What’s Next? A Small Business Vision for 2020.

By Rieva Lesonsky for SmallBizDaily

What lies ahead for small business owners and entrepreneurs? Many I’ve talked to feel like they are living in a Dickens novel. It’s the best of times: The economy is going strong, driven, says Sharon Miller, managing director, head of small business for Bank of America, by consumer spending. She says, “according to Bank of America data, consumer spending is up 5.5% on $3 trillion worth of transactions, which will help drive momentum into 2020.”

It’s the worst of times: Many a small business are struggling with finding qualified employees to fill jobs, are baffled by the rapidly changing world of digital marketing and are facing numerous other challenges.

To get some answers I turned to business leaders, entrepreneurs and thought leaders to get their insights and perspectives on what 2020 (and the new decade) has in store for small business. Of course, there are no guarantees. But hopefully, as my friends at Fundbox say, these “trends bear a history and trajectory that demonstrate their value in guiding your company’s efforts—and ones you can “depend on to help gain a competitive advantage in 2020.”

Part 2 of 2. If you missed part 1, you can find it here.

Advertising

Peter Bordes, CEO, Kubient 

Back to basics: Silos will open, fragmentation will be dissipated and programmatic will move towards its original mission to provide an open trading platform for buyers and sellers of advertising.

DOOH: Many don’t understand the impact DOOH (Digital out-of-home) will have. All of the features that are currently available on display, mobile and web with retargeting will be available in real-time on DOOH

Expect to see more targeting, more infrastructure and more open trading

The industry is cannibalizing themselves: There is way too much fragmentation and too many siloes. Aggregation is currently happening and will only continue to as advertisers/media companies are understanding they need a full stack solution.

2020 will bring consolidations and M&A to the overall adtech industry—or many companies will be weeded out.

Ad fraud: The Ad Fraud measurement model is flawed. For example, a recent report only measured a portion of the traffic, so fraud numbers are likely higher than they are purported to be.

Fraud prevention shouldn’t be an add-on, it should be baked into the platform’s advertisers use. Right now, advertisers only measure a portion of their traffic, or identify fraud retroactively when it’s too late.

 

Rhett Doolittle, CEO, Bluume

There will be a new company/platform to evolve in the advertising space for small businesses. The cost for Google, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn ads continues to increase and fails to show a return for small businesses. This provides a great opportunity for new technology to bring value to small businesses and consumers.”

 

Compliance

Chris Wayne, CTO, Yahoo Small Business 

The world is becoming more regulated, and in 2020, small businesses will do something about it: The implementation of legislation to improve protection of personally identifiable information (PII) will continue to significantly impact e-commerce and e-commerce-adjacent industries. In 2018, the rise of GDPR forced companies to comply with strict new rules regarding the collection, storage and use of customer data and has since influenced how companies engage with their customers, the tools they use, and how they use them.

With compliance issues and regulations taking on greater importance and becoming increasingly complex, ‘Do It for Me’ (DIFM) services and applications to help manage GDPR compliance and other privacy laws will become critical to the e-commerce ecosystem. Since GDPR applies to all databases, marketing, sales, HR, and accounting, any way data is stored or processed falls under these strict regulations. Businesses are responsible for how and where their data is stored, and for small businesses or e-commerce companies using third-party software partners, this opens up a host of potential issues. Small businesses will increasingly turn to partners and managed service providers (MSPs) to handle these complex aspects of their business.

Small businesses may take this a step further and integrate a managed security service provider (MSSP) to uphold security in their organizations. MSSPs are particularly appealing to small businesses with limited budget, staff, or resources to maintain good cybersecurity practices.

 

Charley Moore, CEO, Rocket Lawyer

On the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): “Like GDPR in Europe, CCPA is undoubtedly going to increase the cost of doing business in California and other places. New rules to comply with that will require investment on company parts in technology and know-how. Business owners need to budget for increased costs. In addition to increased compliance costs, CCPA opens up the potential for new litigation—another legal risk companies have to budget for. Any company that essentially has any sort of presence online is going to interact with personal information governed by CCPA, and as a result has new liability.

 

Customer Relationships/Experience

David Simon, SVP and Global Head of Small Business and Medium Enterprises (SME) Business, Visa

A positive customer experience can help to bring in more customers, increase sales, and create customer loyalty. Digital tools and services that simplify the shopping experience are important motivating factors for consumers when deciding where to shop. According to our research on the digital transformation of small and medium businesses, many SMBs have acknowledged such considerations—55% agree that innovative new ordering or payment services will have a positive impact on the business’s bottom line. However, only half of SMBs have tried services such as shipping/delivery, online order ahead, curbside pickup, and self-serve kiosks. In 2020, we will see a far greater number of SMB owners providing digital-related services such as the ability to shop in-store and online, buy online and return in-store, order ahead online, and free or same day delivery in order to stay ahead of the curve as it relates to the future of commerce. Beyond these online services, the adoption of custom digital dashboards for expedited automation and information share, accounting technology integration, and payment and spend controls will be integral to a modernized approach to running—and sustaining—a small business.

 

Dan Breeden, Strategic Partner Management, Yahoo Small Business 

2020 will be the year of the ‘always-on’ small business: As companies like Amazon continue to set buyer’s expectations for customer experience, it has become necessary for small businesses to adapt in order to keep pace. Successful small businesses in 2020 will increasingly adopt technologies and practices that help support an ‘always-on’ customer communications strategy. Through a combination of automated support chatbots, 24/7 social media responses, and spreading staff hours to monitor email and phone lines beyond a standard workday, small businesses will appear always-on and always-there. Small businesses that are able to meet these expectations—whether through seamless customer experiences, persistent accessibility, immediate responses, and more—will be most likely to build a loyal following.

This will become particularly important in 2020 as we see a counter-current of online shoppers looking to purchase unique items or to do business with smaller local merchants that share their passions, social, or environmental alignment, or who work in support of pet projects and causes. This niche consumer mindset creates an opportunity for small businesses to connect with customers on a deep, personal level and to create differentiation in both products, services, and service delivery.

 

Rich Rao, Vice President, Small Business, Facebook
Businesses will lean more on messaging to deepen their customer relationships: As I’ve been on the road this year meeting with small businesses, no matter the location, whether a rural town in OK to Singapore, small businesses are increasingly using messaging to gain proximity and build relationships with their clients.  Businesses are opening up digital presences and inviting in their customers to message with them—gathering feedback , testing new products and building their brand.

 

Meredith Schmidt, EVP and GM, Salesforce Essentials

Apps, technology, and social media are great equalizers for small businesses when it comes to customer experience. With so many apps and technologies to choose from, and options for every need and price range, small businesses can access simple yet productive tools for functions like marketing, customer acquisition, customer service and engagement. And as social channels continue to evolve, it’s easier than ever to reach your customers where they are and create lifetime customers and relationships.”

 

Kristen Bialik, Senior CX Analyst, Capterra

It’s important to take your customer experience strategy to the next level as consumers in stores expect more and more from businesses especially with the rise of technology and online shopping.

1—Develop customer personas to better identify CX needs: A customer persona is a finely honed profile of your best or target customer and should be as specific as possible to help you visualize their wants, needs, behaviors, and motivations.

Think beyond demographic information such as age, gender and income, and look toward your target customer’s values, opinions, aspirations purchase histories, service records, engagement on your website or social media profiles etc.

2—Build customer journey maps to better prioritize CX efforts: A customer journey map is an externally focused map of your customer’s experience through the full cycle of a particular journey. So it could start at the customer’s own awareness of a need and end with a product purchase, with steps for every interaction in between.

Try putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and imagine their actions and feelings along the way. By the end of the process, you should have a deeper understanding of gaps or flaws in the customer experience and your customer’s motivations, desires, and feelings throughout.

3—Create a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program to improve CX efforts: A VoC program captures and analyzes multiple types of customer feedback to identify customer experience areas that need improvement. As one of the core ways to better understand your customers, VoC programs enable organizations to follow one of the foundational pillars of strong CX.

Data sources for a VoC program can include customer complaints, customer surveys, employee feedback, company reviews, interviews, and social media. Through rich, diversified sources of customer feedback, VoC programs help companies better understand customer experience and sentiment.

 

Oz Etzioni, CEO, Clinch

2019 was the race for data. Now, brands need to figure out how to optimize the data they have and execute on it. You need to have a continuous understanding and communication between brand & consumer. In order to achieve this, brands need to break their silos, start building a customer experience hub to connect 1st and 3rd party data, and execute across all channels.

 

Rhett Doolittle, CEO, Bluume

More automation in customer relationship management has occurred, and it has spread to several industries including brick-and-mortar businesses. This will continue to evolve and become more prevalent for every industry type.

 

Marketing

Rosie Blake, CEO and founder, The Social Club

  • A focus on relevant and authentic influencer content. Many brands end up paying for influencers that don’t drive results because they aren’t brand-relevant. Audiences are becoming more aware of sponsored content and authentic content will be the new driver when audiences are choosing influencers to engage with.
  • A shift towards micro and nano influencers with smaller audiences but higher engagement rates. These influencers are more relatable to their audiences and generally result in a higher ROI.
  • More focus on longer-term influencer partnerships and brand ambassadors than one-off posts
  • The use of influencer platforms becoming more important in the drive for better ROI. In a new era where Instagram [may remove] likes, agencies and platforms are bridging the gap in influencer partnerships to make finding relevant influencers less time consuming and help to measure success.
  • Brands will start merging their content and influencer budgets, and start using influencers to create their content instead of production in-house.

 

Heather DeSantis, CEO and founder, Publicity For Good

  • Data is going to be king. Campaigns are going to be more targeted and specific because we are learning so much from it about our audiences.
  • KPIs will become essential to client relationships. Clients and marketing teams are getting savvier with their campaigns and are going to want more tangible proof of where their monthly retainers are going.
  • Earned media and paid media are very different, and it’s going to be more important for clients to receive earned media.
  • Publicists are going to be taking a more personal approach to working with clients. Clients want to feel cared for by their PR professionals.

 

Brad Simms, CEO, GALE Partners

Invest in Addressable Marketing: We say this a lot: hunches are out, and insights based on actual behavior are in. The only way to effectively personalize your brand message at scale is to lead with intelligence, then back it up with data-informed creative. In 2020, we predict—or at least hope—that businesses will realize what they’re missing is a proper, data-backed addressable strategy that goes beyond driving leads and conversion, to actually acquire new audiences and telling compelling brand stories. We’re not saying that mass marketing isn’t effective; we’re saying that it’s not where to start anymore. Today, you have to invest in addressable marketing to succeed.

 

Lauren McGuire, president, Man Made Music

Brands will need a sonic personality: In 2020, all businesses and their brands will need a sonic personality. That personality may be delivered through short-form sound, their own voice or both. Brands will think about their sound as equal to their visual identity, as the importance of audio grows with increased browsing and purchasing through voice.

Retail businesses in particular and those in adjacent categories will focus on designing better experiences and easier transactions to lure people into their spaces. Music and sound is traditionally under-utilized, but its strategic use to create immersive environments will come into greater focus. As new tech like self-checkouts, robot assistants, and no check-out (like Amazon Go) is developed and introduced into brick and mortar, the impact of smart and strategic sound and music will be critical in driving adoption and reducing learning curves or confusion.

 

Andre Swanston, CEO and founder, Tru Optik 

Gaming—Reaching the Unreachables: Advertising in video games will be a huge opportunity in 2020 for advertisers to reach the unreachables. The average gamer has an ad blocker, is not using Facebook, doesn’t watch linear television. Reaching a wide desirable diverse audience of millennials, Gen Z’ers and Gen X’ers, who were part of the video game boom, can be found playing video games and interacting with relevant advertisements.

 

Michal Borkowski, co-founder and CEO of Sales, Brainly 

Brands not getting it right will be called out: If brands are going to take a stance (think, Nike’s support of Colin Kaepernick) they need to have the values to back it up.

 

Going Green

Jon Stross, President & co-founder, Greenhouse 

The candidate experience will become a higher priority: 2020 will see the candidate experience—from application to onboarding—become a bigger focus for HR teams. Everything from regular touchpoints to better interview prep are major factors in how applicants perceive their candidate journeys. A poor experience can mean the loss of a qualified applicant, bad word-of-mouth for a [small business] and a general chilling effect on the overall quality of candidates over time. The best companies are getting the experience right, and we expect more companies will embrace that “cause and effect” dynamic in the new year.

Company culture will become more meaningful to attract talent: In a competitive hiring market, a strong company culture is a key factor for drawing top talent. And today’s candidates no longer care about free beer or ‘nap rooms’ in the office—they want to know that a company’s culture puts them first. That means increased transparency from senior leadership, better career advancement opportunities and more meaningful benefits (parental leave options, etc.) are now table stakes for candidates. 2020 will see organizations increase their focus on company culture initiatives to offer more significant perks that put the employee first.

HR execs will embrace data: HR will become more focused on data, and HR execs will need to be well versed in data analytics. The increasing importance of data in talent acquisition will, in turn, mean that talent teams add people who have expertise in parsing and understanding quantified data and how it applies to hiring. Expect 2020 to bring a shift in the traditional role of the HR exec to embrace data and data science, enabling them to have a stronger voice in shaping strategic decisions that impact people.

 

Krish Iyer, Director of Strategic Alliances, ShipStation

Sustainability in retail is a huge conversation when we look at how we, as a society, can reduce carbon emissions. In 2020, we will see brands take a step back and look at each piece of the supply chain individually—from sourcing materials to manufacturing to shipping (and returns) materials—and work to optimize processes in a much more eco-friendly way. On the consumer side, we’re already seeing shoppers become more environmentally conscious—veering away from some fast-fashion options and paying for sustainably-manufactured products and eco-friendly shipping. In 2020, we will see this trend grow, and we will see more and more brands adjust in order to stay competitive.

 

HR/Workplace

Don Weinstein, Corporate Vice President, Global Product and Technology, ADP

Trends Influencing the Future of WorkWe are seeing a business-critical convergence of technology and data in the workplace. In 2020, companies will look to leverage customizable tech solutions that meet the needs of their organization, their teams, and their workers to provide a more engaging and productive work environment.

A team-based approach will change how work gets done.

  • Organizations of all sizes need to break down siloes to unlock potential and create a culture of connectivity predicated on engagement and performance.
  • HCM solutions have not been architected in a way that supports dynamic teamwork. Expect that to change. The future of work lies in a flat working structure that unlocks the potential of dynamic teams.
  • The tight labor market will continue to fuel the war for talent, forcing employers to reevaluate their teams and seek alternative hiring solutions. Companies will increasingly look to meet their talent needs by supplementing their staff with highly specialized gig workers; former, returning workers; and retirees that can support nimble work.

Personalization will become paramount.

  • Employers and workers alike will demand app-driven, consumer-grade HCM experiences—not monolithic software that is difficult to implement. Technology platforms will need to adapt to offer flexible options that companies, teams and even individual workers can configure.
  • The worker experience will evolve through a confluence of emerging technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). The evolution of natural language processing and more conversational chatbots will help reduce time to complete tasks and aid in promoting user adoption
  • With the rise of new fintech solutions for consumers, workers have grown more discerning about how and when they get paid. As a result, the pay experience will reach a new level of personalization, offering an easier way for workers to be paid, the way they want, anytime they want.
  • Forward-thinking workplace perks, such as personalized, employer-driven financial wellness offerings will help workers manage their pay, savings and improve their financial well-being.

Compliance complexity will grow.

  • Increasing regulatory demands throughout the world is sharpening the focus on a need for agile compliance solutions. To help companies navigate this landscape, HCM partners will need to deliver global localization—the ability to localize compliance tools that address changing policies, regulations and laws at all levels with ease.
  • As organizations and teams continue to become more global—with workers logging in from around the world—businesses will be increasingly focused on uncovering new, compliant ways to support worker mobility, without creating unnecessary burden.

Today’s evolving workforce will require adaptable technology.

  • Just as teams will become more agile, so will technology platforms. This shift will enable HCM providers to deliver best-in-class levels of system uptime and scalability.
  • As more and more businesses move workloads to the cloud, expect the HCM industry to follow suit. Cloud-native platforms will receive favorability, as they eliminate maintenance windows, provide an open ecosystem approach, drive scalability and performance, and require less technical fluency from users so they can tailor worker experiences and create their own workflows.
  • Companies will have greater access to technology that provides ever-evolving, personalized solutions to fit their organization. The ability to access a foundation designed for rapid change only further supports flexible, adaptable solutions that effectively respond to the changing needs of a company.

 

Rich Rao, Vice President, Small Business, Facebook
Small business owners will increasingly look for talent with digital skills: When asked about hiring needs in recent survey, 76% of businesses said that being proficient in the latest online tools and apps is important for some, if not many or all, jobs. As consumers increasingly use social networks to find and compare local goods and services, small businesses are rethinking which skills are necessary to be competitive and thrive in today’s world.

 

Mark Silverman, CEO, Amava

Statistics show that more than ever, baby boomers are working long into their golden years. As the workforce continues to age, experts predict that 25% of workers will be 55 and older by 2020.

  • Flexible schedules. The 8-hours straight notion of full-time work is morphing and boomers are taking advantage of it. That might mean starting work at 7am, taking a fitness break for a few hours at 3pm and finishing up later in the day. Flexible schedules result in a happier, healthier and more productive workforce but supporting flexible schedules takes work.
  • Gig economy. Gig work continues to be a source of flexible income for boomers. Whether they still work full-time and moonlight to help their kids or parents or they’ve moved on from careers but want to keep earning, many boomers are increasingly becoming gig economy workers. This is great news for companies and organizations that need to scale-up during peak times.
  • Remote work. With conferencing tools ever-refining, the rules of work requiring regular facetime continue to change. [This] fits in with travel, caregiving and a more flexible, ‘work-on-the-go’ or nomadic lifestyle that many boomers seek.
  • Running a small business. Boomers who’ve worked for others their whole careers are looking at ways to hang their own shingles. They are starting consulting businesses, mentoring others, investing in franchises and more.
  • Mission-driven work. For many, the mission’s become the thing. Boomers are increasingly seeking out mission-driven paid work. They want to spend their time with companies that solve big problems.
  • Working for benefits. A growing number of boomers are getting back into (or staying longer in) the workforce primarily for health benefits. As the cost of health care has soared, health and wellness costs have become one of the largest annual expenses for the aging population.

 

Opportunities

Sharon Miller, Managing Director, Head of Small Business, Bank of America

Wellness—making sure we have balance—is especially important for entrepreneurs. When you have less than 100 employees and you’re doing everything healthcare and wellness become very important.

There’s a big opportunity [here]—mental health providers are hard to find. There’s a shortage of services—and there’s a need for more.

 

Jon Fasoli, Vice President & Small Business Segment Leader, Intuit

Will the gig trend continue? The Future of Work and the gig economy will continue being debated into 2020 and beyond. People who work for themselves create 80% of new jobs, yet there is uncertainty about what the future holds and how far we are into this wave of change. Two areas where QuickBooks is focused on moving the needle for self-employed professionals are portable benefits and access to capital.

 

Andre Swanston, CEO and Founder, Tru Optik 

There’s always an audience for FREE: While Netflix has cause for concern, free OTT services will not only survive, they will thrive as consumers look to supplement pay connected TV with free options.

Streaming audio is the new CTV:  The amount of weekly listeners and consumer listening hours on streaming audio will surpass terrestrial radio. Podcasts and smart speakers are becoming the norm. This shift has massive ramifications for advertisers as they look to navigate the new digital, audio world

 

Retail/Commerce

Phil Grier, commerce engineer, Yahoo Small Business

Over the years, we’ve seen a blurring line between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce stores during the holiday shopping season. New data shows, due to changing consumer behaviours (online shopping is no longer concentrated on a single day) Cyber Monday is declining in importance as the majority of sales increasingly shift to all online.

An overview of holiday sales data, based on Yahoo’s e-commerce merchants, shows:

  • 2017: Cyber Monday sales were 26% higher than on Black Friday
  • 2018: Cyber Monday sales were 17% higher than on Black Frida
  • 2019: Cyber Monday sales were 7% higher than on Black Friday

Yahoo’s merchants aren’t the only ones seeing a  shift— earlier this month Adobe Analytics also reported that Black Friday has merged from a one-day sale to an extended weekend sale.

Merchants who are implementing intelligent designs to help customers find what they want and thus increase conversions are experiencing significant sales growth.

This trend will continue until Black Friday eventually outdoes Cyber Monday in sales, even for e-commerce-only merchants READ MORE 2020 INSIGHTS >> HERE

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