10 Small Business Trends to Watch

10 Small Business Trends to Watch

10% of your business changes every year–whether you like it or not. If you don’t change, thinking that business is just fine the way it is, you’re bound to be left behind as competitors grow and customers continue to demand more and more. Sometimes these changes are big in-your-face trends while others are so subtle they are easy to miss.

And let’s face it: the past few years have been filled with more change than usual. The pandemic challenged everyone’s adaptability (not to mention the supply chain causing shortages). The past year saw the beginning of what the “new normal” looks like. The economic repercussions of the pandemic appear to finally be setting in as interest rates hiked and inflation bloomed. And the coming year appears to likely be one of continued difficulty. You’ll have to get creative with your business ideas this new year.

Let’s take a look at 10 of the hottest small business trends you will have to dance to in 2023:

1. Exemplary Customer Service

I know what you’re thinking: customer service, big deal, service makes every list every year. Maybe it does, but have you made significant strides–changes–in how you provide service to your customers? Most businesses don’t; they think if complaints aren’t rolling in then things must be good–that thinking will get you in trouble.

In 2023 customers hold all the cards; they can buy what you sell in any number of places and they will only buy from you if you meet their requirements. And they have a lot of requirements. 

To step up their service, companies are taking a hard look at what it feels like to be a customer of their business. Is every customer genuinely greeted? Is a visit to a physical location pleasant–and enough to get them to put down their tablet and get off the couch to come and see you? Is your product/service selection what it should be, and is your team knowledgeable about what they sell? 

Your goal in 2023 as a small business owner is to build long-term relationships with customers, not just handle transactions.

2. Rethink Your Brand

A brand might not be what you think it is. It’s not your logo, website, or even your brick-and-mortar location. Your brand is the emotional connection–the physical reaction–customers feel when they hear your company name, see your logo, visit your website, or walk in your front door. It’s the concept you own in the mind of the customer; it’s the experience they can get only from you. 

The best way to describe a brand was coined by Adrienne Weiss, CEO of Adrienne Weiss Corporation: “Your brand is country, complete with its own language, rituals, culture, and customs.”

Think about that for a moment, and then think about how you are getting that message to consumers. In 2023, customers will expect the in-store experience to match what they see on your website and on your social media posts. Take time to review each of these areas and make the changes necessary to ensure you are telling the same brand story across every platform from eCommerce to even your Amazon store.

3. Work from Anywhere

My small business has an office that’s located in a wonderfully restored 19th-century farmhouse, but as cool as it is, sometimes I want to work from home or with friends at a local coffee shop. 

As a speaker, much of my life is spent on the road, so hotel rooms become my office. I enjoy the flexibility and I’m not alone: A study on the State of the American Workplace by Gallup found that nearly 33 percent of American employees would change jobs for more flexible work. That flexibility about where we work makes us more productive than traditional office workers.

Small Business Trends_Flexible Work_Infographic

But that’s not all because Work From Home (WFH) has morphed into Work from Anywhere (WFA), meaning the company headquarters might be in Chicago but employees can choose to live–and work–anywhere in the world. Studies also show that remote workers are happier, maybe because they save between $2,000 and $7,000 a year on things like transportation, clothing, and child care.

Remote work isn’t just good for employees. Companies can save huge on the overhead of real estate. Instead of maintaining an office, they can reallocate those funds to try out new technology and improve customer experience. Still want to meet up in person with your team? Try a co-working space or team retreat.

4. Rise of the Gig Economy

Independent contractors, freelance workers, or free agents–people who choose to work contract-to-contract instead of a typical 9-5 job–are growing in numbers, and we’re not just talking about working at companies like Uber or Lyft.

Freelancers used to be called in for special projects only, but now companies are using them to bring a fresh perspective to the job. Freelancers are working in businesses across the board, even in retail stores and restaurants. These workers allow you to increase your talent pool and be more flexible with staffing needs. They don’t require expensive benefits like healthcare, company cars, or office space. 

You can hire them for long-term contracts or one-and-done initiatives. It’s a win-win.

5. 24/7 Access to Your Business

Google created the Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT), a time of consumer research when customers know more about you than you know about them. Day and night they are clicking around the internet looking for the best place to shop based on ease, reliability, price, convenience, reputation, availability of products, and the ability to interact with you online and via mobile device. Certainly, connecting via social media and having an up-to-date website is part of the 24/7 communication equation; consumers want it all. 

The old “let your fingers do the walking” now happens via smartphone because these days everything we need to know is right in the palms of our hands. Everything a customer would want to know about your business needs to be available online 24/7. It’s the new small business marketing.

It’s not uncommon these days to hear a customer say, “I’d rather read the answer than call a business and be put on hold.” Depending on what you sell, 24/7 access could be defined as around-the-clock customer support, access to materials online, a conversation with a chatbot or other artificial intelligence, or even a detailed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on your website. You definitely need a FAQ page on your website that is frequently updated. Once-a-year updates won’t cut it with customers in 2023.

6. Reputation Management

Can you name the most reviewed industry on Yelp? Restaurants, you say? Nope, it’s retail stores. Consumers turn to sites like Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, and even Twitter to determine if a company is worth their time. Guarding your online reputation in 2023 is more important than ever.

You may not like Yelp, but pretending it doesn’t exist only hurts your business–people can still leave reviews even if you don’t claim your page. Why would you want that? Google your store at least once a month to see what is being said, and sign up for free services like Google Alerts, TalkWalker, and Mention to receive notices via email whenever anything you are monitoring appears online.

If you do get a bad review, respond within 24-48 hours. Be polite, be sympathetic, and apologize even if it’s not your fault. Say something like, “I’m sorry that this happened to you, outstanding customer service is so important to us. I’d like to talk further; will you please send me a DM or call XXX-XXX-XXXX?” 

The goal is to appease the customer AND the other people who are watching where this conversation will go. You have more control when you take the conversation offline.

7. Embracing New Customers with New Demands

So many businesses in 2022 were obsessed with Millennials that they ignored older generations with deep pockets. And they completely missed the fact that members of Generation Z had reached adulthood. In 2020, Gen Z accounted for 40 percent of consumer demand, with an annual buying power of $44 billion, and that continues to rise. Couple that with their parents’ spending and that number rises to $600 billion. These are important consumers.

Small Business Trends_Gen Z Buying Power_Infographic

The members of Generation Z, ages 7-22 in 2019, are our first Digital Natives. The other generations had to use a desktop or laptop computer, but the kids of Gen Z were born with a smartphone in their hands–they will have a lifelong love of technology.

Gen Z embraced the entrepreneurial spirit, starting businesses as kids. They are diverse; they don’t see color or gender, to Gen Z people are just people. They are health conscious. They care about their community, charities, and the planet–Gen Z favors businesses that share their beliefs. 

To attract Gen Z customers your marketing in 2023 should share information about your community involvement, charities you support, and the effort you are making to go green.

8. Video, Video, Video

TikTok, a social networking feed of short (usually 15-second) videos, now has more than 1 billion monthly active users. Video is king and the stats prove it: Six out of 10 people would rather watch online videos than television. YouTube, in fact, is the second largest search engine. Facebook Live receives six times the amount of interaction than other posted videos, and 86 percent of businesses used video as a marketing tool. (Hubspot)

So what does this mean for you? Video must be a part of your digital marketing strategy.

Become a broadcaster and add live-streamed videos to your marketing via Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, and/or LinkedIn Live. Use video to share new products and applications, do demonstrations, host webinars, and podcasts, tour your store, take followers to trade shows, or host a Q&A session–the opportunities are endless. Going live on a social media platform also gives you real-time access to your customers allowing you to connect with them in a unique way.

You can make your live videos work harder by saving them to your smartphone and uploading them to your YouTube channel. From there they can be added to other social media and used in email blasts.

9. Easy Checkout

Millennials rarely carry cash, and Generation Z never has, preferring instead to use debit cards or a contactless mobile pay form like Apple Pay or Google Pay. As a merchant, your job is to accept the payment forms shoppers request and make it easy for them to breeze through the checkout process.

If you are ready to try a contactless payment method consider a card reader like Payment Depot-supported SwipeSimple, a mobile app that allows you to accept payments on almost any iOS or Android mobile device. SwipeSimple features an EMV Quick Chip for speedier chip transactions and a magnetic stripe for legacy cards–all customers and their preferred payment forms are covered. This is a technology your customers won’t let you ignore.

10. Go Green

I have found myself giving packaged items at the grocery store the side-eye lately. Bananas don’t need to be housed in a plastic clamshell, I don’t need a plastic bag for two apples, and I can easily refill a reusable water bottle. A few years ago I wouldn’t have given any of those things a second thought, but these days I’m much better educated. Plenty of consumers are and they expect you to be as well.

According to the CGS 2019 U.S. Consumer Sustainability Survey, more than two-thirds of the consumers surveyed consider sustainability when making a purchase. They also said they are willing to pay more for sustainable products.

Small Business Trends_Sustainability_Infographic

Millennials and Gen Z jumped on the sustainability bandwagon and are making big strides. Fast fashion, for example, soon will be a thing of the past as consumers opt instead for ethical items that can stand the test of time. Big things are already happening:

  • Rent the Runway, a subscription fashion service that enables women to rent unlimited designer apparel for every occasion, just announced a partnership with W Hotels. You no longer have to pack for trips, just choose the garments and accessories you want to wear and the items will be waiting for you when you arrive.
  • Patagonia recently opened Worn Wear, a store that sells pre-worn clothing and garments, plus the “ReCrafted” line: clothes that are made from other clothes.
  • Consignment shops that are merchandised with the same care as upscale boutiques are popping up all over the country, selling apparel, home decor, and furniture.

Going green is almost mandatory in 2023 as the trend towards more eco-friendly processes and products continues to grow. Your goal is to reduce the overall environmental impact of your business–and let your customers know how you are making that happen.

Desmond Tutu said “There is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time”, meaning anything that seems overwhelming can be tackled one step at a time. So which of these trends will be important to your small business in 2023? Don’t think that you have to instantly embrace all 10, instead discuss the list with your team and decide which ones demand your immediate attention, and which trends you can begin to implement throughout the year–one bite at a time!

A Look at the Future of Small Business

The modern economy has been increasingly volatile for entrepreneurs and independent company owners, and the future appears even more uncertain in the face of an increasingly automated workforce. Many changes are looming around the corner, so small business operators must be prepared to adapt.

Although these uneasy times may be difficult to navigate, a keen financial sense can create lucrative prosperity within any economic climate. In addition to detailing potential upcoming risks, this guide explores the profound opportunities that lie ahead for small businesses and those interested in entrepreneurship.

The machine transformation

Technology presents the most evident shifts in all occupational fields, which means small businesses must be especially aware of trending developments in the computer industries. Companies like IBM, Google, and Microsoft are all investing heavily in machine learning to make computers that are smarter and faster than ever before, with the ultimate aim being that these computers will be able to analyze and interpret data, write reports, and do other work that humans currently do.

As this technology evolves, such machines will drastically simplify tasks and eliminate many expensive employee positions; however, large corporations will have steep advantages when it comes to acquiring such cutting-edge devices. Revolutionary inventions are often extremely cost-prohibitive, so access could be limited to the top tier at first.

Eventually, this technology will trickle down to occupy important roles in every company without regard to its size. In the meantime, human employees may be a more viable alternative, especially if corporate leaders decide to trigger massive lay-offs in favor of a robotic work team. In that scenario, eager employees will be readily available for small businesses to hire.

The rebalancing of industries

Every time a major innovation is unearthed, shockwaves can be felt in all economic sectors. For example, the Web killed print newspaper subscriptions in a relatively rapid fashion, and publishers were required to make a quick switch to online content to stay afloat. Similarly, automatic assembly lines generated many factory shutdowns.

This situation created thousands of unemployed workers, and there is no reason to rule out a repeat occurrence if more automated tools are created. Dominant industries may fall to the wayside, while unexpected new ones may rise in their place. Finding a viable purpose is the key to maintaining any company’s prosperity well into the future.

The expansive effect of globalization

Internet availability has already led to worldwide social connections alongside a subsequent need to compete on an international scale. The integration of international consumer markets is essential for any small business to thrive in the modern world.

Local efforts pale in comparison to the enthusiastic niche communities on the Web. Sellers must be willing to widen their horizons by reaching out to buyers around the planet. A company’s size no longer inhibits global transactions, as worldwide shipping makes customers in Shanghai and Paris just as attractive as customers in your own hometown.

The new economics

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Merging the entire world into a streamlined financial system requires a lot of currency conversions and cultural translations. Unfortunately, monolithic organizations manipulate widespread reliance on payment processing systems to gouge costs. This is where Payment Depot comes in handy.

We conduct batch processing with divine simplicity to ensure small companies can meet their deadlines with ample cash on hand. Our bargain-priced subscription memberships have several tiers based on activity, so account owners can select their service based on volume. This makes it a breeze to accept credit card payments at a fraction of the cost provided by many of our competitors.

As the need to accept charges from around the planet continues to rise, Payment Depot provides a ray of hope for independently-owned businesses. Give us a call today to learn more about how Payment Depot can save you up to 40% per month.

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