Small Business Trends: What to Watch Out For in 2020

Trends come and go, but it doesn’t mean they should be ignored – especially in business where technology, a massive emphasis on customer engagement and, of course, Generation Zs are fuelling the winds of change at a phenomenal rate of knots. Even if you have no intention of adapting the way your company works to progress with this new and exciting commercial wave, it doesn’t hurt to have your finger on the pulse. And, if you are intent on moving with the times, investing in future trends early means that your business can still reap the rewards – it’s only Feb, which is early enough, so here’s the lowdown on what’s predicted to influence the world of business in 2020.


It’s all about customer service

 

Ask any business what they think the key to winning customers is and it’s likely the response will be about the quality of the product or service that they deliver. Of course that’s important, but things have changed – providing the best customer service and therefore the best customer experience possible is now essential for both attracting new and retaining existing customers. To differentiate, customer service is the support that you offer to your customers both before and after they buy your product or use your service, and customer experience is about how that customer perceives your company’s treatment of them during that process.


No one wants to deal with a company that treats them as insignificant, so if you keep a customer happy and satisfied – tailoring your customer service offering to them as personally as possible – their knowledge that you value them and the fact that they feel supported will ensure ongoing business as well as word-of-mouth recommendations. According to a recent survey, 95 per cent of people asked indicated that customer service is an extremely important deciding factor in who they choose to do business with and their ongoing loyalty to that business, so there’s never been a better time to make sure that your company is firing on all cylinders where customer service is concerned.


It’s not all about robots and AI…yet

 

Technological innovation is inevitable, but we are far from a dystopian world where the human workforce is wiped out and replaced by robots. Instead of artificial intelligence (AI) being seen as a looming threat, we need to start understanding it as something that can assist businesses in the pursuit of growth – it’s naturally evolving and therefore becoming more accessible to companies of any size to help them run more efficiently and keep their customers happy, which can only be a good thing. Do I like the fact that I get a text from Easyjet to inform me that my flight is delayed or boarding from a specific gate? Yes. Do I want a text from Easyjet telling me that my flight has been cancelled? No. In the latter circumstance – a potentially urgent situation that requires a solution – nothing beats human interaction and reassurance to counteract any stress, which is where face-to-face customer service can make all the difference.


Similarly, where accounting is concerned, AI applications to help automate and streamline bookkeeping tasks via cloud-based accounting software is something to be celebrated, but automation can only provide the facts – clients will always feel more supported knowing that their books are being overseen by a human being with natural interpretative skills and a genuine interest in the financial health of their company. A robot will never be able to fully replicate human intelligence, but understanding the strengths and weaknesses of AI and how it effects your industry specifically will only help smooth the way for people and computers to work together successfully.

 

Gen Zs are all grown up

 

Although anyone in their 40s and up would have you believe wholeheartedly that 1970 was only 30 years ago, it was a little longer ago than that, so long in fact that even Millennials – (or Generation Y; roughly defined as someone born between 1981 and 1996) are no longer the only bright young things on the block with serious purchasing power. That’s right, even Gen Zs – largely defined as those born between 1997 and 2012 – are beginning to come of age; they were solely raised in an instant-access world of internet and social media, so marketing is an entirely different ball game to them and one that we should all learn the rules to.


Reviews are key

 

You may well be (and should be) utterly assured that your product or service is the best it can possibly be, but these days what customers want is to hear about it from people just like them. Online reviews aren’t only a brilliant marketing tool, they also have the power to make or break a company’s reputation – according to conversational marketing expert Podium’s latest stats, a whopping 93% of consumers agreed that online reviews have an impact on their purchase decisions, 82% said the content of a review had convinced them to make a purchase, and 68% were willing to pay up to 15% more for the same product or service if assured that they’ll have a better experience. In the eyes of the consumer, a positive online review is cold hard proof of your capability to deliver and in turn creates trust between you and them and offers a direct line of communication too; if you’re not already working towards creating a review culture in your company, start now, and make sure your customers know how important them leaving a review for you is… 77% of those surveyed said they would be more than happy to leave one if asked.


Get story savvy

 

If you don’t know what I mean by ‘story’ you need to learn it quickly because story sharing is currently growing 15 times faster than newsfeed sharing across all social media channels. Which is huge. Started way back in 2013 by Snapchat, stories are short bursts of video content that you can share instantly on your social media ‘story’ and that then disappear after 24 hours; it’s the ‘live and direct’ nature of the content that makes stories so appealing and authentic to viewers. Sharing posts via a newsfeed is what used to bring attention to a brand, but this year stories are set to be the most effective way for a company to convey their message and connect with their audience – with Instagram stories topping out at over 300 million users daily, never has the visual communication era made itself better known.


Remote working is on the rise

 

Remote working is having more than a moment and today’s office is a far more inclusive model with a far larger talent pool. One that recognises parents that need to work around the school run; one that recognises that disability doesn’t equal inability; and one that recognises that a ‘team’ can be comprised of people that live as close to each other as the same town, or as far from one another as the other side of the world. As of 2019, statistics show that the number of companies with remote workforces is on an upward surge with 16 per cent now being fully remote and a considerable 66 per cent allowing remote work to employees that request it. No two businesses are the same however, and there’s no one-size-fits-all plan you can follow to make sure everything with your remote workforce is ticking along with a spring in its step, but we’ve got some ideas about what to do to keep motivation high and the lines of communication open that you can check out here.

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