Over the past few years, small businesses have faced an enormous set of challenges, undergone an incredible amount of change, and have had to practice adaptability to new emerging trends. Unfortunately, there’s no reason to believe this will subside anytime soon, as the Canadian economy is set to face a mild recession. Still, small and mid-market businesses have reason to be cautiously optimistic, as the future of Canadian small businesses is filled with potential.
Preparing for 2023 and beyond means understanding the trends and developments that are likely to shape the rest of the decade. Small businesses need to be aware of changes in consumer preferences and technology, as well as shifts in industry regulations and economic conditions.
To help small businesses thrive in a challenging year ahead, we’ve compiled a list of the top trends affecting Canadian small businesses in 2023. In part 1 of our series, we cover the following three trends: cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and the omnichannel approach to shopping.
Trend #1: Cybersecurity is a Real Threat
In the past few years, cyber threats have been on the rise and this trend is expected to continue into 2023. Contrary to popular belief, small businesses face the same cybersecurity challenges that larger businesses do. In the eyes of cyber criminals, SMBs are valuable targets as they often lack the necessary resources to defend themselves. As a small business owner, it’s important to be informed about the new developments in cloud security and mobile security advancements, all of which will revolutionize the way we think about cybersecurity.
Here are simple ways to protect customer data and prevent unauthorized access to your business systems and networks.
- Ensure your systems are up to date with the latest security patches, secure passwords, and strong authentication measures. For instance, consider utilizing two-factor authentication (2FA) and encryption technologies to protect sensitive data and your systems.
- Consider investing in cybersecurity training for employees, equipping them with best practices to handle cyber threats. After all, employees are typically the ones that use your business systems and networks most often.
- Consider investing in managed security services, such as managed detection and response (MDR), which can help detect and respond to potential security threats more quickly and effectively. The quicker you detect a threat, the better equipped you are to defend yourself against it.
- Cyber insurance is always a good option to protect yourself from the financial impact of data breaches and other cyber threats, as they will inevitably occur. For a guide on cyber insurance and the different options available, refer to the following
Trend #2: Artificial Intelligence is Here to Stay
If one trend has been on the rise in 2023, it’s artificial intelligence (AI). The impact of artificial intelligence cannot be underestimated and has been making waves of change in various industries such as healthcare, marketing, finance, and e-commerce. In the next decade, it is predicted that AI will become an integral part of SMBs’ operations, providing them with several benefits such as more time, lower long-term cost, security, accuracy and efficiency.
For an in-depth guide on how to best leverage artificial intelligence for your SMB, read our recent article. If you’re short on time, here are a few ways to benefit from AI.
- Content Generation: AI can be used to create custom content and new product ideas, as well as to quickly identify the best marketing tactics for specific consumer types. Hundreds of AI content generators exist, some free, and some subscription-based. Make sure to evaluate different options before making a decision.
- Predictive Analytics & Machine Learning: AI can be used to better understand consumer behavior, anticipate hidden trends, and optimizations that can help grow your business. A common subset of artificial intelligence is machine learning, which refers to AI being able to learn and improve on its own. With machine learning, you’re able to identify patterns based on large sets of data and automate processes. Machine learning examples include uncovering patterns in market research, flagging errors in transactions or data entry, and personalized shopping experiences based on browsing history.
- Customer Service: AI can be utilized to automate customer service (i.e., chatbots) and other mundane tasks, allowing SMBs to provide better customer service while freeing up employees to focus on more valuable tasks. Chatbots can provide your business with a 24/7 virtual assistant that can engage with clients, identify complex issues, collect data, and improve your sales process.
Trend #3: The Expectation of an Omnichannel Shopping Experience
Canadian SMBs are increasingly embracing omnichannel shopping, which is projected to be one of the top trends in 2023. An omnichannel approach to shopping allows customers to engage with a business across multiple channels, such as in-store, online, via mobile or social media, enabling a more unified customer experience and greater convenience. It’s an effective way for small businesses to drive more sales, expand brand reach, and increase customer loyalty. The demand for omnichannel shopping is only expected to grow in the years ahead, making it essential for businesses to adopt this approach if they want to stay competitive in their industry.
Here are some of the ways to embrace omnichannel shopping:
- Sales Channels: Take the time to assess where your customers are spending most of their time. For example, which social media channel do they use the most? Focus on creating an omnichannel strategy that leverages as many channels as possible, from physical stores and e-commerce to social media, mobile apps, and even chatbots.
- E-commerce Software: Using software such as Shopify Plus or Magento Commerce, enables small businesses to manage multiple channels from one centralized platform, making it easy to keep track of sales. Additionally, they provide you with systems that ensure customers have consistent access to products, pricing, and promotions.
- Augmented & Virtual Reality: Technologies like augmented and virtual reality allow you to create interactive and engaging customer experiences. Things like furniture, clothes and jewelry are difficult to judge without seeing them in person. With augmented reality technology, it’s now possible to digitally project your products or services to customers into their homes, opening a new world of opportunities.
We can expect the SMB landscape in Canada to rapidly change over the next few years. Businesses need to stay cutting-edge, by understanding what trends will impact them in 2023, and proactively making the changes they need to remain competitive. With proper planning and a commitment to innovation, Canadian SMBs will be well positioned to grow their businesses and thrive in 2023 and beyond. Keep an eye out for part 2 of this series, as we discuss other trends affecting SMBs in 2023 like talent acquisition & retention, sustainability, and video marketing.