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By Bridget Weston Pollack

It could be said that small business has remained the same over the years. Customers expect excellent service, clear value and an overall pleasant experience when they complete a purchase.

The tools and techniques to achieve that small business standard, though, have changed greatly over the years. What was once accomplished through newspaper advertisements is now conducted online; what once required travel and time can be now be accomplished with a few clicks.

As 2017 comes to a close, here are three major small business trends that could help you run your business.

1. Remote work and cloud computing

Beyond cloud storage and project management tools, technology is providing more and more ways to help us work together even while we’re apart. You may not be ready to bring a rolling video robot into your workplace, but it may be time to evaluate options for video conferencing and other telework tools.

SCORE’s recent Megaphone of Main Street Small Business Jobs Report surveyed small business owners which revealed that 18 percent of businesses replaced employees with contractors over the past six months. If you’re considering taking this route for additional business support — especially if those contractors will be remote — be sure to put communications plans in place that make the most of the tools available.

2. Mobile access and ease

Customers aren’t just browsing on mobile devices — they’re purchasing, too. Mobile shopping gained particular speed over the recent Black Friday shopping holiday and is expected to continue to creep on desktop transactions in the coming months.
Google offers a search tool that tests whether your website is mobile-friendly and makes recommendations for improving it. Don’t forget to check your email marketing and social media presence as well, to make sure your messaging is easy to read and engages customers with enticing, clear visuals.

3. Personalized customer service

More people are shopping online, but they still appreciate good customer service. Modern customer service doesn’t always come in the form of a warm greeting or an easy returns process. Sometimes, it takes the form of personalization. Studies have shown that Generation Z (people born between 1996 and 2010) love connecting with brands on a personal level via social and email content. These young adults have an enormous amount of buying power and often serve as unofficial ambassadors for brands to which they feel connected.

To make sure you’re reaching your target markets with a personalized approach, pay close attention to social media analytics along with one-on-one feedback from customers. Segmenting your emails by customer type is just one way you can form a more personal connection with your clientele.

Meet with a SCORE mentor to discuss each of these trends and how your small business can adapt to new technology, trends and markets.

About the Author
Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association.