4 Small Business Trends You Should Know About

Record low unemployment rates are creating a tight labor market and prompting smaller businesses, as well as larger companies, to look for new ways to draw and retain employees, such as offering sign-on bonuses, higher wages, flex time and remote worker options.

Learn more about this trend and other hot topics for small business in 2019.

The struggle to find and retain employees

In a recent survey by the NFIB Research Foundation, 62 percent of small businesses said they were hiring or trying to hire, but 54 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions being filled. 

Twenty-five percent of all owners cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their single most important business problem, according to the NFIB Small Business Economic Trends data.

The “Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Summit: The Big Power of Small Business” reported 70 percent of small businesses struggled to find and retain skilled employees. And the Capital One Small Business Growth Index said 20 percent of small business owners cited employee retention as one of the biggest impediments to business growth.

“That means small businesses will continue to compete with other employers for the best workers,” writes Ron Goldstein, president and CEO of CHOICE Administrators, a small-business multi-carrier private exchange, on a ForbesCommunity Voice website.

“One key to attracting a more diverse workforce, while also retaining current employees, is to offer a compensation package based on what local and regional competitors are offering,” he says.

The growing remote and mobile workforce

Advances in communication technology, from virtual tools, and applications to file and document sharing services, continue to fuel a remote workforce, enabling more small businesses to hire offsite employees and develop collaborative and dynamic relationships. 

And more tech innovations tailored for mobile workers and niche industries are on the way, including products that focus on unified communications (a single platform for all communication types).

Cal Henderson, the CTO and cofounder of Slack, told Fast Company at the Web Summit technology conference that his software team is concentrating on the communication piece.

“We’re never going to make the best possible word processor or the best possible wiki or the best possible voice and video calls or the best possible file storage,” he said, “because for different use cases and different business customers, ‘the best’ has different meanings.”

Instead, Henderson sees the number of software categories continuing to increase, with more niche products designed for specific industries and roles, according to the Fast Company article.

In its annual report on the State of Remote Work, the social-media management platform Buffer said 90 percent of those surveyed plan on working remotely for the rest of their careers.

Remote work is becoming the norm, and companies that embrace it are leading the way in attracting the best talent, said Matthew Hollingsworth, director of operations at We Work Remotely, in the Buffer report.

Personalized customer experiences

A trend that’s seemingly here to stay – customers who want personalized and seamless service.

“This is true whether they are ordering lunch, getting their car repaired or making a financial transaction,” says Bernardo Martinez, U.S. managing director at Funding Circle, in Business News Daily. “In my industry of financial services, we've already seen large legacy companies start to fall behind smaller startups who offer better user experiences." 

Eighty-percent of respondents in a survey by U.S. Epsilon indicated they are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences and 90 percent suggested that they find personalization appealing. 

“Businesses that offer personalized experiences and offers that are specific to their customers are going to thrive in 2019,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of startup services and consulting firm MyCorporation, in an article on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website.

She cited good personalized experiences as “offers or services based on customer location, communications that are unique to that preferred channel or recommendations based upon historic purchases.”

The power of customer reviews

When it comes to online shopping, most customers are influenced by customer reviews before they decide to make the purchase.

“Moreover, more than 90 percent of people step back from buying the things online which do not have any reviews, good or bad,” says Andrei Vasilescu, CEO and digital marketing expert at DontPayFull, in Business News Daily

“In the coming years,” he says, “these customer reviews will be the greatest influencer of any business.”

To this end, small businesses are working on marketing strategies that help gather customer reviews and opening more forums to influence their target audience.

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