7 Small Business Trends to Watch Through 2020

From a new focus on customers to flourishing niche markets, these are the small business trends you need to be aware of this year and beyond.
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Your community – and the way your small business fits into it – is about to change. (Photo: GaudiLab/Shutterstock)

When it comes to capitalizing on trends and research that could make your business better over the next year and beyond, no one wants to be late to the party. A new, comprehensive report released by business software company Intuit and Emergent Research provides a deep dive into the trends that will shape the business world, and that could help you improve your relationships with your employees, customers and community.

We plucked out some highlights of the report to get you thinking about the best ways to apply these trends to your small business.

1. Customers are in control

There’s a new dynamic emerging in the relationship between customers and businesses, and it could mean a significant shift in your marketing budget. “Companies that once ‘pushed’ their product message to customers through traditional broadcasting and publishing channels are increasingly dependent on customers who evaluate products by pulling information beyond their control,” the report said. “This trend toward independent assessment will only increase as customers become much better informed and product information much more transparent, tipping the balance of power from business to the marketplace.”

Related: How Helping Customers Save Time Boosts Sales

In other words? Companies won’t find their customers – their customers will find them.

2. Running your business is getting cheaper

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Nowadays, building a social media following equates to building a customer base. (Photo: Travis Bennett)

Here’s some good news you can use: The cost of starting and running a small business is declining, and that trend will continue in the coming years. “Embedding digital technology in a growing array of business processes, services and products, is creating a lightweight infrastructure, cutting costs and lowering barriers to entry,” the report said. “Lightweight infrastructures will change the economics of many industries by reducing capital costs and increasing industry operating speed, agility and flexibility.”

In other words? Small businesses can compete and win in almost all industries.

3. Niche markets are flourishing

Consumers are increasingly looking for goods and services that cater to their specific needs. “Continued business cost reductions, due to lower-cost technology, outsourcing and access to third-party services, will drive down the costs of creating customized and niche products,” the report said.

Related: Carving a Niche: NOOCH Vegan Market

In other words? If you provide one of these goods or services, here’s more good news: it’s going to become cheaper to produce them, and the Internet will make it easier for people to find them.

4. The workplace is anywhere

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Employees who work from home are 50 percent less likely to quit their jobs. (Photo: marvent/Shutterstock)

In the late 20th century and early part of the 21st, technologies like fax machines, cordless phones and the advent of the World Wide Web helped us work from home when we couldn’t show up at the office. Now, the shift is even more home-based, but there’s another layer to it: one that lets you work anywhere, anytime, in any setting.

“Emerging Internet cloud and mobile technologies are increasingly shifting work lives away from the corporate office altogether and toward an in-my-own-place, on-my-own-time work regimen,”

In other words? It’s time to take advantage of mobile technology in ways you might not have attempted before, like video conferencing and collaboration apps.

5. Sustainability is a requirement

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If you don’t have sustainability built into your business model, your business might not survive. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

If you want to compete as a small business, you need to jump on the sustainability bandwagon. “Consumers and business-to-business customers will increasingly demand sustainable business practices, products and services,” the report stated. “The return of economic growth will renew pressure on resource supplies and prices, with regulation, taxes and other efforts to reduce carbon footprints adding to these pressures.”

In other words? If you sell fine jewelry, is it ethically sourced? If you sell paper goods, how many trees were eliminated to produce them? The shift to sustainability as a requirement might involve reorganizing your priorities and rethinking your inventory.

6. Localism will improve our way of life

Americans have long been beholden to our jobs and their locations, sometimes relocating across the country to please employers and earn more money. Those days are dwindling in favor of an increased focus on community, where work and home life intersect, and this interweave will spawn local economic development.

Related: Tips for Working with Local Farms

“The global “Buy Local” commercial movement will expand, with local governments offering incentives to support neighborhood businesses and consumers choosing to buy from familiar, close-to-home merchants,” the report said. “With the help of increased connectivity, impersonal city life will morph into clusters of active neighborhood communities.”

In other words? Keep sounding the “Buy Local” bell, and customers will soon become lifelong friends.

7. Choose salsa over ketchup

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Is salsa the new ketchup? (Photo: Nataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock)

Restaurateurs, take note: Americans are embracing cultural fusion more than ever. “Consumer behavior around the world will take on a multicultural flavor, where diverse, global tastes meet with locally produced – and often remixed – unique products,” the report said. “Local markets will reflect global tastes over the next decade, as consumers embrace and mix international products, lifestyles and work styles in unique and locally appealing ways.”

In other words? Instead of ketchup on your dining tables, think about setting out some housemade salsa for your increasingly multicultural customer base.

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