By Kalin Kassabov, CEO of ProTexting.com

If you have a small business, it's essential to keep up with the latest trends in technology, marketing, customer service and other areas that affect your business. Each business is unique, so every trend doesn't necessarily impact you equally. However, all major trends do influence your customers' expectations, so it's good to be up to date.

Here are some of the most significant trends I'm currently seeing that will impact small businesses in 2020 and beyond. 

1. Customers prefer businesses that are green and socially responsible.

Customers are increasingly looking to patronize businesses that follow sustainable, green and socially responsible practices. As Gallup reported earlier this year, younger customers of the millennial and Gen Z generations are especially concerned about such values.

Some of the ways you can demonstrate your commitment in these areas include:

  • Use local products as much as possible. For example, restaurants and food-based businesses can source foods from local farms.
  • Minimize packaging. Stores should encourage customers to use their own bags. Use recyclable materials for packaging.
  • Use green cleaning products.
  • Patronize green vendors and services.

2. Customer reviews will be more important than ever.

Online reviews are not a new trend, but they are becoming more crucial all the time. Customers trust reviews over ads or any other content businesses create themselves. It's absolutely essential to have your business listed on sites such as Google My Business, Yelp and others that are relevant to your business.

The best way to get positive reviews is to provide great products and customer service. Beyond that, it helps to nudge your customers and gently remind them to leave reviews -- whether you do this in person or via email or social media.

3. Traditional businesses are learning to leverage e-commerce.

When you think of e-commerce, you probably think of Amazon and other online retailers. The fact is, however, that many brick-and-mortar businesses are learning to profit from the e-commerce revolution. This can be a way to expand your business without the need for more physical space. Here are a few examples of how traditional businesses can expand online.

If you have a restaurant, you might bottle your signature salsa, curry sauce or salad dressing. You could write an e-book of recipes or the history of a certain type of food. Salons can sell beauty and haircare products. A gym might sell supplements and workout gear. 

If you don't create your own product, you could sell your favorite products as an affiliate. Affiliate marketing is an option for many businesses. No matter what type of business you have, you can either sell your own products or find products on Amazon (or another platform) to sell to your customers.

4. Businesses will use mobile marketing in several creative ways.

Mobile is one trend that will surely grow in 2020 and well into the future. Small businesses can take advantage of the popularity of mobile in a number of ways. For example:

  • Use geo-targeting to provide targeted ads to customers who are close to your business. 
  • Create an app for your business. You can then send out promotions and the latest news to everyone who has the app.
  • Leverage SMS or text message marketing to stay in touch with customers. With permission, you can send texts with your latest offers.
  • Accept mobile payments. Many customers appreciate the convenience of being able to pay via mobile using platforms such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Visa Checkout and others. 

5. Stories and livestream will dominate social media.

If you haven't been using Facebook or Instagram stories and livestream video, you're missing a couple of the major social media trends of the last few years. On sites such as Facebook, the main challenge is getting seen by your audience.

Rather than simply posting on your news feed, share stories on Facebook and Instagram. Livestreaming on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is a powerful tactic for more visibility and engagement. When you post this type of ephemeral content, you can connect with your audience in a spontaneous and authentic manner.

You don't need to create long presentations. The best strategy is to check in frequently and provide the latest news so you consistently touch base with your customers. 

Stay current with these key small business trends.

All of these trends have one thing in common: They require businesses to pay close attention to the current needs and preferences of today's consumers.

A customer in 2020 is likely to be someone who uses mobile devices, orders many products online, is environmentally aware, enjoys social media and reads customer reviews before making decisions. If you want these customers to choose your business, you have to understand how they think.

Kalin Kassabov is a founder and CEO of ProTexting.com, a fast-growing enterprise level text message suite of services.