Small business owners more willing to go digital in 2016?

Since the recession came to an end and recovery has been slow but steady, optimism for the new year has become pretty common among small business owners nationwide. That trend is continuing this year, as illustrated by a number of different polls, all of which show that entrepreneurs think their companies are poised to take at least some steps forward in 2016.

The latest of these surveys states that 85 percent of small business owners whose companies are active on the review app Yelp believe their revenues will grow this year, according to the new Small Business Pulse Survey from Yelp. On average, those owners expect revenue growth of about 26 percent this year.

"Small businesses are an important part of the economy," Harvard University professor of business administration and Yelp's economist in residence Michael Luca, an expert on how businesses influence local economies, told the site. "They provide roughly half of all private sector jobs, and also provide direct benefits to the communities that get to enjoy their goods and services. It's interesting to peek into the minds of small business owners, to see how they're feeling and what they're thinking about. This group of businesses is clearly optimistic, which is consistent with relatively strong consumer sentiment and a recent uptick in retail sales."

Small business owners are feeling good about 2016.Small business owners are feeling good about 2016.

Other views from entrepreneurs
In addition to all this, small business owners seem more willing to adopt technologies that can help their companies grow, the report said. For instance, 85 percent of respondents say they now think digital marketing has helped them to grow their customer bases over the years, and 91 percent use these tools on a regular basis. For instance, 3 in 4 say they market via social media, and nearly half say they use at least one consumer review site or search engine ad service.

Indeed, nearly 4 in 5 owners said that they think digital options let them show their customers who they are and what they're about, and also deal with people more directly than they could before, the report said. That may be critical to future success because those same platforms have greatly changed the way in which consumers consider their personal interactions with large and small businesses both online and in the real world.

Further, positive views seemed to be most common among entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry, as 92 percent of respondents there said they thought there would be at least some revenue increase in 2016, the report said. On the other hand, companies that have not been around very long tended to be a little less certain of their prospects for this type of success in the coming year, with fewer than half making such a prediction.

Any negatives?
As with anything else, owners do see some reason to be wary in the coming year as well, the report said. For instance, 3 in 5 said that their biggest expected issue in 2016 will probably be both getting new customers and keeping their o
ld ones. Meanwhile, fewer than 1 in 3 said they were constrained by their marketing budget, and 3 in 10 are worried about what larger companies in their areas will do to their bottom lines.

Certainly, all of this can relate back to whether small businesses have sound financial plans they can implement and follow over the course of the year. This may help put them in significantly better positions by the time 2017 rolling around. For now, though, the outlook seems fairly strong.

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