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With growth high on the agenda for many small businesses, below, Rob Straathof , CEO at Liberis, explores the key emerging trends which will help small businesses achieve their goals in 2018.

Rife with advancements in technology, new financial regulations and waves of thinking, the landscape of modern business is constantly evolving; pushing forward-planning to the forefront of driving success. This year has already seen the implementation of MiFID II and launch of Amazon’s first check-out less supermarket, but there are a number of other exciting developments still to come which small businesses can capitalise on.

Some of these trends are in the fledgling phase, while others have already started to take root. Which is why now is the perfect time to get informed, review your business and set it up for growth in 2018.

From our experience working closely with small UK businesses and industry experts, we’ve captured a few top trends which will help your small business hit the ground running this year.

From Millennials to Generation Z

Now in 2018, it’s time to really take note of the next wave of consumers – Generation Z. Born after 1998, this generation grew up with the Internet at their fingertips, available anywhere and everywhere at the touch of a button; so, naturally they are more orientated towards digital technologies.

With growing demand for convenience, flexibility and overall speed of service, this creates a world of opportunity for small businesses who meet these needs and tailor their sales strategy accordingly.

Larger players such as Amazon are already capitalising on this, as seen with the pilot of its new Amazon Go supermarket, combining physical and online shopping experiences.

On a more accessible level, one way to better target Generation Z is by harnessing the power of social media and technology for your business. This boost in convenience and enforcement of your brand will ultimately drive customer loyalty at this vital time; and support your business in keeping up with this ever-changing trade environment.

Rise of new technologies such as AI driving the customer experience

2017 saw a boom in machine learning, touching on the use of artificial intelligence (AI), including robotic process automation, speech recognition and virtual agents to support efficient business processes. Could 2018 be the breakthrough for AI, impacting the business world as we see it?

The smart technology behind AI can enable small businesses to utilise large amounts of data to not only perform multiple, repeated tasks efficiently but also to enrich and personalise interactions with customers. With Alexa and Google Home quickly becoming our next family members, their recommendations for which products to buy online, for example, are increasingly becoming significant in customers’ decision-making process.

Review your marketing plan in line with the above and ensure you stay on top of the latest trends to gain a competitive edge for your business, and an ease of transaction for your customers.

New regulations

So far, we’ve looked at the benefits of digital transformation, but whilst this shiny new tech can be impressive it is also important to be prepared for any potential challenges they might bring; especially as, in just the early weeks of 2018, we have already begun to witness changes to the financial and banking landscape.

The market is becoming increasingly diverse, which is why external influences such as cybersecurity, regulations - including MiFID II and GDPR - and the imperative need for privacy need to be acknowledged.

On the rise in the world of regulation is PSD2 which, due to the shift into Open Banking, will be essential for small businesses to take note of. This shift will transform the payments industry as we see it today, forcing banks to evolve from being one-stop-shops for financial services to open platforms instead. Set on the foundations of these new regulations, innovative fintech companies will have the opportunity to become leaders in the space by offering consumers better ways to manage their finances online.

The alternative finance space is also developing rapidly, offering a way to grow your business through collaboration with trusted partners whilst enhancing your business potential and working in line with your needs. Make sure you are familiar with all of your options when looking to support your business to ensure you’re on the front foot with the latest developments.

It’s an exciting time to build your business and, in an exciting, ever-evolving environment, you can get ahead by capitalising on the above trends and adjusting your strategy accordingly. With new developments always on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get a head start to ensure success.

Rob Straathof is CEO at Liberis, a leading alternative finance provider, offering a better way to fund UK small businesses.