As an entrepreneur, you've likely had to embrace change lately so you not only continue to succeed, but you also find ways to dominate during unprecedented times. One of the best ways to gain a competitive edge is to stay on top of trends so you can create new opportunities and stay ahead of your competitors.
With that in mind, here are five trends all small business owners should embrace in 2020 and beyond.
1. Employee health and wellness must become a priority.
With the challenges that so many of us are facing during the Covid-19 pandemic, now more than ever is the time to prioritize the health and wellness of your teammates. There's no question that this trend will continue throughout the rest of the year and beyond -- top talent will expect nothing less.
Research has found that investing in the health and wellness of employees can keep them engaged, motivated and productive. It can also benefit your bottom line.
The most obvious starting point is allowing your employees to work from home even beyond social distancing requirements end. If this isn't an option, at least offer more flexible working arrangements so they can actually spend time with their families or make that doctor's appointment they've been putting off.
2. AI will continue to change the business world.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has already changed the world. It can be used to thwart cyber attacks, and AI and machine learning can help you plan your employees's schedules, particularly if they shift workspaces or projects frequently. AI can also help pinpoint when you should have meetings by reviewing past data, noting how people within your organization spend their time.
3. Mobile marketing will be used more creatively.
"Mobile is one trend that will surely grow in 2020 and well into the future," wrote Kalin Kassabov in a previous Inc.com article. This could not ring truer with the pandemic going on and everyone staying more connected through their phones. In fact, by next year, it's expected that there will be 3.8 billion smartphone users worldwide.
Kassabov recommends that you take advantage of mobile's popularity by using "geo-targeting to provide targeted ads to customers who are close to your business." Another option is to create an app for your business that enables you to share promotions and updates with customers.
Kassabov also notes you could also leverage SMS or text marketing to stay in contact with your customers if they opt in. Beyond extending offers, you can empower them to make mobile payments.
You can also use smartphones to tell stories or livestream videos via your company's social accounts. Doing so will help your business become more visible and engaging to a video-hungry audience.
4. Younger consumers will declare World War Z.
Generation Z, the people born between 1995 and 2012, now outnumber Millennials. They're not only entering the workforce during an unprecedented time, but they're also representing a massive potential customer base. As such, you need to cater to their unique preferences and values if you want to see your fan base grow in the coming decade.
Based on my observation, Gen Z tends to want brands to be socially conscious. Members of Gen Z can be more diverse and inclusive. They strive for learning opportunities; even though they're notoriously tech-savvy, they also treasure old-fashioned face time with others. Capitalizing on these preferences can not only make your company more attractive to Gen Zers, but also more innovative as a whole.
5. It's time to go cashless.
It's not exactly a new concept, but with every passing year, the number of non-cash transactions continues to rise. Between 2016 and 2017 alone, there was a 10 percent increase. With the pandemic taking place, I imagine that digital payments will only continue to increase this year.
That's not to say there aren't challenges. You may exclude some potential cash-loving customers. You also have to be concerned with fees, and there are privacy concerns. Plus, you'll want to consider local legislation before making any sudden moves. As an example, New York City lawmakers passed a bill last January to ban cashless businesses.
Even if you host an e-commerce site, you may want to expand your payment method options by accepting payments via Amazon Pay, PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Square, Stripe, or even cryptocurrencies. Moreover, look into options that allow your customers to pay via text. According to one study, 35 percent of customers are interested in this option, but it's only offered by 4 percent of businesses.
Change is inevitable, but it doesn't have to be bad. While not all of these trends will be beneficial to your business during this unique time, each is worth exploring if you want to see growth -- both in the short term and the long term.