10 Small Business Predictions for 2019

by BBB Staff | Jan 16, 2019 12:10:01 PM

Successfully owning and operating your small business
means staying relevant. Small business owners don't have the giant marketing
budgets and brand recognition that big box stores do, which means that they
need to make sure that their business practices have the most impact for their
dollars. High-quality products, flawless customer service, and a genuine
passion for their industry are the hallmarks of a thriving small business.

New year, new
you-as-a-business owner? Here are ten trends that experts and economists
predict for small businesses in 2019:

Remarkable Customer
Service

Most businesses operate with two maxims: "The
customer is always right" and "The customer might not always be
right, but they're still the customer."
As a small business owner, you're probably well
aware of the impact that customer review sites like Yelp!, TripAdvisor,
and Google reviews can have on your small business. Rave reviews from friends
and neighbors draw more new business into
your shop – but one poor review can tank your business.

Redefining customer service
to focused, engaged interaction will make more of a difference in 2019
.
With most of your customers a few clicks away from a broad internet audience,
each transaction is a time to shine. To capitalize
on this trend, train your staff to listen and engage with each customer. Empower them to go above and beyond to solve a
customer problem or find a shopper the perfect item.

Showcase Your
Expertise

The range of options that customers have means that
they're not settling for "just ok." If you aren't passionate
about your business and your industry
, it will show – and result in lackluster customer experience. Customers that patronize small businesses, versus Big Box or
department stores, do so because they're looking for expert advice, service, or
niche products.

Educate your staff about each product, focusing on the
features and benefits of the items. When a shopper receives knowledgeable descriptions and instructions about certain
items, they're more likely to buy. If you're in
the service industry, make sure that your employees are trained to
deliver the highest quality performance in your field, whether it's ensuring
that each detail is covered or every nail
hammered precisely. Quality shows through training and high standards.

Personalized
Marketing

Personalized
marketing in 2019 is much more than simply addressing a customer by name. While
Dale Carnegie correctly states that "a person's name is the sweetest and
most important sound in ay language," data collection has changed the
field of personalization. Now, small
businesses can craft marketing campaigns designed
with specific customer needs and preferences in mind.

To create a more personal experience for your customers,
you'll need to start with user data. This can
come in the form of email lists and surveys, giving you
valuable insight into what's working for your business – and what isn't. Once
you're able to paint a picture of your typical customers, you can begin
targeted marketing for each type of shopper. Making personalized recommendations can boost your click-through rate and
your sales – sometimes
by over 40 percent
! If you
aren't sure how to collect customer data, there are professional marketing
companies that can help you begin interacting with your regular base.

Social Media
Influencers with a Big Impact

Social media influencers have a big impact on their
audience. Those "insta-famous"
folks with followers and friends in the tens of thousands have a large reach –
and you can leverage that exposure to make your small business successful.
Social media influencers don't have to be big names like the Kardashians. They
can be bloggers (or "vloggers") that are experts in your field. They
might also be well-known people in your community. Whoever they are, when they
talk, people listen.

By
2020, experts estimate that the social media influencer industry will top $10
billion
. This can be a game changer
for small businesses. Social media influencer marketing involves
partnering with one of these influencers to share your brand, whether it's a
new blog post, product, or exceptional personalized
service. They'll share your social media posts, including photos or tweets, and
give you mentions in their posts. To make this successful for your small
business, find
the right influencers
and verify that their influence is legit. Then
reach out to them and let a relationship develop organically.

Vibrant and
Relevant Web Content

Part of creating your small business brand and
establishing yourself as an expert in your niche or field is creating a vibrant
website with fresh, relevant content. You want your site to not only provide
customers with information about your goods or services but also help them use
your products and provide tips and tricks to enhance their experience.

It's not just your customers that appreciate relevant web
content. Web crawlers from search engines also appreciate relevant, useful
content – and they reward these sites by placing
them at the top of the list for a search query. Gone are the days of
simply sprinkling in relevant keywords to place your site high on a search
engine return. Google changes their algorithms
500 to 600 times per year
, making sure that the sites that rank
highest (those sites that are search engine optimized)
are the ones that provide quality answers and content for search queries.

Producing exciting blogs, including guest blogs from
social media influencers, as well as content that's relevant to users will
ensure that your site has a good chance of popping up first on a list.

Take Your Marketing
Mobile

More than 60 percent of users access the internet from their
phone or mobile device
. If your business doesn't have a website that
works just as well from an iPhone as it does from a desktop PC, then users will
simply move on to the next site. Providing a great mobile experience allows
users to shop on the go.  This is especially important for small
businesses, as many mobile searches are for local goods and services.

Choose a website company that focuses on delivering a
great mobile experience. Unsure who to pick? Check out other local businesses’
websites on your phone. When you have a great experience, simply ask who built their site. Make sure that
your website host can handle plenty of users – you may not know yet when you'll
have a ton of hits, but ensuring that your hosting service is scalable to
handle heavier traffic is key to a great online experience.

Consider incorporating AI and chatbots on your website,
helping users interact with your site and providing specific answers to their
questions. This allows them to access
your business and receive personalized
answers, goods, or services immediately.

Streamline Your
Software

Choosing software to facilitate the more tedious tasks of
running your business can lighten your load, reduce errors, and give you more
time to focus on product development and customer relationships. Picking the
right software for scheduling and payroll, invoicing and accounting, and even
taxes removes a lot of the daily minutiae from a small business owner.

If your business is focused on retail or food and
beverage, having an up to date, efficient point-of-sales software is a
necessity. These platforms can help determine food cost, provide you with a
list of your best selling items, and even perform scheduling and time clock
tasks. Everything from marketing to customer lists and profiles can be stored on your software at the touch of a
button. More importantly, having quality software for data analysis makes it
easier to implement personalized
marketing, which is important for small businesses in 2019.

For accounting and running your small business on the go,
software like FreshBooks
allows you to manage your business remotely. This
cloud-based software allows you to manage your customer accounts,
invoice clients, pay bills, and even accept credit card payments online. The
flexibility of the program can make a difference for a busy small business
owner.

Focus on
Cybersecurity

Experts agree that phishing and hacking will increase in
2019. As more people turn to online payment and shopping, there is more
opportunity for cyberthieves to strike. Many mobile devices are fairly
insecure, and this means that protecting your customer's data, including
sensitive personal information and credit card numbers, is critical.

Hybrid security and cloud solutions will increase over the
next year, with an increased focus on prevention and deterrence rather than
detection after the fact. In 2017, 47
percent of small businesses were hit with a cyber attack
. To
make matters worse, many of these were hit
again. Keeping your data secure as
well as that of your customers is a priority. Your clients need to know that
they can trust your business, especially since so much business takes place
online, from invoicing to payment and even personal information.

To protect yourself and your customers in 2019, consider a
security assessment. While these might set you back a few hundred dollars, the
cost of a cyber attack can run into the tens of
thousands, or even cause your business to fail entirely. Choose a credible web host, and put software in place
that protects online payments for clients.

Train your staff to be alert for common phishing schemes,
like phoney emails with attachments or
links that contain malware. Employees can examine the sender's email address
when receiving a suspicious message, and not open attachments or click links
from unknown senders.

Data Analytics That
Are Easy to Use

New customer information, such as mobile user behavior and insights into how customers
determine which businesses to patronize
on the go, will become even more important in 2019. As data analysis gets
easier for small businesses to use, this will
help business owners place their web presence in front of customers. Mobile advertising accounts for more than half of the
advertising dollars in the US, and this number is expected to grow. For your own business to take advantage of
this, consider accessing software that shows how customers arrive at your
website and having an analysis of how optimized
your website is for search engines.

Smaller marketing budgets mean that your small business needs to maximize every dollar spent. Also, taking your customers’ behavior into account can help you anticipate their needs and give insight into new products or services that they desire. This, in turn, makes your business relevant and valuable to customers.

With this information, you can improve your online
presence as well as react and anticipate customer shopping habits, needs, and
even trends within your industry. For a small business, leveraging data to become
an expert in the field can really make a
difference.

Advances in Banking
and Payment

Mobile banking and online payments will only continue to
grow. Your ability to take payments in a variety of ways will make it easier
for your clients to use your business. Beyond just taking major credit cards,
apps like Google Wallet and Apple Pay are increasing in popularity. If you
aren't able to take mobile payments, you could risk losing a sale.

Changes in banking may also mean that the way you invoice
clients will change. Increasing your cybersecurity protects you, your money,
and your clients. As mobile payments increase, many users will make their phone
their wallet. If your business isn't prepared
for phishers and hackers, you could soon be out of business.

Prepare your business to accept payments from phones,
online, and even "wearables" – some smartwatch owners already use
their watch to pay for goods and services. If you aren't set up for many
different types of payment – and set up securely – you'll miss out in 2019.

A successful small business is one that can anticipate trends in how customers do
business. With greater personalization, from adverts that speak to a customer's
needs to flexibility with invoicing and payment for clients, your small
business can be set up for success. By embracing technology and taking a good
look at your customer base and their patterns of behavior, you can place
yourself as a trusted expert in your niche.

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