As a business owner, you are constantly adjusting to the rapidly changing conditions around you. That is certainly true today, perhaps more than ever. The pandemic has forced drastic adjustments to circumstances you could not have imagined a year ago. On top of that, advances in technology and shifts in society are creating both opportunities and challenges.
While you probably don't have a crystal ball to guide you in making decisions, you can take advantage of emerging trends that will help steer your small business through today's choppy waters into a more tranquil tomorrow. Here are six of the best.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Not long ago, many people were afraid of losing their jobs to computers. As it turns out, advances in artificial intelligence, or AI, have led to exciting new possibilities for workers and owners alike. One of the most intriguing applications of AI is sales automation. This technology can tackle many of the more mundane aspects of running your business, such as scheduling and lead tracking, leaving you and your team with more time to focus on the more nuanced aspects of the work. Also, these programs can gather and analyze data, producing reliable sales trends and forecasts that will help you make more informed decisions.
2. Mobile Marketing
Another hot trend to pay attention to is the increased versatility of mobile phones when it comes to marketing your business. Text marketing and mobile payment options are increasingly popular with sellers and buyers alike. Another possibility is to develop your own app that will allow you to share updates, promotions, and entertaining or informative videos with your customers. Especially today, when there are fewer face-to-face interactions, staying connected via smartphone technology helps your business stay at the forefront.
3. Cashless Transactions
Offering your customers a wide variety of payment options is another way to stay on-trend right now and into the future. While you probably don't want to alienate cash-paying customers by going completely digital, you should consider optimizing the payment choices you offer. Beyond the well-known payment apps already in existence, the use of pay-by-text and even cryptocurrency is on the rise. In this rapidly-changing world where consumers expect quick and convenient service, make sure your business' method of collecting payments isn't slowing you down.
4. Flexible Employment
You already know that your employees are the heart and soul of your small business. Even if you yourself are the only employee, you'll need to focus on mental and physical wellbeing during these stressful times. Taking the time to ask, and then really listen to, what your team needs is key. Maybe a daily meditation or yoga break would help. Perhaps what's really needed is more flexibility in the schedule or even fully remote work to care for family members who are ill or supervise children who are attending virtual school. For some people, the world of freelance work holds great appeal as they can set their own schedules and workloads. Many employees today are looking for more than just a paycheck; they desire a work-life balance that allows for a fulfilling career as well as enriching personal experiences. To attract and keep the best talent, you'll need to pay attention to this important trend.
5. Downsized Office and Retail Spaces
One logical but perhaps unforeseen consequence of the pandemic is the sudden excess of brick-and-mortar space. With so many people working and shopping from home, decreased social interactions, and increased business closings, whether temporary or permanent, many buildings are underutilized or even vacant. Many businesses are rethinking how to use their real estate and, in some cases, whether or not they actually need a physical space at all. The trend toward repurposing existing buildings is likely to grow as the economy gradually resettles. If you own or rent an office or shop, thinking outside the box about how you'll use that space could open up new and creative outlets for your business.
6. Evolving Customer Base
Generation Z, generally defined as those people born after 1995, is shaping up to be quite different from the Millenials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers who came into the marketplace before them. Ensuring that your business is attractive and relevant to this new generation will be key to its continued success. In general, Generation Z is more racially and ethnically diverse, more socially conscious and inclusive, and more tech-savvy. Predictions are that their consumption of goods and services will be guided by a search for truth and ethical practices. For a business owner, this means making sure practices and marketing methods are aligned with core values while offering products and services geared toward an audience that has been digitally connected since birth.
As a small business owner, you are by definition a risk-taker. Your business' success is dependent on you and the choices you make at each step along the way. Keep up with emerging trends and use them to help make the best decisions for your business. Your customers and your bottom line will thank you.