Year-end is always a great time to look back on things that helped your small business grow, thrive and succeed, as well as areas that could use some tweaking or improvement. Contemplating the future, though, may be even more important than reflecting on the past. Staying ahead of the curve and on the cutting edge of evolving business trends will help you keep up and stay relevant in today’s crowded, tech-based, competitive marketplace. Here’s a look at some sales trends small businesses should pay attention to in 2019.
Voice-based and digital-assisted shopping
With the growing popularity of in-home smart speakers like Amazon’s Alexa-controlled Echo, tech-savvy consumers are finding ways to digitally delegate simple internet searches, song selections, thermostat and lighting controls, and more. That’s why it’s not surprising that voice-based and digital-assisted shopping trends are expected to continue their rise. Per a PR Newswire report featuring OC&C Strategy Consultants data, voice shopping is expected to jump from $2 billion currently to $40 billion by 2022. OC&C Associate Partner John Franklin said, “Voice commerce represents the next major disruption in the retail industry, and just as e-commerce and mobile commerce changed the retail landscape, shopping through smart speaker promises to do the same.”
Small business owners need to adapt to the shift in voice shopping and make sure websites and apps connect with voice technology, as the ease of finding products via search has become a critical factor in success.
As e-commerce revenues increase, a strong online presence is still important
In order to keep up with the rapidly expanding digital marketplace, it is critical for businesses to establish a strong online presence, which includes an informative, easy-to-navigate website and pages on popular social channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Online shoppers want instant viewing access to your products and services. As people today are more often on the go and conduct their searches and shopping via mobile apps, integrating mobile technology is important. Per Statista, the number of smartphone users in the U.S. is expected to increase from 237.6 million in 2018 to 257.76 million in 2019. Online retail revenue is also projected to hit 488.9 billion by 2019.
Being present in the expanding digital marketplace and ready to serve customers who want to shop in their own space and time will remain a key factor in small business sales heading into next year.
AI and chatbot usage should be embraced as sales tools
Finally, small businesses should embrace emerging technologies such as AI and chatbots. These technologies can predict what customers want and give them instant access to key information needed to make an informed purchase decision. Automated chatbots on a business website can answer a customer’s questions 24/7. In fact, according to a survey conducted by convinceandconvert.com, 64 percent of survey respondents listed “24-hour service” a benefit of chatbots, which was considered the biggest value to consumers. In this way, you are delivering an enhanced customer service experience which has the potential to attract buyers. AI can also track what potential buyers are searching and use data to predict what customers want while making recommendations based on search patterns. Of course, an exceptional customer experience and customer satisfaction will also be key driving forces for new and repeat sales, as well as customer base growth and retention heading into next year and beyond.
This article was written by Lori Melton for Small Business Pulse