Every New Year provides each one of us with the opportunity to examine where we’ve been and more importantly where we’re headed—personally, professionally and as a society. Given that the decision to become and remain an entrepreneur so often is rooted in the goals and realities that exist around these three variables, it’s also the perfect time to do a little forecasting where business ownership is concerned.
If there’s anything 2012 taught us it’s that buying and actually building a business opportunity, franchise, licensee opportunity, distributorship or any home-based or other small business into a profitable enterprise first requires research, some careful planning and a realistic perspective on what works and why. And that level of assessment starts with an extended view of what the future is likely to hold not only in the way of demand, but what's on the horizon that helps business owners to best market and deliver their products and services.
With this in mind and as we kick off 2013, here’s a look at twelve hot trends that prospective and existing business opportunity, franchise or other small business owners will want to know about and possibly capitalize on in the foreseeable future:
1. Personal Care and Enrichment
Seniors and kids. Two words that pretty much sum up where an increasing number of us are putting our money, time and energy these days. Bottom line? The so-called “Sandwich Generation” is working very hard and raising children while also facing the prospect of helping their aging Baby Boomer parents. It almost goes without saying that their needs for assistance in managing it all are great. Add to that the fact that budget cuts in social services and public education are quickly becoming the new normal, and it should be no surprise that the want and need for products and services aimed at enhancing the lives of these two demographic groups is on the rise. When it comes to kids, any business opportunity or small franchise that keeps them smart, safe and sweating is a good gamble. As for the older set, any product or service that assists them and their caregivers in managing their way through the aging process—preferably while staying in their own homes—is likely to be a winner.
2. The “Green” Revolution
The world’s drive to find more sustainable and less environmentally costly energy alternatives is just beginning. Additionally, the possibilities available to homeowners, businesses, governments—all of us—when it comes to energy conservation are just now coming to light. The whole “green” industry is one that is truly in its infancy, and we can’t say that about just any market sector. Energy monitoring, environmentally conscious construction, roofing and retrofitting, waste removal and recycling, battery regeneration, even just owning a business that uses eco-friendly products to deliver its services…the list of work-at-home and other business opportunities and small franchises that accommodate the newly environmentally conscious consumer is growing with each passing day, representing an upward curve for which there is no end in sight.
3. Social Media and Content Marketing
For those of you who think we’re interconnected enough right about now hold on to your hats. The ride from here on out is going to get even faster as more and more consumers become comfortable with their smartphones and all that they have to offer. Business opportunity, franchise and other small business owners who don’t want to get left behind would do well to get up to speed. That means having an actual social media marketing strategy and plan, one that is manageable and actionable with set goals and measurable objectives. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that what you are saying is becoming every bit as important as where you are saying it. Witness the rise of content marketing, a relatively new approach to enhancing brand recognition, customer engagement, lead conversion and ultimately increased sales. It’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on steroids, and it’s just beginning.
4. Made in the USA
For the first time in a long time, more than half of all Americans think that it’s very important to buy products made in the good old US of A, and many of them are actually actively looking to do just that. All the recent political rhetoric about issues like sending jobs overseas, the overabundance of imports from China, the need to create more manufacturing jobs here at home and even the auto industry bail out has many of us thinking about where all our “stuff” actually comes from. Millions of Americans for the first time are coming to understand that their buying decisions do matter, enough that they are changing the way they make them. Buying and/or building a business that can proudly state it directly and purposefully uses, makes and supports goods that strengthen our economic outlook here at home is a wise move.
5. The Virtual Office
No, it’s not a new television series. In fact, it’s not really an office at all. The old days of cubicles, water coolers and conference rooms are yielding rapidly to laptops, tablets and smartphones, cloud-based computing and Skype-powered video chats. Nearly six million Americans are already working from home, and that number is only expected to skyrocket over the next decade. In fact, many small- and medium-sized businesses will never establish a physical brick and mortar presence. Why would they when companies that provide even the most traditional back office support services themselves, like human resources, payroll and benefits management, are rapidly becoming part of the growing virtualization movement? And the technological advances keep on coming, making collaboration across great distances from anywhere and in pursuit of any common goal not only affordable, but more practical than ever before.
The debate about whether technology has drawn us closer together or put distance between us will likely rage on for quite some time, but one thing is for sure. We now want our products and services to be tailor-made wherever and whenever possible. Take cosmetics for example. Personalized beauty samples, created by running individual algorithms through a system that matches products to their user, are just one of many "next big things" in this arena. And all predictions are that medicine and especially pharmaceuticals will likely be highly individualized in the near future as well. Additionally, products and services that cater to the specific needs of various groups as defined by gender, race, ethnicity, age and even sexual orientation are also finding a grateful and loyal audience.
As Americans wake up to the fact that quality of life is every bit as if not more important that quantity, the multi-billion-dollar beauty and wellness movement has taken off. In fact, when it comes to enhancing our looks, it seems we will spare nothing. According to industry experts, the already impressive spending trend is leaning heavily toward even higher-performance products and services. When it comes to looking and feeling good, many of us have just plain decided that money is no object. Body wraps, tanning, cellulite reduction, weight loss, spa services, massage…the list of Beauty/Personal Care and Cosmetics business opportunities and small franchise opportunities that capitalize on this trend is impressive. And while we’ve decided that working on our outsides is important, we’re also focusing on our insides an awful lot these days, driving the demand for nutritionally sound and organic offerings as well as health care and fitness services of every kind through the roof as well.
8. Food Industry Globalization, Mobilization and Prosperity
While all predictions are that our obsession with fast-casual and even fine dining will continue unabated, our demand for new, fresher and healthier fare with flair is growing exponentially. Global flavors of all kinds are the rage, and the make-it-to-go movement is also on the rise. Exhibit A? Just take a look at the food truck craze. It’s the epitome of fast-casual globe-trotting fare at its new and very best, all on wheels, fully mobile and you don’t need a plane ticket to get it. As for the restaurant and food service industry as a whole, despite recent economic challenges, all predictions are good for 2013 and beyond. According to the National Restaurant Association, total restaurant industry sales are expected to exceed $660 billion in 2013, a 3.8 percent increase over 2012 and marking the fourth consecutive year of real sales growth for the industry. Moreover, 2013 will be the 14th straight year in which restaurant industry employment will outpace overall employment, making business opportunities and franchises in the Food Service and Restaurant sector a good bet.
9. Vending Product Expansion
What do such recent innovations as touchscreen technology and electronic payment options have in common? They are contributing to the steadily profitable and yet rapidly evolving vending machine industry, which was estimated to generate a healthy $42 billion last year alone. Buying everything from organic and healthier snacks to shoes, art work to fresh-cut flowers, skin care to pharmaceuticals…even measuring your blood alcohol content can now be done through a vending machine. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg now that we can build contraptions to dispense pretty much anything we want and need. Availability, instant gratification, no hassle/sales pitch to deal with and exciting new product options combine to create unbeatable customer appeal.
10. Business Services Boom
Business opportunities, franchises and other small businesses that cater to the professional services needs of other companies and organizations are surging ahead of many other industries, according to experts. In fact, professional/business services—such as staffing, consulting, IT, accounting, financial, auditing, app/website development, security, bookkeeping, payroll, training, logistics, etc.—showed the best employment growth overall in a recent IFA (International Franchise Association) survey. A struggling economy has actually given this industry a boost as companies trim their full-time staff and hire out only those services they need most when they need them. Additionally, the Labor Department lists office and administrative support among its Top 30 Occupations with the largest projected employment growth between now and 2020.
11. Our Pets, Our Passion
The billion dollar pet industry is thriving, recession or no, as we Americans continue to pamper our furry family members. Simple food and grooming expenses have been eclipsed by a whole new culture that embraces innovative and specialized premium products and services. Despite the fact that the overall economy is taking some time to rebound, annual revenue growth in the pet industry is expected to hover somewhere in the neighborhood of 4½ percent each year until 2016. And as soon as the recovery takes hold in some measurable way and disposable household income begins to rise once again, watch out. The spending binge will then be truly out of control, ensuring that anyone who invests in a business opportunity or franchise that caters to our desire to care for our pets in grand style will be poised to make the most of it.
12. The 4 R’s: Remodeling, Remediation, Repair and Restoration
Home prices are finally picking up, and as homeowners get ready to put those houses up for sale and buyers go about making their new houses a home, products and services to improve them will be very much in demand. Plus, home remodeling services to accommodate the needs of millions of Baby Boomers who want to “age in place” is also very much on the rise. Increasing awareness about the dangers of everything from mold and mildew to bed bugs and other pests as well as the fact that new and groundbreaking roofing and other construction materials can save consumers considerable time and money is also having an impact on the marketplace. And, as amplified by the devastation wrought by so many natural disasters in the last few years, the restoration business has become an incredibly profitable industry in and of itself. It all adds up to these particular business opportunity and franchise categories being of particular relevance for the foreseeable future:
Green Building Insulation and Mold Remediation
Carpet and Dry Cleaning/Laundry
Maintenance and Repair
Mattress and Upholstery Cleaning
Window and Door