invest in upskilling your team in digital marketing and analytics,” said Solonenko. “Platforms like Google's Digital Garage offer free courses that can be beneficial.”

He also recommended that small businesses build a robust online presence, whether that is through an optimized website, active social media profiles, or even a mobile app.

“This digital shift is not just about technology,” Solonenko continued. “It's about changing the way you connect with your customers.”

More small businesses will permanently embrace remote operations

The pandemic launched a global shift toward flexible work environments, with many companies maintaining remote or hybrid work today. Bassem Mostafa, Owner of GlobeMonitor Market Research Agency, predicts that decentralized and remote operations will become the norm for many small businesses.

“This change encompasses not only where employees work but also how businesses interact with customers, manage supply chains, and deliver products and services,” Mostafa said. “Remote operations enable small businesses to tap into a global talent pool, reduce overhead costs, and offer services around the clock, without geographical limitations.”

According to Mostafa, this shift also encourages a greater focus on digital tools and platforms to manage business activities, offering small businesses the agility to quickly adapt to market changes.

[Read more: Future Work Trends Small Businesses Need to Know]

The most successful small businesses will be values-first, profits-second companies

With more customers prioritizing making a positive social impact in their purchases, Skincare Stacy Founder Fawn Bowe believes 2024’s small business landscape will see a heightened focus on sustainability and ethics.

“Consumers are increasingly drawn to brands that demonstrate environmental responsibility, a trend that small businesses can capitalize on to differentiate themselves in the market,” shared Bowe.

Competition from local and global players will increase

In a digital-first climate, business opportunities are no longer confined to a single geographic region; instead, the door is figuratively open to international markets.

“As digitalization opens business frontiers to the international markets, more local and global players will fight for visibility and profits,” explained Emma Bukowski, Founder and Designer of Noserider Surf Club. “Businesses must stay different, find a unique niche, provide top-notch customer service, and adopt personalization to remain relevant, make profits, and thrive.”

Customers will take greater control of their journeys

Erin Banta, Co-Founder of Pepper, observed that today’s customers are accustomed to taking their buying journey into their own hands — a trend she anticipates will continue into 2024. To meet this demand, she said, businesses must cater their offerings that allow their customers to take the reins.

“[Employ] customer education and other resources to help shoppers gain a deeper understanding of why and how they can benefit from your product or service. Or create a more customized consumer experience, from the way you interact with your customers to their ability to fine-tune your product or service to their precise needs,” she elaborated. “Success in 2024 will have to do with giving the customer more control over your business’s involvement in their purchasing habits.”

[Read more: Creating a Superior Post-Purchase Experience to Build Customer Loyalty]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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