As COVID continues its path, small businesses continue to adapt to turbulence and disruption. Along the way, we’ve experienced (and captured below) some key trends we see developing in 2022:

1. A growing awareness of inequality

Businesses are expected to take a stand on a variety of issues—and customers want to see how they’re addressing inequalities within their own shops.

Companies are now part of the societal conversation around these issues, and should carefully choose where they want to focus their influence. But remember: it’s impossible to achieve 100% approval when taking a stand. Even so, engaging with the community is what matter matters.

2. A shift in personal priorities

Changes in consumer behavior reflect a greater shift in people’s personal priorities. The “Great Resignation” is a clear indication that people were acting on a strong desire for change. The economic ripples of this mentality were felt across all businesses. People quit their jobs, started their own side hustles, and re-evaluated everything from where they lived to what they bought.

This trend shows employees and customers hold more power than before. Employees expect a better work-life balance, better working conditions, and higher pay. And they know they’re in a good bargaining position. Businesses who want to keep top talent must respond accordingly. Meanwhile, customers have reevaluated their priorities, and will continue to align their purchases with their values. Customers are seeking out local, sustainable, and ethically-sourced products, and businesses need to respond to these changing values.

3. Disrupted shopping patterns

The pandemic severely disrupted shopping patterns, forcing many small brick-and-mortar businesses to expand or begin offering a robust online experience. Now that businesses have sorted the logistics of ordering and shipping, proper delivery of the right product becomes part of the shopping experience.

As customers continue to shop online, brands need to recreate the joy and discovery that happens during in-store interactions. This means creating a memorable experience for the customer. The subscription-box model is one example of how to do this well, with businesses delivering packages of delight—whether it’s craft beer, coffee, or plants—to customers in a way that recaptures some of the fun of shopping.

4. A sense of screen ennui

We’re all Zoomed out, but the need for online meetings, online shopping, and even online socializing remains. Business must find new ways to engage with people online, creating an immersive experience. 

In 2021, brands were already exploring ways to make interactions with customers fun. Some used places like Discord, which offer an actual gathering place for people to hang out. Others experimented with exciting online events, like the Weeknd’s live and interactive virtual concert on TikTok that pulled in more than 2 million unique viewers. In a 2021 report, Accenture found that 64% of brands were investing in AR, VR, 3D content, and 360-degree video to create different experiences for customers.

5. The disintegration of routine and ritual

Many routines and rituals we knew three years ago have changed significantly, or disappeared altogether. As COVID changed things almost overnight, it disrupted everything from the morning commute to happy hour.

Even as some aspects of life have stabilized, many of our routines seem to have changed for good. When a routine is disrupted, it creates opportunity for new rituals and habits—and that’s an opportunity for business. Consider how you can encourage new kinds of rituals, celebrations, or moments of connection.

Some ideas include shipping wine to customers to enjoy during an online wine-tasting event; creating a craft supply subscription for families to enjoy on weekends at home; or creating curated beauty and wellbeing boxes to help customers focus on important self-care rituals.

Staying adaptable in an uncertain world

It is inspiring to see how small business owners have innovated to stay competitive in today’s world, and though things remain uncertain, one thing we will always be able to count on is a business owner’s ingenuity.

Interested in hearing more? Watch this Gzero YouTube video interview that specifically talks about small businesses and what they face this year. (The video is free to watch.)

Grab hold of these trends, and we wish you the best in engaging with your customers and the world.