In 2018, the strong economy propelled small business to new heights. In a recent survey, 55% of small-business owners or decision makers said their business is better off today than it was a year ago.
Three trends emerged in 2018 that every business, whether a startup or established, should know for 2019. By taking advantage of these opportunities, you can position your business for growth and success in the new year and beyond.
Relationships Are as Important as Technology
While technology promotes efficiency and provides opportunities for communication with your prospects and customers, it will not replace a human touch in 2019. As Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls told Business News Daily, “transactions are driven by relationships.”
Business has always been about who knows and ultimately likes you and your business. You can have all the right technology in the world, but if your customers repeatedly have bad experiences with your business, that can spell trouble.
Small-business owners should know their customers and interact with them both online and offline. Technology cannot completely replace the human experience when it comes to customer service. A personalized touch can include a small gesture or excellent customer service.The deeper the relationship and connection, the greater the customer retention.
Technology serves as a way to connect with your customers in a meaningful way. Sure, it can make the process of marketing, buying and selling more convenient for all parties involved, but it’s all about knowing, understanding and more connecting in a relevant way with each customer.
Your customers want to feel like you know them. According to a 2015 IBM study, customers are looking for a personalized experience but feel brands don’t understand them.
While technology is vitally important, it’s also important to remember people want to connect with business associates.
Employee Recruiting and Retention Will Remain a Challenge
In 2018, the U.S. experienced the best labor market in decades. According to MarketWatch, during one month there were more job openings than unemployed people for the first time since 2000.
Furthermore, the news outlet said, “The U.S. is on track to create at least 2 million new jobs for the eighth year in a row, a hiring boom that’s knocked the nation’s unemployment rate down to a 48-year low of 3.7%.”
While that’s great news for the overall economy, it’s a challenge for small businesses. According to Guidant Financial, “Small-business owners reported a significant 15% increase in challenges with recruiting and retaining employees.”
Moving forward in 2019, that means small businesses will have to compete for employees and find ways to keep their best employees from searching for better jobs.
The ongoing wage increase is another challenge facing small-business recruiters. Hourly pay is on the rise, and many states are increasing minimum wage. If meeting salary requirements is a concern, consider financing your payroll. However, be sure your net gain is positive and your employees meaningfully contribute to the workload.
Employees also want a say in when and where they work, and employers are responding with flexible working arrangements that provide better work-life balance. According to Business 2 Community, “Heartland Monitor Poll found that 67% of U.S. workers would choose more flexibility and shorter hours, but less pay.”
For many workers, it’s not all about the pay. By offering a flexible schedule, you may attract qualified candidates for your open positions while retaining your current employees who are important to your business.
Subscription Services Will Continue to Grow
Online subscription services were all the rage in 2018, but people aren’t just paying for Netflix anymore. Consumers are now enjoying the flexibility of paying monthly fees for traditional services in a subscription format.
Subscription services are regular services or products that can be sold over and over again. Customers agree to an automatic bill each month instead of paying separately each time they use a service or product.
In the last few years, companies such as Dollar Shave Club and Blue Apron have flipped traditional products or services into monthly subscription plans. Not only is it affordable and convenient for the customer, it solves cash-flow challenges for small businesses as income predictability and budgeting become easier.
Research shows that 15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscriptions to receive products on a recurring basis. It’s personalized and often a more convenient and cheaper way to get what you need.
The bountiful opportunities aren’t exclusive to online businesses. Companies that specialize in anything from spa services to car maintenance can create one of these subscription services.
As the economy continues to thrive and consumer spending continues to rise, aspiring small-business owners should act now to capitalize on the trends of 2018. Last year saw great promises for small businesses. In 2019, these trends will continue to present both challenges and opportunities. Customer growth through forming relationships, employee recruiting and retention, or adding subscription services to your offerings may help your company evolve in 2019.
While trends change, one thing remains true year over year: The American entrepreneur works hard, cares passionately about their small business, and is motivated by a desire to expand and succeed.