Last reviewed 21 December 2022

What does 2023 hold for the small business community? What trends in commerce, security and customer services will be critical to pay attention to? With an economic landscape in flux, David Howell assesses the year ahead.

As we enter the post-pandemic era, small enterprises must be agile and clearly understand their marketplaces and customers to create winning strategies that enable their companies to become resilient and profitable throughout 2023.

We spoke with a range of small business owners, service vendors and industry watchers to gain their insights into how they see the business landscape unfolding in 2023. We asked about what they see as the critical pressure points to mitigate and how the environment they are now trading within could evolve.

Surveying the small business landscape for trends, challenges and solutions has revealed fascinating and insightful comments from various businesses and support professionals.

Brendan Wincott, Managing Director, Guardian Support.

“Many small businesses who were apprehensive about allowing their employees to work from home, whether it was because they feared being unproductive or because employers felt their workers worked best in the office, have seen first-hand that remote working can be successful. A recent report by Microsoft Surface revealed that 56% of people feel happier working from home. The cost of renting an office space in a city centre doesn't look attractive when over half of your employees can work from home, so we are likely to see more moves towards work hub spaces and hotdesking from small businesses."

Ann Lowe, Head of Community, Spice Kitchen.

“We are remaining optimistic about 2023 despite seeing online sales this year go down by about half in 2022. We are largely a gifting business and so most of our sales come in Q4, so it has been very much a ‘wait and see’ scenario for us in terms of how we would perform amidst the cost of living and energy crisis. Another mitigation strategy is to diversify internationally, and we have been doing trade missions to Dubai and Europe recently, and we are now able to sell to the US. Lastly, we have written a cookbook which is out in May 2023, and this will help us gain a much wider reach beyond our customer base, and hopefully open opportunities in different areas which we might not even be aware of.”

Phil Drinkwater, Business Coach.

"Small businesses have more opportunities to grow now than at any other time, which will continue to increase in 2023. The ease of finding skilled employees online on sites like Upwork and People Per Hour, the desire from many people to support small businesses and the move toward content which feels more user-generated rather than professional means that small companies have huge potential with low cost.

“However, it's also important to recognise that marketing has moved on. People looking for your business are hooked in by offering and demonstrating value or interest. If you don't have this knowledge, hiring someone for a small amount of money per week to guide you in finding the right strategy can allow you to grow significantly — possibly faster than before. Ignoring this trend will likely lead to other businesses becoming successful and growing while you don't.”

Kim-Adele Randall, CEO, Authentic Achievements.

"It's often said that entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy, and this is never more apparent than when we see the progress made by small businesses. With a new year right around the corner, 2023 is set to be a ground-breaking year for small businesses as they look to achieve significant growth while staying authentic in their pursuits. Despite the challenges of surviving during an unprecedented pandemic, being part of what could be a revitalised global economy would bring remarkable opportunities that could result in unexpected accomplishments. With the proper support and ambition, this could be the year for small business owners to experience success driven by customer satisfaction and innovation."

Christian Borst, EMEA CTO, Vectra AI.

“Next year, organisations will face more unknown cyber threats targeting on-premises systems, cloud infrastructure, and SaaS applications. The skills shortage is worsening too, causing analysts to becoming overloaded and burnt-out. Combined, this is creating a perfect storm, leaving organisations more vulnerable to a breach. Organisations must adopt an effective detection and response strategy that reduces the burden on analysts, prioritising the most high-risk alerts. This means using tools that can identify the suspicious behaviours that an adversary will exhibit as part of an unfolding attack, flagging up these signals so organisations can stop an attack before it becomes a breach.”

Tim Annis, UK Managing Director, Bluechain.

“In 2023, we will see a move away from credit as people look to spend the money they have, rather than the money they don’t. This will support the growth of Open Banking and account-to-account payments, providing businesses with access to data faster to craft entirely new customer-friendly payment scenarios. Direct debits are archaic. Secure bill-to-pay processes will help consumers pay in a way that suits them within terms and give businesses visibility of what is coming in and out. Unfortunately, this current cycle of pressure and inflation will not go down for a while, so the industry must help society regain control of its finances during uncertain times.”

Greg Jones, Vice President of Business Development, EMEA, Datto (A Kaseya company).

“Digital transformation initiatives will continue in 2023, both within MSPs as well as their clients. However, harnessing technology to drive the business forward doesn’t have to be about cutting-edge technologies. Tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom can move the needle by improving productivity and streamlining remote working. Consolidated platforms can simplify how emails and messages are processed or how users access services and content. Rather than rushing ahead with the latest technology, organisations should focus on the user experience instead and start by considering how they can make each employee’s working day easier, shave time off jobs and free up time for other tasks.”

The small business community faces many challenges in 2023, including the continued cost-of-living and the energy crisis. A war in Europe that shows little sign of ending and a global downturn are obstacles but barriers agile small enterprises can meet.

Doing more with less will be a watchword across 2023 as small business owners look to rationalise every process and operation. Customers, though, will still spend with businesses that pay attention to their needs and create great experiences. Small businesses are nimble and able to innovate at speed. Next year is the year every company must become an essential destination brand.