Predictions are always risky, but it is important for small businesses to prepare for the future. Here are four trends to dominate in what is likely to be a tumultuous 2020, and what small businesses should consider doing to address them.
Sustainability issues will become more important
We have already seen an increase in awareness of sustainability issues in businesses of all sizes and this trend will undoubtedly continue in 2020. For example, hotels now request that you hang up used towels if you don’t need new ones, abandoning the old practice of having everyone just throw them on the floor and changing them every day.
Hotels tout the practice as ecologically sound (it takes a lot of water and energy to clean towels) and it is, but we have to note that it also saves the hotel money.
There are at least three reasons small businesses should participate in this trend. First, it is simply the right thing to do as science reveals the need to focus on sustainability. Second, as the hotel towel example above demonstrates, practicing sustainability can actually save small businesses money.
Finally, small businesses may find that their customers focus on sustainability and are eager to patronize small businesses that practice sustainability.
The decline in traditional employment models
Perhaps you are already participating in this trend, it will only accelerate in 2020. Studies have shown that traditional employees can actually be more productive working from home, even if only part of the time.
The year 2020 will see more “gig” workers, more independent contractors. You are probably already familiar with the advantages of temporary workers if your small businesses are to some degree seasonal.
In addition, think of all the savings you can realize if an independent contractor can work for you: no payments for down-time, to payments for unemployment compensation and Social Security, no office space and equipment, no sick leave, etc. This is a trend that can be financially lucrative for your small businesses. As tax and accounting experts, we can help you navigate these issues.
Online user reviews in 2020 will become more important
As we are sure you are aware, online user reviews are now everywhere: TripAdvisor, Yelp, Amazon, Angie’s List, etc. Chances are, your small businesses and has already been reviewed. But are you aware of the pitfalls of the system? These are pitfalls that your competitors may already be taking advantage of.
Two examples will suffice. Are you aware that sellers blatantly pay writers to generate five-star reviews of their products on Amazon even if they haven’t actually tested the products? Particularly in the restaurant business, we have seen false negative reviews by the competition on TripAdvisor. We have also seen glowing reviews by the chef’s extended family. TripAdvisor requires every reviewer to affirm that the review is fair and objective, but to what extent can we rely on that?
What can a small business do to cope? First off, every small business and need to have someone designated to monitor all the online user review sites. This monitor should be prepared to contact the site whenever he or she sees what appears to be a fraudulent post about your small businesses.
Also note that a negative review may, in fact, not be fraudulent, but indicative of a problem with your small businesses. It may be time to address that problem internally.
Finally, note that – using TripAdvisor as an example again – TripAdvisor allows your monitor to respond to a negative review (or thank the author of a positive review) right on the web site. If there is a genuine problem, offer to make it right. But don’t let yourself get drawn into a debate.
Engage in social media marketing a must in 2020
Did you know that in 2019 some seventy-five percent of small businesses have a social media presence? You must have been living under a rock if you haven’t heard of Facebook, but there is also Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. Also, although it is business-oriented, think of LinkedIn as part of the social media universe.
The good news is that, although there are opportunities for paid advertisements, most of the social media universe is (still) free. Do your small businesses have a Facebook page that you can invite customers and friends to “like”? At the very least, someone in your small businesses should be monitoring these media.
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