Emerging Trends for Small Businesses in 2020

12 Small Business Trends to Watch in 2020

A new year and a new decade are just around the corner – which means it’s prediction time in the business world. If you feel like you’re already awash in out-there predictions about everything from which technology to buy to which new hot business sector to get into, relax: our list of 12 upcoming small business trends for 2020 is grounded in reality instead of hype. 

For example, millennials and their impact on business are pretty much a daily topic in the media. But the fact is, the newest generations are indeed changing how we do business – everything from hiring and operations to customer service and marketing. It’s important for business owners to stay in the loop about what today’s consumers are looking for in order to maintain a competitive edge.

Below are the small business industry and technology trends that we think pass the hype test – trends that will influence you as you run and grow your small business and respond to customer needs.

Trend #1: Millennials (and soon, Gen Z) dictate more of your business strategy.

These digital natives are not only making up a larger share of your customers, they are also becoming business owners themselves (66% of millennials want to start up their own businesses). The issues that are important to them – such as sustainability, according to Inc. magazine – drive their decisions about the businesses they’ll patronize.

Trend #2: Personalization is the name of the game.

The ability to surface more relevant products and information isn’t just convenient for shoppers: it can also increase customer loyalty and boost sales. And as shoppers get accustomed to more tailored experiences from large retailers, they’ll come to seek it out from the smaller businesses they visit. They may bail on you if you can’t offer effective personalization: 48% of consumers have left a company’s website and brought products elsewhere because the experience fell short of their expectations.

Trend #3: Voice search becomes a must-have tool.

Among small business technology trends to keep an eye on, consumers are getting used to doing more with voice assistants on mobile devices. In 2018, 58% of consumers used voice search to find local business information, according to BrightLocal; of that group, 46% used voice search every day. People often use questions and whole sentences to search with voice, as opposed to simple keywords they use with websites or texting. Make sure your search engine optimization (SEO) is fine-tuned so that when people voice-search for your business and its services, they find you in the search results.

Trend #4: User reviews become crucial marketing tools.

Both consumers and business buyers are relying on reviews for more of their purchases and services. According to BrightLocal, consumers read as many as 10 reviews when researching a purchase decision. There are more ways than ever to use reviews in your marketing campaigns, like quoting them in emails, your website, and in social media. Reviews can also become part of search ads, where the average star rating and number of reviews can be a smart way to differentiate your business.  

Trend #5: Data enables customer insight and better business decisions.

Big data is no longer just a tool for big businesses – it’s trickling down to everyone, even solo entrepreneurs. Insights about your customers can help you make business decisions large and small – everything from product choices and prices to the best way to provide customer service. Data can also help you gauge the health of your cash flow – for example, through data visualizations showing the ups and downs of account balances throughout the year. In addition, consumer data you collect about your customers’ habits and preferences can function as an ongoing survey of what’s working and what’s not.

Trend #6: Financial tech helps you run your business better.

Now that there’s more technology on the market that serves small businesses, it’s not just corporations that are benefitting from financial tools. You’ll discover more and more easy and affordable web-based tools that link to your financial accounts to help you with everything from managing cash flow, invoicing, and tracking expenses to financing your small business.

Trend #7: More businesses offer cash-free options.

About 3 in 10 Americans report that in a typical week, they don’t buy anything with cash. Now that cash is longer king, you might be thinking about going cash-free – but if you’re not ready for that step, you can still offer customers the convenience of app-based payments. These payment options make customers happy (especially millennials who like the freedom to pay with mobile devices). They also give you more flexibility by letting you accept payments outside of offices and retail locations – like at business fairs and outdoor markets.

Trend #8: Consumers crave more video content.

The more video, the better, as far as online users are concerned: for example, 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week, according to HubSpot. Video is often a richer, more engaging experience for shoppers – and for small businesses, it’s a way to add more personality to your marketing. It used to be that a small business might stand out for having video content, but now, yours might stand out for not having any. Fortunately, your videos don’t need a high production value to be successful. The tools and resources needed to make a professional-looking video are more affordable and accessible than ever. 

Trend #9: Cybersecurity becomes crucial for every business.

You can’t hide from online scammers simply because your business is small. In fact, these days, that makes you more of a target. This is because small businesses are seen as having less-robust defensive systems in place – only 16 percent of small businesses feel confident about their ability to fight off online attackers. Small businesses may also be less able to recover afterwards. Think about hiring a security consultant who can explain how to safeguard your business.

Trend #10: Shoppers prioritize sustainability.

Organic products were just the beginning – now consumers want to know exactly where products come from and if they are sourced sustainably. If your business sources locally or connects to your community in special ways, say so. Many cities have programs that recognize and promote green businesses – investigate these programs to see if you qualify.

Trend #11: Social media is more than just ads and likes.

We’re used to incorporating social media links into marketing campaigns. But social media is now becoming a tool for commerce and customer service as well — particularly now that Facebook and Instagram are getting rid of “engagement metrics” such as Likes. Shoppable posts, which link directly to your ecommerce website, and social media storefronts can help make social as important a selling channel as websites or apps. On the customer service side, as more customers seek service through social media, companies are seeing the value of responding through tweets and social posts, instead of routing customers through phone and email channels.

Trend #12: Temporary and gig workers are not just for big businesses.

Hiring even one worker is a big commitment in training and management, as well as cost (an average of $4,129 per employee). A temporary worker allows you to fill your needs flexibly, gives you a chance to try someone out before hiring them, and helps you and your full-time staff focus on core functions.

The end of the year is a great time to reflect on how your business is evolving and where it needs to go in the next 12 months. Now that you know what’s coming in 2020, think about how you’ll best serve your customers and stay several steps ahead of the competition.

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