There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year for small businesses. With the Covid-19 pandemic, racial equality protests and a looming economic recession, the business landscape has been transformed, and new trends are cropping up as a result.
Staying on top of these developing trends can help you adapt and end the year on a high note, as well as give you a leg up on your competitors. To help, we asked the experts of Forbes Business Council to predict some upcoming small business trends. Below they share 15 things we can expect to see in the business world by year-end.
15. Rethinking Marketing Spend
Most marketing professionals will rarely admit this, but some marketing spending is wasteful with questionable ROI, e.g., hackathon sponsorship or other pretend innovations by osmosis. The pandemic has forced businesses to rethink their approach when it comes to marketing. If you can’t quantitatively justify a marketing campaign, perhaps it’s time to recalibrate or change focus. — Scott Amyx, Amyx Ventures
14. Focusing On Online Reputation Management
Online reviews have become a critical concern for B2C and B2B companies and it’s a trend expected to intensify in 2020 and beyond. There will be more emphasis on the monitoring of reviews and ratings. It’ll be important to use online tools that allow small business owners to track and manage feedback and reviews from a centralized dashboard. — Beth Worthy, GMR Transcription Services, Inc
13. Serving At A Deeper Level
We’ll see some really innovative businesses going bigger and deeper with their clients rather than smaller and wider. Deeply transformative offers that have a big impact and are at a premium level of delivery and investment are trending big time now with our clients. Businesses that find a way to serve at a deeper level will be paid better and will thrive in this economic environment. — Kathryn Porritt, Business Bravery
12. Shifting To Remote Work
While remote work was something forced upon many people by the pandemic, it may not just be a temporary measure. Many small businesses are now seeing their employees continue to perform, even with everything else going on while working from home. After seeing the success now, where is the incentive to move back into offices that employers have to pay rent on? — Dawn Brown, MD, ADHD Wellness Center PLLC
11. Having Fewer Face-To-Face Interactions
I think that industries that require face-to-face interaction with its customers will need to rethink their business models. Remote or online is the way to go. I understand that it won’t be possible for every type of business, but I think this is going to force people to get creative and think outside the box. — Sameer Sharma, S. Sharma Tax, Inc.
10. Increasing Personal Branding
As small businesses are moving increasingly into the gig economy and remote work is becoming the trend, the products displayed online for sale will become harder to differentiate. This will lead to the owners going to social media to personally brand themselves and differentiate their business brand from the rest. This trend has been slowly growing, but will speed up in the future. — Talal Rafi, Sesame Associates
9. Rising Gig Work Opportunities
This year, we’ll see an increase in small businesses using freelancers. Many small businesses are not in a position to hire permanent employees or find it challenging. Using gig workers can give small businesses much needed flexibility and save them time and cash. — Adam Harvey, Proofed
Note: The Forbes.Com Business Council is a paid membership group of small business owners selected due to their expertise in business matters.
8. Diversifying Business Portfolios
These uncertain times have been an opportunity for small businesses to focus on the essentials, delivering their core value proposition. This is intersected by a careful look at cash flow. This rapid iteration will evolve into new revenue models, like building technology offerings alongside services, new artificial intelligence solutions and mixed revenue streams from private and public sectors. — Silvia Mah, Ad Astra Ventures
7. Sourcing Alternative Financing
Cash flow and capital will continue to be scarce. Businesses will need to rely on financing not only to be able to stay afloat during Covid-19, but to recover and reopen. With PPP loans being increasingly hard to secure and fewer businesses being able to access bank loans, alternative sources of funding, such as invoice finance will be a safety net for many companies who have been hit hard by the pandemic. — Payson Johnston, Crowdz
Businesses of all sizes will have reservations about increasing staff size too soon as the economy returns to some degree of normalcy. The fastest way to close the gap is to outsource services rather than hire new employees. What has been a common practice in accounting and HR will now become more acceptable for other services like marketing and project management. — Paul Weber, EAG Advertising & Marketing
5. Live Streaming Demonstrations
With more people at home and on their phones, I believe live demonstration selling will become a popular way to engage with new customers. It links e-commerce and social media by providing an interactive shopping experience directed by an influencer or business owner who you follow and trust their expertise on the product. You are able to see the product being used, ask live questions and then buy it! — Jennifer Coy, Beauty Care Choices
4. Repurposing Office Spaces
The way we use office space is evolving quickly. Many businesses are proving that some of their team can work remotely with high productivity. If we accept this as truth, we will soon decide that we don’t need as much office space as we did before. This may mean repurposing some office space or it might mean opting for a smaller space to save money. — Ryan Gray, SGW Designworks
3. Rising Online Retailers
Online retail will be one to watch and more businesses will be offering contactless delivery. We’re going to see people take advantage of this time to create their online presence and those who haven’t started adapting to this trend will need to start. More people aren’t going to feel the need to always go to a store with the ease of online shopping from a smartphone allowing people to place orders and have them delivered! — Steven Ridzyowski, Ridz Media LLC
2. Pivoting Due To Covid-19
Big companies with recognizable brand names that have strong customer loyalty will come out even stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic. The same applies to small entrepreneurs who had the benefit of being able to pivot when the situation called for it. Many entrepreneurs who were in the middle, lacked real brand name recognition and were slow to react will become relics. — R. Kenner French, Vast Holdings Group, LLC
1. Increasing Adoption Of AI
The growth of artificial intelligence (AI) has been incredible and has become affordable to most small businesses. AI can be seen helping small businesses target leads and adjust marketing efforts for better success, all by analyzing customer data. AI would also play a major role in keeping track of the competition. Chatbots driven by AI to assist customers would become the norm for most businesses. — Gokul Anandayuvaraj, Vinveli
And there you have it: The Forbes.com Countdown: Top 15 Important Small Business Trends We’ll See By The End Of 2020. Can’t wait to see the result of these at year end!
Supplied by the Forbes.com.
Contributor: R. Kenner French of VastSolutionsGroup.com. He is the author of two books — working on a third — , speaks all over the country, and lives on an island. Bainbridge Island, WA.