Conventional wisdom often suggests that while large corporations grow more advanced, small businesses retain a more old-fashioned identity. This may be true in some cases. Small businesses often operate on local or regional levels. As a result, they don’t have to win customers in a national competitive landscape. Many rivals pour millions into new technologies and cutting-edge strategies for boosting profits. Further, their own rivals sometimes aren’t especially forward-thinking, either. This eases the pressure on them to pick up on the latest business trends and evolve with them.
In today’s business world, it rarely pays to stick to 20th-century operations and methods. As millennials rise to prominence in this economy, and Generation Z comes of age, small businesses stuck in the 1950s won’t fare very well at all.
In today’s business world, it rarely pays to stick to 20th-century operations and methods. As millennials rise to prominence in this economy, and Generation Z comes of age, small businesses stuck in the 1950s won’t fare very well at all. There are new demands on small businesses from both an operational point of view and an external, brand identity perspective. In 2020 and beyond, customers and clients will be looking for businesses that are getting ahead of global sustainability issues. They’ll also want organizations that craft bold, interactive, personalized customer experiences. Internally, small businesses will learn to take advantage of various new technologies, while also adapting to a transforming talent pool. Major changes are afoot, but none of them are exactly coming out of left field. Let’s take a look at six ways small businesses are set to change in 2020.
Embracing the Green Revolution
By 2020, Starbucks will phase out plastic straws at all of its 28,000 worldwide cafes. This is just one of the more high-profile examples of how big business is adapting to a society that values sustainability. But it’s not just mega-corporations that have started investing in environmentally conscious products and services. Small businesses are not immune to the shifting priorities of consumers. As we move into 2020 customers will be looking for sustainability practices in all the organizations they give their business to.
Small businesses will start taking a hard look at how they can reduce their environmental impact. There are a variety of potential routes organizations can take to do this. These include transitioning to renewable energy, ethically sourcing parts, and ingredients, and investing in manufacturing methods that reduce carbon footprint. Depending on the industry, small businesses will have different options for moving toward sustainability. The bottom line though is that consumers are demanding businesses to understand the fragility of the environment and adapt accordingly. It’s also important to remember, though, that embracing sustainability is not a financially fruitless exercise. It’s doesn’t lack ROI potential. It’s something that can be woven into your marketing and brand identity that can transform the way customers think about your business.
Working Within the Gig Economy
The way people work is changing. In 2014, slightly over a third of the U.S. workforce was a freelancer. That figure is set to jump to half by 2020. That’s right: by next year, 50 percent of American workers will be independent contractors. That sets the stage for a very different relationship between employers and employees. And the trend is not exclusive to any one industry or career type. Professionals ranging from technicians and plumbers to home renovation contractors, graphic designers, and caterers are all opting to be their own bosses and pick up work on a contract basis.
Small business owners should adapt accordingly. Changing their workforce model may take time and some challenging decision-making. The so-called gig economy can also work in their favor by working with more freelancers. Entrepreneurs can retain greater flexibility and respond faster to changes in their workflow. If you own a small HVAC outfit, for example, you might find that your busiest time of year is the summer. That’s when homeowners frequently need help installing and repairing air conditioning units.
With this versatility, you can simply bring on a few more independent contractors during the summer months. You won’t be obligated to hire them full-time going forward either. Small businesses that use freelancers have the opportunity to trim overhead, reducing the number of employees that they need to provide full benefits for. It’s definitely one of the emerging changes that small business owners can leverage. Making their organizations leaner, more agile, and more profitable.
Implementing Business Software
No matter the size of your business, there’s growing pressure to increase operational efficiency and achieve optimization. Organizations that don’t get the most out of their employees and can’t identify their inefficiencies will have a very hard time keeping up with the competition in 2020. One of the most impactful steps small businesses can take to optimize their workdays is introducing automation. Automation can be incorporated into many of the recurring daily tasks that otherwise drain your firm’s productivity.
Implementing business and enterprise software is a great way to weave automation into multiple aspects of your business. Top-line platforms will include automatic scheduling, billing and invoicing, work order management, and routing, among other processes. Automation frees up your team from the manual tasks that weigh them down, preventing them from getting more work done. Business software is, simply put, the best available vehicle to deliver that automation.
Experimenting with Chatbots
While it’s true that close to half of all small businesses still don’t have a website, the other half isn’t waiting for their competitors to catch up. Over the past year or so, many firms have begun exploring the value potential of chatbots. These are AI tools that appear in the corner of websites and answer visitors’ questions. There are some jawdropping figures being thrown around about the rise and use of chatbots. Research firm Gartner has predicted that chatbots will be responsible for 85 percent of all customer service communications by 2020. Perhaps more importantly, a recent study found that over half of all service organizations plan to start using chatbots within the next year-and-a-half.
Chatbots don’t just supplement customer service. (If that were their only purpose, they probably wouldn’t be surging in popularity.) They also can supercharge engagement. This means helping to keep visitors on websites for longer periods and informing them about products and services with lightning speed. The longer you’re able to keep a potential customer on your website, the greater the chance they’ll give you business. Chatbots can be a very powerful way to engage people. They gently move prospective customers from casually browsing your website to seriously considering what you have to offer.
Online Reviews as Marketing
This is something that has been gathering momentum for a few years now. Its influence will only grow more critical in 2020. People use reviews through online platforms such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google Reviews as major determining factors. Especially when choosing a small business to work with. Companies with a large number of high-star reviews put consumers at ease. Small businesses with little to no reviews, make prospective customers skeptical. For small businesses in 2020, one of the best marketing tactics you can deploy is increasing your number of positive reviews. It’s really word-of-mouth advertising for the digital era. And it can be more influential than even the most expensive marketing campaigns.
Learn more about different marketing approaches: Building a Brand at the Intersection of Word-of-Mouth and Social Media.
Small businesses that want to stay ahead of all the changes coming down the pike in 2020 should explore WHERK. A new software platform, WHERK was designed and developed specifically for service businesses. Its range of functionalities includes automatic billing, personnel tracking, dashboard reporting, and an advanced customer manager. Explore the WHERK website to learn more.