Looking for some insight into what’s likely to happen in 2024? Well, you’re not alone. But when you get right down to it, can anybody say for sure what will happen in the future? Probably not.
There are however some trends that proved to be significant in 2023 that show no signs of slowing up and are worth looking at for an indication of what the coming year will have in store. Ireland is a nation of small businesses. The trends that impact upon them tend to hit hard. These cover technology, communications and general business practices. Each is significant for any small businesses looking to adapt quickly to market conditions.
In 2024, an enhanced digital presence is non-negotiable for small businesses. Irish consumers don’t draw distinctions between big and small companies when they go looking for products and services. Even small companies need to be able to offer a compelling online experience, with up-to-date digital channels and responsive customer service. If they want to remain competitive.
This means just having a website isn’t enough. You also need integrated e-commerce capabilities, mobile optimisation and strong social media engagement wherever possible. Each sector has its own examples of best practice. For example, in retail there is a general trend towards using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create immersive online experiences that mirror in-store interactions for things like virtual try-ons or tours.
‘Know your customers’ and ‘know what they like’ may not seem like groundbreaking business advice. But in 2024 it will be necessary to add ‘know where they spend time online’ because it may not be the same as it was in 2023.
Social media platforms are always rising and falling in popularity. However, with Twitter/X rarely out of the news and Meta’s Threads platform now open to EU-users, it’s likely that 2024 will be a year of digital migration and social discernment.
Social media is one area where small businesses can hit above their weight by adding a human touch to their digital outreach. They should be careful that the public image of the platforms they use matches the corporate personality they wish to present.
With a global increase in digital transactions, cybersecurity is going to become more critical in 2024. Small businesses need to invest in robust security systems to protect their online platforms and customer data. This includes making time for things. This includes regular security audits, secure payment gateways and employee training in best practices. It’s also worth looking at cyber insurance if your use of technology leaves you exposed in the event of a problem.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are expected to be more accessible and affordable for small businesses in 2024. These can be used for a range of purposes. From customer service chatbots and personalized marketing campaigns to predictive analytics for inventory management. AI-driven insights could help small businesses in Ireland make more informed decisions and stay competitive.
Consumer awareness of corporate and social responsibility continues to grow. The effect that whether a company is seen to be socially responsible or not can impact buying decisions. Small businesses should look at adopting sustainable practices not just as a moral imperative but also for competitive advantage. This includes using eco-friendly materials, minimizing waste and leveraging green technologies. In Ireland, that might mean, for example, availing of government incentives for sustainable business practices.
The rollout of 5G will bring about faster internet speeds and more reliable connections. For small businesses in Ireland, this means improved online services, smoother e-commerce transactions and the potential for innovative services like real-time data analytics and enhanced mobile experiences.
The remote work trend, accelerated by the pandemic, is here to stay. Small businesses will continue to come under pressure to provide this for employees. In general, using digital collaboration tools to facilitate remote work is going to remain important. For small companies that spent on covid-era technology to facilitate remote working, that tech is likely approaching the point of needing to be replaced or upgraded.
For small businesses, especially those relying on local clientele, search engine optimisation (SEO) is likely to grow in importance in 2024. The internet is where customers can find you. Regardless of what service or product you offer.
Ensuring that you are easy to find, and your information appears high up search results, that you have your location clearly marked in local searches and maps and that you manage online reviews will be crucial. This helps in not only attracting local customers, but also in building a strong, trustworthy brand presence online.
The movement towards a cashless society will further evolve in 2024. Small businesses will need to adapt by offering multiple cashless payment options. This includes mobile payments, contactless credit cards and digital wallets. This trend not only caters to customer convenience but also streamlines the transaction process for the business.
If you would like to read more about topics mentioned above, explore our Knowledge Centre for a range of articles on website tips, cybersecurity, SEO and much more. If you would like to chat to someone about the above, or have questions about your businesses digital journey, book a call with our of our digital experts.
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