Small business predictions to know

As 2020 rolls around, we’re keeping our eye on the small business trends you’ll be seeing more of next year. From smarter AI systems to capitalism’s next step, here are our 2020 small business predictions: 

#1. Consumer (and business) values will continue to evolve

Consumers and companies alike are reimagining what business should look like on a planet with limited resources. According to Accenture’s Fjord Trends 2020 report, “Capitalism is evolving. People are becoming increasingly conscious and hyper-aware of how their purchases affect others and Earth’s resources. Growth for profit alone will fade away as people demand products and services that are personally meaningful and socially and environmentally beneficial.”

Accenture calls this an opportunity to reinvent how we do business, creating “services and products to fit new definitions of value,” and noting that, “Profit as the sole metric—essentially growth for growth’s sake—will not be the ultimate decider of a company’s success.”

And it’s time for a change: today, more than 70% of adults say that public companies should be mission-driven. And just as many Americans believe that companies should be making the world a better place.

This value shift isn’t just coming from consumers: businesses are changing their perspective, too. As Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says, “We can no longer wash our hands of our responsibility for what people do with our products. Yes, profits are important, but so is society. It’s time for a new capitalism—a more fair, equal and sustainable capitalism that actually works for everyone.”

#2. 5G rollouts will ramp up the speed of small business

In 2020, 5G roll-outs will sweep the nation. This fifth-generation wireless broadband will bring blazing-fast internet speeds of up to one gigabyte per second, making instantaneous high-resolution video, audio, and image downloads possible and laying the groundwork for advanced technology to thrive, from the Internet of Things to immersive virtual reality. 

Small businesses will be able to harness the benefits of 5G by speeding up communication between customers and colleagues and leveraging the possibilities inherent in the Internet of Things. As SmallBizTrends notes, “By enabling device-to-device communications for up to a million devices per square kilometer, 5G will expand the burgeoning capabilities of IoT brings to small businesses.”

#3. The world will get closer to cashless payments

According to Accenture, 30% of people in the U.S. no longer use cash in an average week. That number’s expected to grow as digital payment options become more ubiquitous.

“The world is becoming cashless,” Accenture points out. “People can now pay using their fingerprints and via facial and retinal recognition. Over time, our personal information and data will become embedded in money, enabling for seamless payment experiences. The personalized payment possibilities are endless.”

This means small businesses have a large opportunity to meet customers where the market is going. Small business owners can use seamless payment experiences to build trust with customers and offer the ever-increasing levels of convenience they have come to expect.

#4. AI will permeate small business operations

AI innovation is growing, and businesses are ramping up their investment in the technology: 80% say that AI is now being deployed at their organization. Even though AI is getting increasingly more sophisticated, small businesses can get started with it in relatively simple ways. For example, small businesses can already make the most of:

– AI-infused CRM. Companies like Salesforce have started to integrate AI that helps small business owners change their marketing and lead generation efforts almost instantly, based on AI-driven customer analytics.

– Chatbots. “If you’ve seen one of those popups on the bottom right of the screen when you first visit a website asking if you have any questions, you’ve encountered a chatbot,” Chad Otar writes for Forbes. “Both product- and service-based small businesses have begun using chatbots on their websites to initiate customer communication and help answer questions. Think of it as a sales and customer service rep that works for you 24/7, even when you sleep.”

– Hiring. As a small business owner, you may not have the time to go through countless resumes when hiring for a new position. That’s where AI comes in handy. Today’s AI-based HR technology can “automatically wade through hundreds of applicants to find those that most closely match the criteria you’re looking for,” Otar writes.

– Business intelligence. Let AI keep an eye on the competition for you. “Several tools have been created that allow you to keep tabs on everything your competitors do online, gather the data and then distill it into easy-to-read reports,” Otar says. “Competitor analysis tool Crayon, for example, uses AI to track competitors across various digital channels such as their websites and social media and gathers a variety of data, such as slight adjustments in their marketing language and pricing changes.”

#5. Mobile transactions will drive how customers do business with you

Mobile is only getting bigger, so it’s a major focus of our 2020 small business predictions. According to COX Blue, more consumers will be using their devices to access information and payment options while they’re physically in your store. Here are three ways they predict customers will be using mobile to do business with you:

– Mobile payments in-store. “Instead of searching for a credit card, customers [will] want to…make in-store payments by holding their phone up to a terminal or scanner.”

– Mobile payments online. “One-click online checkouts using mobile wallets [will] gain popularity due to a better conversion rate.” 

– Mobile marketing. “Companies [will] increasingly leverage in-store mobile marketing to meet consumer demands, since 32% of shoppers changed their minds about purchasing items after checking out the product information on their mobiles within brick-and-mortar stores,” COX Blue reports, citing Invesp findings.

#6. Podcasts will give small businesses a new way to stand out

If you’re looking for a fresh way to connect with potential customers, why not try podcasting? Podcasts are growing in popularity, according to a MailChimp report, and can be a great opportunity to extend your brand’s reach to new audiences. 

This is one of our favorite 2020 small business predictions, and we think more businesses will latch on to this trend as it gains momentum. Already, more than half of Americans have tried podcasting, and some 32% are estimated to listen each month, according to Edison Research’s Infinite Dial report. More podcasts are also being produced now than ever before: more than 700,000 podcasts are available today, totalling more than 29 million individual episodes. That’s 27% higher than last year!

“All of this growth is making even the biggest names in the tech industry take notice,” MailChimp notes. “As of 2019, Google has added playable podcasts to its search results.”

What’s next for your small business in 2020?

We’re wishing you a happy holiday season and a successful start to 2020! Which of these small business predictions will you take note of and integrate into your business?

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