On the eve of a decade change, we review 7 key trends that will serve small business owners well in 2020.
The growth of the cloud
Cloud-based software is impacting the capabilities of our staff – giving them greater flexibility and allowing them to work remotely more easily.
The finance department can request payments, order merchandise and access all our order information from anywhere. Sales managers can process orders, create quotes and deal with customers.
I believe that cloud-based and work-from-home systems can encourage employees to have a better work-life balance and increase job satisfaction.
The same goes for online accounting software, where you can keep track of your accounts on the go.
Nat Sharp is a marketing consultant and founder of Sharp Thinking Marketing. In her opinion, technology adoption will be a major trend and challenge for small business owners by 2020.
“Many companies think that artificial intelligence (AI) is still in its infancy, but small business owners cannot afford to ignore it.
AI can give us an incredible competitive advantage in improving response times and the overall customer experience. In 2020 we will also see a massive growth in chatbots.
Traditionally, marketing experts have not looked kindly on them, but as social networking platforms increase their compatibility with them and their complexity increases, small businesses will realize that it is critical to use them to improve the customer experience and automate their business.
Bots are useful for sorting and continuing to work with potential customers based on user interactions and without generating a constant flow of sales mail.
Small business owners don’t usually have time to spare. This is partly because they are busy with tracking unpaid invoices and other processes that they have to deal with manually.
Automation can be the answer you need to save time and focus on more important tasks for your business development. This is likely to be one of the key trends in 2020.
And whether you’re automating with accounting software so you don’t have to keep track of invoices or connecting with your customers more easily via email, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
Smart companies are aware that they need to invest in marketing automation, and I’m not just talking about sending the company newsletter with the latest email marketing software.
Those who know the industry know that they need to give their customers more control over how and when they consume content, and personalisation is the key to achieving this.
With automated marketing software you can integrate your website, email marketing system and CRM to ensure a seamless and fully customizable customer experience.
Fortunately for them, as we approach 2020, companies find a strong reason to move away from linear consumption models.
Instead of buying devices with cash, using them and disposing of them later, businesses are starting to employ a circular model in which technology is rented, refurbished and repaired for further use at the end of its first life cycle. It is not difficult to see the advantages of this approach.
Buying technology on a linear basis means that small businesses spend money on expensive assets that depreciate and negatively affect the company’s cash flow.
In contrast, the circular model takes advantage of the cost of staff devices. Instead of investing in new technology products, business managers can significantly reduce costs by purchasing refurbished devices or repairing those they already have to extend their life.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
This is another trend that small business owners should look at. It is an evolution of automation that involves the use of AI or machine learning software to manage a large number of repetitive tasks, for example, those performed in finance departments.
“In terms of technology, I think we’re going to see RPA take more advantage of advances in AI and machine learning. This will lead to what some call RPA 2.0, or unassisted RPA, which will not require human intervention once it is set up. This will open the door to a whole new level of productivity increase.
“On the other hand, attention should be paid to increasing basic plug-and-play hardware, along with possible open source automation software libraries. These two elements could bring RPA to a wider market.
“In terms of adoption, we are already seeing a strong boost to RPA from China, which is using technology to maintain its high levels of productivity. We are likely to see similar investment in Europe and the United States in order to compete.
Social Media Commerce
Tools are already being introduced that include these options, but I imagine that social platforms themselves will try to introduce this functionality to earn revenue from this transaction automation.
“It will also mean the integration of AI and chats, since most chat requests (especially in e-commerce) repeat the same issues: shipping, return policy, etc. In this way, topics can be identified quickly to give them the right solution”.
Betting on sustainability
“We work with 14,000 companies and more and more are demanding tax breaks for research and development (R&D) for projects that integrate green initiatives such as using more sustainable materials, reducing waste or developing processes that use less fuel.
“The priority given to environmental problems is growing, both as a result of consumer demands and purely economic necessity since the British government declared a state of climate emergency last May.
“Energy saving measures are now being rewarded and less environmentally responsible practices penalised through initiatives such as the climate change levy and waste disposal taxes, so it is in the interest of small business owners to invest in these areas”.