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10 Small Business Trends to look for in 2020

Do you always miss the business trends or catch up on them when it’s too late? We are halfway through 2019, which means it’s time to start gearing up for 2020. Nowadays, the only way to stay in the game is to stay ahead of it.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan

Investing in future trends early ensures that your business reaps the benefits tomorrow. Check out these upcoming small business trends and stay ahead of the game:

1) More emphasis on personalized customer service

Your customer is an individual, you need to provide them with customized customer experience. One of the good examples of customized service is Amazon. When you visit your homepage on Amazon, you see product suggestions similar to what you had purchased earlier and not something irrelevant. If you bought kitchenware earlier, you see more kitchenware, books you see more books, your home page is yours, its customized and tuned to your needs.

According to Gartner, by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15%. The days of simply showcasing everything to every customer is over. There is too much noise and too many options for the modern customer. They will naturally go towards those businesses which offer them personalized service, reducing the noise and giving them precisely what they want. It’s now up to you to be that business.

2) Sorry, but AI will not take over customer experience

A dystopian world where robots take away our jobs is still far away. AI would help customer support agents deliver amazing experiences to customers, AI should not be looked at as something that will replace the human worker, rather it must be seen as a co-worker that will make us more efficient in turn helping us serve customers better.

One must also know where to apply AI. In urgent or high-stress situations, nothing beats a human touch. Many times I have called up the support of a company, pressed buttons, and dodged automated responses to connect with a real human being. Somehow hearing that my problem is solvable by a real human being brings relief in a way a hundred automated responses cannot. When my flight is canceled, or my food is not delivered, I don’t want to talk to a chatbot, I want to talk to a real person, the matter at hand is urgent.

These high-stress scenarios can only be handled by humans, and trying to use AI here will only result in pissing off the customer. AI can be applied here in an intelligent way, if we know a specific flight is canceled, an automated message can be sent to all those customers suggesting the next flight timings or by automatically routing these customers to the rebooking department when they call. Similarly, an AI bot can be used to answer frequently asked questions which would help reduce the work of support agents. AI is often associated with enterprises, but it is sure to be a small business trend in 2020 as it is essential for small businesses to be smart in the way they do business, this will help them win customers and grow big.

3) User reviews will be king

User reviews already play a significant part in influencing us to buy a product. It makes us feel more comfortable if people have already tried something and reviewed it. It has, in a way, become the number one thing we look for before buying something. According to this report by Fan & Fuel, 92% of people hesitate to make a purchase when there are no reviews. Reviews have become absolutely essential to products online, the fact that your product has a 4-star rating by hundreds of customers makes it immediately more appealing to customers.

Since small businesses have smaller marketing budgets that enterprise behemoths, it becomes all the more important for them to focus on user reviews. If your brand is being advocated by real people online, it makes it more trustworthy and results in increased sales. We will see more businesses in the future, focusing on this very crucial aspect.

4) Stories take over the Newsfeed

Stories were first introduced by Snapchat, it has now become a default social media feature owing to its huge success. Stories are short video content which disappear after 24 hours, they are more in the moment content which makes them authentic and more connectable to an audience.  

Earlier it was news feed posts that were used to bring attention to a brand on social media but now stories are growing 15x faster than the news feed. Along with live streaming, stories will become the primary way by which brands convey their message. Businesses will start to pay more attention to stories, try to build an authentic voice and find ways to connect with an audience. A good example is Dr. Brandt Skincare, they were able to use stories in Instagram effectively to drive sales by up to 500% and gathered tens of thousands of followers. They posted photos of their products and how-to style tutorials on their stories, users could even initiate check out by simply ‘swiping up’ on their stories.

Along with its opportunities, stories brings its own set of challenges, it’s now time for marketers to get more creative as stories are short and they have to get the attention of the viewer before they move on to the next story.

5) The rise of the remote worker

Infrastructure and space can be a big constraint for small businesses, real estate is not cheap but growth is important and small businesses cannot afford to be left behind because of this. But with remote working, this problem is instantly solved. The traditional worker working 9-5 every day at a cubicle is no longer the norm, with laptops and smartphones, video conferencing and team messaging — technology has made remote work easier than ever.  This is a fast emerging small business trend, we already see so many companies allowing employees to work remotely several times a week. This also allows small businesses to hire the best talent from across the globe.

Related: How cloud telephony benefits small businesses

6) The gig economy

Almost 36% of US workers are in the gig economy according to a poll by Gallup, this statistic goes hand in hand with the rise of the remote worker. A large percentage of these gig workers believe it gives them flexibility and they like being their own boss.

Many small businesses might not be in a position to hire permanent employees, it can be particularly hard for small businesses to identify and hire the right talent, they might also have specific requirements and problems that require expert help. It comes as no surprise then that the top challenge for small business, according to the state of small business survey by wasp barcode, is hiring new employees.

The gig economy is a boon in this scenario as you can tap into the best talent from a pool of freelance workers. According to a report by the freelancer union, we can see about 43% of the total workforce taking part in the gig economy by 2020. Who knows you might have a lot to gain by working with an expert freelancer?

7) Businesses prioritize employee happiness

Keeping employees happy is not about a bigger paycheck, it’s about letting them know they matter. They need to feel like they matter and are contributing. Employee happiness is paramount and has a direct correlation with their productivity. The modern workplace is very different from the past, there are ping pong tables, colorful walls and open workspaces for employees. All this is done to retain the company’s top talent and also attract the best.

Treat your customers well and they will take care of the company. The unemployment rate according to the bureau of labor statistics is at an all-time low of 3.7% as of April 2019, the labor market is extremely tight, when this is the case businesses will compete to hire the best, when there is no longer a bigger pay gap between companies, workers will look at other factors like the work environment.

8) Voice will take over

Smart speakers such as Alexa and Google Home have already gained huge popularity. The number of voice searches performed is also going up due to this — according to Gartner, nearly a third of web browsing would be voice-activated by 2020. Given that talking is the natural way of doing things this comes as no surprise. Voice searches are much more easier to perform, especially when we are on the go like in a car or while walking.

Businesses will now have to take this into consideration while trying to build an online presence, they have to put out content online that is voice optimized and not just keyword optimized, this is because people don’t speak in keywords but in complete sentences. This is a golden opportunity for small businesses to adopt voice while it is still relatively new.

9) Big data for small businesses

Big data has been so far used only by enterprises to improve the way they do business but soon small business too will start to harness the power of data. Easy to use analytics applications are on the rise now, this would make big data contextualization easier. It is important for every business to have a big data strategy, which will give them a clear competitive edge.  Data that is just big however gives no competitive advantage, the data has to offer clear actionable insights in order to be effective.

One must also be very careful with data, we have already seen some controversies surrounding it. Many restrictions are being imposed on how and what kind of data can be collected. These will only increase in the future, businesses will have to find a way to work with these restrictions.

10) The launch of 5G

5G networks are expected to launch across the world in 2020 and will open avenues like never before. It is poised to offer average downloads speeds of about 1 Gbps. With such high download speeds, it will radically change the way we interact on the internet. Interactions will be more instantaneous than ever, this will greatly benefit small businesses as they will be able to communicate and get things done much faster.

5G is also the technology that will support the video-hungry audiences of tomorrow. It will also allow new technologies like virtual reality and the Internet of things to take off. This would mark the beginning of a super fast and highly connected world.

These are touted to be the key small business trends for 2020. If you have a different perspective or would like to add to these, tell us in the comments.

Credit To: Varun Raghunathan