Small to midsize businesses (SMBs) across the country and across industries started their decade the same: acting and thinking quickly to stay competitive or even just stay open. With the global pandemic impacting everything—from shutdowns to supply chain issues—SMBs are making much-needed pivots to keep serving their customers while also discovering new clients and revenue streams.
As we step into 2022, SMBs can expect to still face many obstacles, but they also have opportunities that they can capitalize on and use to their strengths to continue to survive and thrive.
In our recent LinkedIn Live session, GetApp’s General Manager Thibaut De Lataillade was joined by three small-business experts to discuss key trends SMBs should keep an eye on in 2022.
Our guest panel included SMB expert and SMB Group co-founder Laurie McCabe, marketing expert and publisher of DIYMarketers.com Ivana Taylor, and eCommerce expert and CEO at ColderICE Media John Lawson. These thought leaders have helped us identify four key small business trends for 2022.
In this section, we outline key findings from GetApp research and share some of the main takeaways from our panel speakers.
With disruptions to the traditional office and workforce setup, 2021 saw employees clamoring for a remote or hybrid post-pandemic working experience. While not every business can accommodate this preference, GetApp’s Employee Experience survey found that for employees, the ability to customize the work experience ultimately drives satisfaction, irrespective of the location. (See the survey methodology at the end of this piece.)
Laurie McCabe: “The way we define the physical workplace and workplace culture have both undergone significant changes that are here to stay. We’ve seen in our research that fortune favors companies who invest in digital transformation and automation to streamline repetitive processes in terms of year-over-year revenue increases.
“Even the tiniest business can take advantage of flexible cloud solutions to take the friction out of routine, low value tasks and can help your and your employees’ time on activities to grow the business.”
Ivana Taylor: “[Continue to] count on disruptions and plan for them—that means that you have systems in place that allow for flexibility whether you’re in the office or working from home.”
Automation is a key trend for small business owners to watch going forward due to its ability to save time on repetitive tasks and serve as additional help. However, when it comes to using automation, our panel experts strongly suggest that you also have a human element that’s acting quickly.
Ivana Taylor: “When it comes to automation it's not about the tools or machinery necessarily—it's applying those tools in such a way that makes you come across as a human being. I think a lot of entrepreneurs have been clunky with their tools, sending generic messages.
“One of the biggest trends pre-pandemic was personalization. You can use technology and AI to personalize an experience but to create that personalization, you'll need to do some thinking first by mapping out your customer journey and think about the process customers take to find you. Then use those appropriate tools to connect with them in a way that doesn't feel too automated.”
Laurie McCabe: “As vendors continue to beef up their offerings with more automation and machine learning, it provides a power boost to existing solutions and can bring even more value. For small businesses that have put off automation, we’ve learned that you don’t want to wait.”
In 2022, customers will continue to leverage the new ways to shop and pay. Everything from where they can buy goods to how they can pay for their purchases has provided consumers with more options to spend, and they will continue to seek flexible payment and pickup methods.
Many customers are expecting to use their mobile wallets, and 92% of retailers have either already implemented the mobile payments technology or are planning to do so, according to GetApp’s Retail Comeback survey. (See the survey methodology at the end of this piece.)
John Lawson: “BNPL - Buy now, pay later. Sezzle, Klarna, Affirm, and Afterpay are some of the fintech eCommerce players offering payment plans to customers. This is a boom because consumers are changing the way they can shop. Especially the younger crowd looking to build credit who can’t purchase larger carts worth of items now have solutions.
“If you have a physical retail location, BOPIS (buy online pick up in store) is one of the most popular online retailing trends today. This is appealing for retailers too as just 10% of all BOPIS orders are returned, compared to the standard 25-30% return rate from online purchasing.”
Good customer experience hinges on good customer service. With so many options for today’s consumers, a bad experience before or after purchase could result in lost business down the line. That’s why it’s important to invest in software that can help streamline frequently asked questions (FAQs) and inquiries.
GetApp’s 2021 U.S. SMB Post-Covid Changes survey found that more than a third of small businesses (36%) are boosting customer service with new training, more reps, and dedicated software. And nearly half of SMBs (48%) are planning to increase the methods of engaging with customers, including chat (17%). (See the survey methodology at the end of this piece.)
Laurie McCabe: “If you provide good customer service, people will share that. And if you don’t, people will share that too. Customers have multiple ways they want to get answers and most of those are digital—especially the easy to solve inquiries. You need support with messaging apps, social media, chatbots. You have to see how your customers want to interact and provide them with different options to get those questions answered.”
We know the uphill battle small businesses continue to face, but fear not—2022 and the future hold plenty of room for growth for SMBs.
We hope the trends and tips summarized from our conversations with the three esteemed SMB experts will help your small business stay on track and continue to grow in 2022 and beyond.
GetApp’s Employee Experience survey was conducted in October 2021 among 629 full- or part-time employees in the United States: 217 employees who work the entire time at an office, store, or other centralized location; 201 employees who work some time at an office, store, or other centralized location, and some time remotely or at home (i.e., a hybrid work model); and 201 employees who work the entire time remotely or at home. The goal of this survey was to learn how work location and other factors impact job satisfaction.
GetApp's 2021 U.S. SMB Post-Covid Changes survey was conducted in May 2021 among 601 small-business owners and leaders in the U.S. to learn how they are pivoting marketing, sales, and customer service following COVID-19. Respondents were screened for employment status, business size, and area of responsibility.
GetApp’s Retail Comeback survey was conducted in June 2021 of 703 U.S.-based retailers and restaurants to learn more about how they’ve pivoted their businesses in the area of fulfillment and alternate payment models. Respondents were screened for leadership-level roles in the retail and restaurant sectors.
Disclaimer: The application screenshots used in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations by GetApp. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.
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