How market shifts, government regulation and emerging technology can impact your business

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With the world of business in constant flux, change is the one constant.  Market shifts, government regulations and emerging technologies are all influencing factors in the continued viability of a business.  Ignoring such changes can be detrimental to a company.

Case in point: health insurance agents are witnessing a radical change in how their business will operate.  The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act will likely cause insurance agents to rethink how they’re doing business. Those who ignore the coming changes do so at their own peril.

Trends and market shifts can also greatly impact demand for certain products and services.  Is your product/service a fad?  I’m sure opening a hula hoop factory in the 50’s may have seemed like a swell idea. If you were banking on that VCR repair shop back in the 80’s to fund your retirement, you may want to revisit that strategy. Oh, and you may want to think twice before investing the life savings in Silly Bandz stock.

Changes in technology can have a huge impact on not only how businesses operate but also on their viability.  Locally owned video rental stores along with their larger rivals – Blockbuster & Hollywood Video – are struggling in the wake of NetFlix and on demand movie rentals.  Streaming movies straight from the Internet is a snap thanks to Internet providers like EPB which now offer Gigabit speed.

It’s been a struggle for bookstores too.  The proliferation of Amazon.com and other box store retailer web commerce sites has put a dent in in-store sales.  It was reported that Chattanooga-based Rock Point Books is closing their doors after four years of being in business.  Co-owner Albert Waterhouse cites competition from online retailers and the proliferation of e-book readers like Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle along with the economic downturn as per the Times Free Press.

So what’s a small business owner to do? First and foremost is keep up on the market especially how it pertains to your business.  Join industry-related organizations that provide updates on proposed and pending legislation that could affect your business.  As for changes in technology, whether you’re a tech geek or not, it’s very important to be aware of new products/services that could impact how your customers use your product or service.

Retail operators should expand their vision beyond just using their store front space to showcase product.  A book store that embraced the changing habits of readers and helped accommodate them could find new ways to serve them better.  Small business owners should take time to ask  customers what their needs and desires all the while paying attention to how the world is changing.

Only then can one adapt and change to keep their business viable and profitable. This is one area where small business has it all over big business: the ability to experiment, adapt, change and adopt new methods quickly.

Question: if you were a book store owner, what would you do differently to remain viable?  What unconventional methods could be employed to attract, engage and retain customers?

Jon is a Digital Marketing Strategist and Creative Media Specialist who has helped companies of all sizes with their marketing efforts. As a board member of the Chattanooga Technology Council, and is actively involved in covering the emerging business tech scene. Find him on Twitter @jonfmoss