Did you know that there are more than 32 million businesses in the United States? That massive statistic means that small business owners have a lion’s share of competition, and it only gets larger each year. With just over a month left of 2019, it’s time to start planning and considering the strategies your business will put into place in 2020. Staying ahead and investing in future trends ensures that your business reaps the benefits!
So what trends can we expect to see (or continue seeing) in the new year? Read on to find out the top emerging trends small business owners like you should be paying close attention to as we speed toward the new year.
#1: Social media marketing will be necessary, not optional
Nearly 80% of U.S. small businesses use social media to handle business functions including, but not limited to, sales, marketing and customer service, according to data aggregated by SCORE. This means that if your business isn’t already utilizing some kind of social platform, you’re already way behind the competition. Having your company be active on relevant social platforms, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, will be crucial to a business’s success in 2020 and beyond.
In addition to handling your social channels internally, sharing both owned and curated content, companies can also consider working with a social media influencer, if cost allows. You’ve likely heard about influencers, but what exactly do they do? Influencers can be helpful in driving up your engagement rates on social channels, as they leverage their generally large and dedicated following to bring attention to your product or service. Generally, influencers have a niche that they focus on, so you’ll be able to work with someone whose audience is directly in line with your own target audience.
#2: Remote work will increasingly become the new norm
Gone are the days of being chained to a desk or cubicle from Monday through Friday! If you want to be seen as a competitive employer and attract top talent, consider allowing your employees flexible schedules and the option to work from home. With laptops, smartphones, video conferencing and messaging platforms like Slack, it’s easier than ever to keep your team connected remotely.
If this is something completely new to your business, start slow. Perhaps introduce WFH days to your employees a few times a month or once per week for a 90-day evaluation period. Based on the results, you can adjust from there. But, spoiler, you’re likely to see a boost in employee productivity. Remote work is a win-win scenario for both you as the employer and for your employees. They’ll save money on their commute, while you’ll save costs on operational expenses like water and electricity. Remote work also allows you to hire top talent from anywhere across the globe, no longer limiting yourself to local candidates.
#3: The launch of 5G tech
You’ve likely heard about 5G, but what exactly is it and what it will mean for you, a small business owner? So much more than a buzzword, 5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks, promising more speed and lower latency. Poised to bring high download speeds that can radically change how we use the internet, 5G will offer businesses so much more than speed.
Tying back to #2, 5G will greatly improve the remote work experience, making collaboration and productivity so much easier. In addition to connecting people, when combined with other next-gen tech like the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI, 5G will completely disrupt the user experience, from retail and fintech to healthcare and manufacturing. 5G will open up opportunities for IoT innovation such as drones, driverless cars, virtual and augmented reality and AI/automation.
As with any new technology, being prepared is key. Lay out a road map of how your business could benefit from 5G and how you’d want to use it in the future.
#4: Robots taking over? Not quite.
Breathe easy, humans - a world where AI and robots take away our jobs is still quite far away. However, that doesn’t mean that automation and AI are things that businesses can ignore, no matter how large or small. When applied where necessary, automation can help make businesses more efficient, allowing companies of any size to better serve customers and clients.
For example, how many times have you called a company’s support line, only to get stuck in an endless loop pressing buttons and dodging automated responses as you try to reach a real person? In scenarios like this, where the matter can often be urgent or high-stress, human touch is still king. But for internal processes like accounting, data entry or email marketing, you can achieve more with less by implementing AI and automation into your business. While often associated with enterprises and large companies, AI for small businesses will certainly be on the rise this year, as it is essential for growth.
These are expected to be just some of the key small business trends for 2020. What else should SMBs look out for in the new year? Tell us in the comments!