Political turbulence, downgrades, continued weakening of the rand, Brexit, even the prospect of a NAFTA meltdown: a cursory read through the headlines can give any business person sleepless nights.
Nobody can be certain exactly how events might affect local markets. While some experts anticipate an improvement in South Africa’s economic circumstances in 2018, others are not so sure.
Economic predictions for 2018
There are simply no guarantees, says Wildu du Plessis, Head of the Africa Department at the multinational law firm, Baker McKenzie. He tells Africa Data that no one can be sure that the predicted upswing will occur.
He says “There is just too much political uncertainty. [But if] there is some hope of a change to the political situation, things may well indeed change for the better.”
But it’s not all bad news.
According to an OECD forecast, economic growth is expected to pick up at least to an extent. Food prices are stabilising and public consumption is likely to expand.
Agriculture in particular, but also mining and manufacturing, put in strong growth in the third quarter of 2017, and it’s to be hoped these kinds of gains will continue strengthening the country’s economy.
Given time, new political leadership may start restoring investor confidence, and generally create a better environment for doing business.
5 small business trends to follow in 2018
In 2018, it’s likely that a number of factors will continue helping small businesses become more innovative, responsive and adaptable.
The future is here. From opening a storefront in the cloud to recruiting robots, businesses are changing what they sell and how they reach their customers.
1. Go mobile
Over 20 billion connected devices will be used worldwide by 2020, according to research by Gartner, and reaching out to them, as either a driver of sales or a simple marketing tool, is a no-brainer.
While brick-and-mortar storefronts may never go all the way out of fashion, as they retain their customers’ trust and have a unique ability to offer them an immersive brand experience, online apps make it a lot easier for people to shop without walking the streets, and they also make it easier for small businesses to be noticed in amongst the skyscrapers.
2. Market your content
Whether you’re building benches or selling smartphones, remember: your product belongs in the world, and it is crucial that your customer understands how those items fit into their lifestyle.
This means your product has the potential to become content – an integral part of how someone sees themselves. So market that image.
It might be a virtual-reality driven website that showcases how your product works in real time or an invite-only look behind the scenes of your creative process, but by creating interactive brand-immersive experiences you are drawing new customers into a space that you control.
3. Outsource the funding
Have a radically new idea that investors won’t touch? Find a more receptive crowd.
Forbes reports that crowdfunding is on track to surpass venture-capital spending. This is great news for any business: while small brands can raise funds directly from an open-minded market, bigger companies can test the waters for the impact of new innovations.
4. Learn from the machine
Think artificial intelligence and machine learning are only part of Google’s attempts to rule the world? Think again.
To (over)simplify the issue: machine learning is responsible for identifying prospective new customers and pushing your products into their eye line, while artificial intelligence interprets how those customers engage with your brand by interpreting masses of seemingly unpredictable data and displaying it in an easy-to-visualise way.
And that’s not all. Hyper-local advertising, spam filtering, recommendation engineering – Infoworld reports that all of these can benefit the smallest business, at next to no cost.
5. Find a better alternative to traditional office space
Especially for small businesses, traditional office space can be counterproductive. It’s expensive and it’s fixed, based on lease terms, for a potentially long time. This is at odds with the need to be agile, and to continually adapt as circumstances change.
More and more business people are opting to work from home, part or all of the time. Alternatively, join millions of people worldwide who now use coworking – office space with shared facilities and on-site services, with flexible terms.
At The Workspace, we offer affordable, fully serviced offices and coworking, and all our clients have access to meeting rooms, boardrooms and a range of business services. For more information or to book a tour of one of our branches, call us on 0861 250 259 or contact us online.