The Hottest Business Trends of 2013 ( Business on Main)

By Rieva Lesonsky   |   It's that time of year again. We round up the hottest trends that will be taking the business world by storm in 2013 — and offer up tips for how you can tap into these. After four dismal years, it seems the economy is truly on the upswing. Confidence is up (among consumers and small-business owners), holiday retail sales were off to a “solid start” and many predict 2013 will see a surge in startups.

Some trends affect the birth (or death) of specific businesses, while others offer innovative ideas for how we do business. Both are reflected in my picks for trends that will help you capture market share in 2013.

Don’t worry, be happy
JWT, a global marketing communications agency, highlights stress in its 10 Trends for 2013 report. In a survey taken in November, Americans told JWT their top three stressors were “finances, the cost of living and the current state of the economy.”

Most Americans (85 percent) consider stress “a serious health issue.” What does this mean for entrepreneurs? The super-stressed believe their stress levels can be reduced by businesses, particularly those in the health care, fitness, food and beverage, and tech industries. If you’re in these fields, or aspire to be, think of how your products and services can allay consumers’ fears.

For example, JWT cites the “relatively new category of beverages that claim to reduce stress.” Nearly 400 relaxation drinks are already available in this $521 million industry (per market researcher IBISWorld in 2011). Nielsen, another market research company, “expects 20 percent annual growth [in the industry] through 2013.”

Or perhaps you can start your version of The Break Club, an Argentinian business where customers pay to “let off steam by smashing things.”

Nonmedical home care
For several years now, nonmedical home care has been a hot business — and the upward trend is likely to continue as baby boomers (and their parents) continue to age. Today, more than 40 million Americans are over the age of 65, and that’s expected to increase to 55 million by 2020.

Nonmedical home care is not just for the elderly, of course. But since one-third of Americans age 75 and older live alone, and more than 40 percent age 65 or older have some type of disability, the market opportunity is clear. Bloomberg Businessweek reports the nonmedical home care market is an $85 billion industry.

Nonmedical home care opportunities have been dominated by agencies providing care workers (the U.S. Department of Labor expects the industry to add 1.3 million employees by 2020). Today, online concepts such as CareLinx are entering the market, which is a welcome sign to startup entrepreneurs.

Made in the USA

There’s a resurgence of manufacturing in America, and entrepreneurs are jumping on the bandwagon. As award-winning journalist James Fallows reports in a recent issue of The Atlantic, “Manufacturing’s share of the total American economy … went from about 20 percent in the early 1980s to just over 10 percent now.” But Fallows also notes that “for the first time in decades, I have been hearing upbeat accounts from business officials and entrepreneurs engaged in American manufacturing.”

Also in The Atlantic, Harry Moser, who runs the Reshoring Initiative, an organization that helps businesses assess where to make their products, told author Charles Fishman: “About 60 percent of the companies that offshored manufacturing didn’t really do the math. They looked only at the labor rate — they didn’t look at the hidden costs.” Fishman says Moser believes about 25 percent of what’s manufactured offshore “could be more profitably made at home.”

For consumers, both American and foreign, “Made in the USA” is a powerful impetus to buy. The Urban Manufacturing Alliance is encouraging entrepreneurs to make products here, and many, particularly in San Francisco and New York City, are complying. Check with your local government; some may offer you incentives to set up shop.

Americans are not only in love with their mobile devices (about half own smartphones, and more than 20 percent own tablets), but they’re using them more often. EMarketer predicts consumers will soon be spending as much time on their mobile devices as their desktop computers.

But what matters to entrepreneurs is that consumers are increasingly surfing the Web on these devices — so if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re going to lose business. Unfortunately, according to a recent SMB DigitalScape studyreleased by vSplash, entrepreneurs “remain woefully unprepared to attract and engage customers via their mobile devices.” The study says 98 percent of small and medium businesses don’t have mobile-optimized sites.

If that’s you, here’s what you’re risking: A study from Google reports 75 percent of “visitors to a mobile-friendly site return, while 79 percent of people give up and look elsewhere if the site is difficult to navigate.”

If you’re a small retailer, you need to embrace the mobile trend now. A recent study from comScore reports 86 million Americans use their mobile phones to get retail information. And Javelin Strategy & Research says in 2011 consumers spent more than $20 billion shopping on mobile devices.

Big data
Big data may sound like it’s only for big businesses, but a report from Intuit and Emergent Research, a small-business research and consulting firm, says the “new data democracy” will help you build a better business in 2013. According to “The New Data Democracy: How Big Data Will Revolutionize the Lives of Small Businesses and Consumers,” data and “powerful analytical tools” will become “a resource on par with capital and labor” for small businesses.

Up till now, big data has lived on Wall Street. But the report says, “Armed with insights and capabilities once only available to corporate giants, small businesses will create new ways to operate more efficiently, finding new customers, improving their bottom-line results and driving economic growth.”

Essentially, says Steve King, partner at Emergent Research, "We are at the onset of a data revolution that will provide new and meaningful ways for data-empowered consumers and small businesses to connect and engage with their communities, make decisions and simplify their lives.”

There are certainly other hot spots to explore, including online learning, gluten-free foods, “sit and shop” retail, and what sweet-treat America yearns for (it’s still cupcakes). As I said at the outset, 2013 is likely to be a comeback year for entrepreneurs.

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