50 Big Ideas, Predictions and Trends for Small Business in 2015 Credit: Ruslan Grumble/Shutterstock

Out with the old, in with the new — 2015 is fast approaching, and that means a whole new year of new trends in the small business world and beyond.

Business News Daily asked small business owners and business experts what they think will be the next big thing in 2015. The good news? The experts agreed that 2015 will be a good year for small business and that things are looking up. However, that doesn't mean there won't be some big changes to adapt to in the coming year.

From the ever-changing technology sphere to ideas about the economy and business growth, here are 50 big ideas, predictions and trends to look out for in the small business world in 2015.

Entrepreneurship

"I predict there is going to be a resurgence in small business formation as Americans get back to their entrepreneurial spirit. Millennials, in particular, are going to embrace owning their own business as they realize the freedom it offers and reject the more stringent corporate world [to] create their own wealth." –Cody Gunn, president, Gunn Capital Management

"I think the economy overall is improving, and while the recovery isn't as robust as it could be, there are indications that growth will continue in 2015. That is positive for small business owners and incentivizes others to either launch or expand. There is a strong and growing innovation economy that will add to the underlying optimism that we are starting to see." – Scott Hirsch, CEO, Appsbar

Business growth

"In 2015, we'll continue to see a split between those businesses positioned to take advantage of the major trends and those that aren't. It should be a great year for companies that are involved with the transformation of the economy that is increasingly screen-based, big data [and/or] artificial-intelligence driven. These companies don't need to be directly involved in these types of businesses to benefit from them — although that would help." – Owen Shapiro, author and market strategist

"We predict an even broader shift towards contract employees and utilization of freelance personnel to fill expertise gaps, as well as roles traditionally performed by full-time employees, to help ease business costs and increase cash flow. Many small businesses will continue to employ the Hollywood model, whereby small, expert teams are assembled to meet the demands of a particular client or project, then disbanded after completion. The focus towards lean, efficient employment strategies are essential to promote top-line growth. This becomes paramount given the increasing costs of retaining full-time staff, and rising health care costs," –Jason Snagusky, founder and president, eKoffee.com

"In 2015, I see small business interested in investment capital to increasingly turn their attention to crowdfunding. This new type of funding is gaining traction and understanding, as the government has set guidelines and new platforms are being created to organize the capital into larger and more meaningful amounts for small businesses." – Chris Ragland, COO, Noble Capital

"In 2015, more and more companies will go international. Especially, U.S.-based businesses will start their trans-Atlantic journey. Globalization is moving forward in big steps from both sides of the Atlantic, but also to Asia. Crossing any ocean is a cultural leap that has and will kill many that try. To be successful with this expansion, you need to be competitive to the local competitors and culturally adaptable; this means your business has to be very agile in its thinking." – Philip Rooke, CEO, Spreadshirt

"After several years of freezes and even layoffs, small businesses are beginning to hire again, and they are very focused on not just getting people 'in seats,' but really finding the right talent that will enable their business to thrive, again leveraging social and other Web-enabled tools to do so. We anticipate this to continue and even increase going forward." – Michael Pires, vice president of business development and innovation, ADP  [5 Tips for Hiring the Right People ]

Marketing

"I see small businesses with aggressive growth plans getting serious about digital marketing and their customers' experience. There is a huge talent, technology and strategy gap with small businesses trying to do it all themselves." – George Schildge, CEO, Matrix Marketing Group

"The use of videos and visuals will be on the rise for marketing. You no longer have to pay for commercial time, but you can use the power of YouTube to reach your customers. Consumers are more likely to purchase after seeing a video than if there was no video at all. In addition, it shows that you are personal with your customers, that you care about your products and services, and are there if they have any questions." – Tom Malesic, president and CEO, EZSolution

"Influencer engagement will grow. With consumers demanding more authentic engagement, brands will invest in influence as a marketing strategy, versus just a tactic. Brands are now recognizing the massive reach of influencers in terms of social engagement, connectivity to celebrity and their own communities. While every brand believes they have an effective influencer strategy, next year, they will activate more efficiently and effectively than ever before to resolidify relationships with current consumers and organically engineer conversation with new consumers." – Coltrane Curtis, founder and managing partner, Team Epiphany

"Marketing is changing fast, and business leaders will be wise to consider these changes as they plan for 2015. First, marketing teams will need to be increasingly staffed with more technical personnel rather than just creative types. The creative side of marketing is critically important to develop clever ads and copy. However, marketing increasingly involves things like online advertising, re-marketing and social media promotion. Therefore, marketing staff will require more technical skills. Ideal candidates will have a balance of creative and technical skills." – Dave Scarola, vice president, The Alternative Board

"My prediction for 2015 is, far more businesses will start using statistical tools, such as A/B split testing software, to test and optimize their websites and their advertising campaigns to increase leads and sales. Internet marketing technology is turning marketing into a true science, where everything can be measured. Businesses will finally stop guessing about what does and does not work for their marketing, and start testing everything so they know precisely what is working and what is not working from a dollar and ROI [return on investment] standpoint." – Peter Geisheker, CEO, The Geisheker Group

Social media

"With the upturn in the economy, small businesses have more potential for success than ever. The most significant increases will go to businesses that have a flexible and effective online strategy, and who can rapidly respond to changing desires of customers. The growth of social media as a platform for connection is causing more and more people to get their recommendations from others online. Businesses that have a significant online presence will be in the forefront of the new referral and relationship marketing systems." – Pamela Bruner, business coach, Make Your Success Real

"As Facebook's organic reach continues to decrease, small business owners are taking notice. If they want to get in front of their customers for 2015, I believe it will be essential that they start looking more into social media advertising to expand their online marketing efforts." – Jason Parks, owner, The Media Captain

"Gone will be the days where companies allow employees to post content without conducting a deep dive into their audience first. Executives are getting more sophisticated and realize that unless their corporate social media plan is formulaic with clear, set goals, metrics and tools to provide those metrics, they're paying top dollar for employees to spend time on online efforts that have questionable value." – Ingrid Hansen, director, Launch Media

Work-life balance

"For years, companies were obsessed with making smarter devices that were portable so that we could connect to our work life from anywhere, at any time. We became technology addicts, and [being busy] became our form of existential reassurance. With several surveys revealing that over 90 percent of Americans feel they have a work-life-balance problem, we have finally decided that enough is enough. 2015 will see an increase in this rebellion against being always connected, always on. Businesses will put hard working-hour stops in place and provide tips to improve work-life balance, effectiveness, productivity and more. Hopefully, 2015 will bring much-needed balance to personal and professional technology usage." – Heinan Landa, CEO, Optimal Networks

"The belabored concept of work and life being two sides of one equation is out. With all aspects of life — including work, family, personal, etc. — blending into one, it is harmony — not balance — that employees should strive for. The phenomenon known as "homing from work" — employees completing personal tasks in the office — is found in 93 percent of today's professionals, and must be addressed by employers. So trash your 'no social media at work policy,' and get on board with the new normal with a modern take on workplace perks. Of course, small businesses might not be able to compete with the catered meals and on-site arcades of Google infamy, but they can certainly invest in a few small perks to make a big impact on engagement, retention and productivity." – Dr. Ann Clark, founder and CEO, ACI Specialty Benefits

Retail

"Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal pointed out a three-year downward trend in retail foot traffic during November and December that left 2013 holiday retail foot traffic at 50 percent of 2010 levels. My prediction for 2015 is a continued downward trend as more and more consumers opt for the convenience of online shopping, especially where delivery speed and cost is not a factor. Small businesses need to address this downward trend in in-store shopping by changing the shopping experience so that it adds value and provides experience that cannot be replicated online." – Elizabeth Krause, author and marketing manager, DB Squared

"Same-day deliveries of nearly everything will grow e-commerce businesses by a minimum of 25 percent. It will be the 2015 game changer." – Mark Stevens, CEO, MSCO

Technology

"2015 will be the year that SMBs eschew SaaS [software as a service] offerings in favor of SWS [software with service]. Most SMBs are busy running their businesses and simply don't have the time needed to work with SAAS offerings. They need software that comes with service support in the form of consultants." – Sharon Rowlands, CEO, ReachLocal

"I believe technology will have the most impact on small businesses. 2015 will be the year of EMV chip and PIN cards and Apple Pay. Small business owners will be faced with the decision of whether to upgrade their payments equipment or wait until it's more widely adopted. Small business owners should communicate with their customers to gauge what forms of payments they will use and plan their timing accordingly." – Jim Salmon, vice president of business services, Navy Federal Credit Union

"Internal business communication has been reliant on email since its inception, but more and more business owners are looking to corporate [instant messaging] communication platforms to streamline their internal, and even external, communications." – Andrei Soroker, CEO, Kato.im

"2015 will see a dramatic shift in how SMBs select, adopt and integrate technologies into a unified platform, with a laser focus on optimal efficiency. 2014 was the year of apps, ranging from chat to email, all promising to make business[es] run better. As a result, SMBs are on app overload, and 2015 will be the year to sort them out and adopt the platforms that truly help increase efficiency, productivity and revenue." – Pat Sullivan, CEO and co-founder, Contatta

"Game-changing technologies like Groovv Register are going to fuel sophistication in marketing and targeting of both prospects and returning customers. Not to mention, the rise in marketing automation platforms like HubSpot are becoming easier to use and effective at presenting company efficacies." – Eric Pinckert, managing director, BrandCulture

"2015 will be the year the SMBs embrace sales acceleration technology, helping it become more mainstream. In the past few years, many SaaS and technology companies have embraced sales acceleration to build inside sales teams very quickly and scale successfully. Now, we are seeing an increased number of SMBs — from industries including services, manufacturing and financial — beginning to adopt sales acceleration technology as well." – Nick Hedges, CEO and president, Velocify

"Small business will struggle to adapt and start accepting new chip-enabled credit cards [EMV], and just like CurrentC, chip-enabled credit cards will either be hacked or just as exploited as traditional magnetic strip credit cards. The cost of new equipment and new credit card rules and regulations are going to make accepting credit cards risky business for some small business types." – Bret Bonnet, president and co-owner, Quality Logo Products

"What is going to have the greatest impact on small businesses in 2015 is the ability to scale very quickly by using technology. Small businesses used to be thought of as local mom-and-pop shops, but it is now possible for a small company to be at the center of the world by selling its products worldwide overnight. Small businesses can partake in the digital revolution and expand their business by distributing their own mobile apps or by partnering with vendors to sell their products worldwide using online business partners, without having to figure out the logistics behind it nor planning exhaustive capital investments." – Max Dufour, partner, Harmeda

"Small business owners have begun to see that single-point solutions don't work as advertised. [A single-point solution is a software that performs a single task, like scheduling or point-of-sale.] Trying to use a number of point solutions every day actually increases the burden on the business owner that technology is supposed to erase. In 2015, we believe that SMBs will continue to transition away from trying to manage and pay for a collection of [single] point solutions, in favor of all-in-one platforms that are best-in-class." – Josh McCarter, CEO, Booker Software

"Mobile commerce and mobile usage will continue to increase. SMBs will start to create a more mobile-integrated marketing plan to engage customers and compete in the mobile realm. Merchants will start to pay more attention to mobile analytics, and create separate goals and objectives for their mobile efforts." – Chris Belew, CEO, Apptive

"Television content providers will shift their focus over to digital streaming as people turn primarily toward online for episodic programming, with exclusive online brands like Netflix, Hulu and now HBO offering content online. This is already causing a lot of concern for TV and cable networks as well as carriers, who tend to rely on revenue from both providing Internet service and digital cable. This will bring the net-neutrality debate into the spotlight, and lead to more folks understanding the issue and what's at stake. The changes that have taken place so far have strongly benefited the consumer, so business will have to be very careful with the stand they take on this hot-button issue." – Ken Wisnefski, founder and CEO, WebiMax

Data and the cloud

"I predict small businesses will be most impacted by cloud-based computing as they transition their technology from their own servers and landline phones to cloud contracts and VoIP-based phone systems." –Jeana L. Goosman, managing partner and CEO, Goosmann Law Firm PLC

"In 2015, small businesses will begin to see operational efficiencies gained from the adoption of cloud and mobile technologies. As these hugely impactful technology platforms become pervasive, small businesses across industries will become more agile and will deliver better, improved services to their end users and customers. This will, in turn, empower small businesses to enjoy better customer relationships and be more knowledgeable in their respective markets." – Steve Hebert, CEO, Nimbix

"One of the biggest tech trends I see picking up even more steam in 2015 is increased support of globally distributed teams. Cloud software has already enabled teams to collaborate together even if they’re working on two different continents. This is especially true for marketing and creative teams, who need access to different assets and workflows to complete projects. Software like digital asset management is taking worldwide collaboration to another level, with tools like automatic notifications, fully functional mobile apps, etc." – Preeti Upadhyaya, content specialist, WebDAM

"Big data will continue to impact both the IT provider and the small business, if not managed and understood appropriately. In 2015, virtualization storage will be key in evaluating and sorting big data, allowing businesses to save time and money in the long haul." – David Jones, chairman and CEO, Peak 10

SEO and the Web

"On the technology side, [there will be a] need to have more consistent content postings to help improve SEO, with newer search algorithm changes impacting how content is ranked. That said, it can't be just content churn — meaning lots of volume with no real meat to it. [Rather], it has to be substantive and carefully planned so search engines recognize and properly score or rank its relevance." – Erik Mason, CEO and founder, RYSE Marketing & Communications

"It's no longer acceptable for a business to have a rubbish basic website, or to say 'everyone finds us through word of mouth. The truth is, everyone Googles everything, and it's become plain weird to not have a website. Even a basic website is no longer acceptable. Businesses that win in 2015 will be those with great clear, user-friendly mobile-optimized websites." – Natasha Courtenay-Smith, owner, Natasha Courtenay-Smith Studios

"I think that small businesses will start to see, whether in a small town or a larger city, that the differences between local search engine marketing and mobile marketing will disappear. Google has made changes to their inclusion of elements of their own platforms [Google Plus and Google Authorship Cards] by removing them due to their lack of synergy in mobile search results. The adoption of more mobile online marketing services will be most evident in paid advertising, specifically AdWords and Facebook ads, and in SEO." – James Blews, online marketing and SEO consultant

"In 2015, small and micro businesses will look to websites and complementary online engagement tools as the best way to create better interactions with current and potential customers, driving more direct communication while helping to increasing sales in the process. Additionally, by turning their website into more than just a placeholder for their address, phone and email, over the next year, small businesses will create a place where they can go to understand what the customers are looking for, directing them to the pages with the answers to their questions and, as necessary, to the right communication channel." – Ran Oelgiesser, chief marketing officer, vCita

Internet security

"In August 2014, Google announced that, in an effort to work toward making the websites people access through their search engine safer, they are taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in their search ranking algorithms. They [Google] maintain that, for now at least, the 'https' factor only minimally affects search engine results page [SERP] rankings and carries far less weight than other signals, such as load speed and high-quality content. However, this is the wave of the future; the recent and relentless cyberattacks have prompted Google to take action. In 2015, organizations will rush to transition their sites from 'http' to 'https,' to make their websites more secure — and to meet the latest in a long line of Google requirements to be search engine optimized and competitive." – JoAnna Dettmann and Kaysha Kalkofen, co-founders, tSunela Digital Marketing

"Disaster recovery as a service [DRaaS] will be increasingly adopted by SMBs, since it provides them with the infrastructure for a real-time, virtual failover [the backup operational mode that kicks in during a system failure] environment at pennies on the dollar compared to traditional physical failover environments. Like their larger counterparts, with DRaaS, SMBs have the ability to bring full IT infrastructures back online in minutes, even after catastrophic outages, and they can do so without breaking the bank." – Subo Guha, vice president of product management, Unitrends

"One overlooked method to protecting data is email encryption. Email is the main form of communication in business and comes in contact with countless amounts of sensitive data each day. Without an encryption solution, that sensitive data is vulnerable. We feel that 2015 will be the year that small businesses finally recognize the need for email encryption. If they handle sensitive customer data, a small business should be encrypting email to ensure that all data emailed is protected." – Nigel Johnson, vice president of product management and business development, Zix Corp.

"Data security will continue to be a major investment consideration for 2015, especially with the evolution of enterprise mobility and continued cloud integration. As evidenced by recent data breaches, regardless of the industry vertical, hackers are getting more sophisticated and staying a step ahead of security measures. This will escalate until companies start taking the threat seriously and put the resources and cutting-edge technologies in place to protect their devices, including mobile phones, laptops, etc. Moving into 2015, more organizations will begin equipping mobile devices with security software, taking the step from managing mobility to securing mobility." – Marc Malizia, chief technology officer, RKON Technologies

"Most small business merchants ignore Payment Card Industry [PCI] compliance. Disregarding the issue is a terrible plan, because the penalties are severe. With all the attention given to security breaches at large companies like Target and JPMorgan, small business will be forced to comply. Securing your customers' private information is the right thing to do." – Bob Shirilla, owner and manager, Simply Bags

Politics, HR and beyond

"In 2015, more and more companies will be doing their manufacturing back in the USA, as more and more consumers will demand it. It's a matter of both product safety and consumers wanting to support jobs and industry here. You'll also see more and more regulations protecting people from imports that could be harmful. Over the last few years, these regulations have only increased, and it will continue to do so." – Craig Wolfe, president, CelebriDucks

"The raising of the minimum wage will be a key issue in 2015. The movement is growing, and the business is gearing up for a major battle. There is no general consensus among small business owners [on whether] a higher minimum wage will hurt business." – Rasheen Carbin, director of marketing, nspHire

"There will be big things coming from the automotive industry, particularly in the realm of eco-friendly cars. This innovation in technology, from manufacturers like Tesla, will force Big Oil to lower gas prices — in turn, helping out small businesses that need cars for travel, deliveries, etc. Every SMB is affected by gas prices, and when Big Oil has little to no competition in fuel choices, they can charge what they want. When that happens, small businesses suffer. Oil companies will have to lower prices to stay in the game, and continue to have the confidence of the public." –Rich Kahn, founder and CEO, eZanga.com

"In 2015, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act will concern many small businesses employing outbound sales or marketing campaigns. As the TCPA makes specific restrictions on automated dialing and mobile phone numbers, it may not make sense for small business to spend the time and energy investigating the complex regulations. We predict that next year will see growing concern over [this], and correspondingly a rise in vendors that make compliance with the new regulation simple." – Liz Osborn, vice president of product and solution marketing, Five9

"In 2015, small business are likely to be affected by new requirements to respond timely and adequately to unemployment claims [Section 252] using a new technology, a data exchange created by the Department of Labor, called SIDES [state information data exchange]. Claims against employers large and small will be available through this technology. Small employers will want to reply to these claims through E-Sides, a free but generic version of this exchange, knowing that failure to reply to unemployment claims can result in higher unemployment taxes. Small employers will be challenged to use this system and would, in my opinion, be better off using third-party administrators for U.I. claims that have full SIDES capabilities. Since the new data exchange will soon be the required method of replying to claims, small businesses face the challenge of adapting to this technology in order to protect their businesses from unwarranted unemployment claims and the high taxes they produce." – David Prosnitz, owner and president, Personnel Planners

"The influx of regulation and compliance criteria will be incredibly complex and demanding for small HR departments who will need to track the completion of mandatory IRS documents, streamline the filing and distribution of forms 1094/5-C, and prepare for possible audit situations where smart reporting strategies will be integral." – Stacey Pezold, executive vice president of operations, Paycom

"The transparency trend will thrive: From food to fashion, consumers are often rejecting the big brands for those that offer something unique, interesting and personal. This will continue in 2015 as consumers increasingly prioritize the stories behind the products they buy — stories about sourcing, ingredients and the individuals behind the companies they support." – Li-at Karpel Gurwicz, vice president of marketing, Como