20 Things Small Business Owners Need to Know
1—Halloween By the Numbers
Are you ready for Halloween? I know it’s in two days, but truthfully, I haven’t put out my seasonal décor. The folks from The Shelf have compiled a frightening amount of valuable information—keep reading and be sure to check out the infographic
Halloween Numbers Are Up…and Down
Although three million fewer Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year than in 2018, more people are decorating their homes (72%). And 95% are buying candy to celebrate the big day. The popularity of haunted houses is on the rise, jumping from 18% to 22% in 2019. That number hits 40% among 18- to 24-year-olds.
There’s a lot more information in the infographic below.
Which business sectors will be ghosted the most this Halloween? Check out the infographic below from education and training specialists TheKnowledgeAcademy.com which shows the industries most plagued by not having people show up for interviews.
3—Optimists Rule: No Recession Until Spring 2020 Or Beyond
Despite dire predictions of a looming recession, most small business owners remain optimistic, according to Alignable.com, the largest small business network with 4 million+ members. Most members polled in a series of Alignable New Voice Of Small Business Surveys predict a recession is at least six months to a year or more away. Many are redoubling their efforts to earn as much as possible during this still-strong economy.
Happy, Recession-Free Days are Here to Stay, at Least for Now: 79% of small business owners who made a prediction, say a recession won’t come until at least March or April of 2020. And 46% predict a recession is at least a year away.
2019 Small Biz Sales to Reach New Heights: Further supporting the optimism of Alignable’s recession poll, 74% of small business owners expect to achieve YOY sales spikes of 5% to 50% or more by year’s end. In fact, 19% think 2019 will be their best sales year ever. And 45% expect a revenue boost of at least 20-30%.
51% of Small Business Owners Engage in Side Hustles: The majority of SMB owners said side jobs have helped them either as they started their businesses or on an ongoing basis. Another 18% are thinking about taking on a side gig now to boost their income
“It’s encouraging to see the majority of our members buck the fear-based predictions from national economists and Fortune 500 CFOs,” says Alignable’s CEO and cofounder Eric Groves. “That pioneering spirit has fueled our economy for centuries and it’s alive and well with small business owners today.”
Hot Spots Where The Local Business Community Is Thriving
In the U.S., the top places where optimism about year-end sales is the highest, include: Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Kentucky, New Mexico, Utah, New Jersey, Nevada, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Colorado, Georgia, New Hampshire and West Virginia.
The only U.S. states or territories that showed significantly less economic enthusiasm include storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as agricultural hubs including Iowa and Nebraska.
“Despite the optimism in these surveys, some of our members are having a difficult time with the current economy, and those small business owners actually believe we’re already in a recession,” adds Alignable President and cofounder Venkat Krishnamurthy. “Yes, they’re in the minority, but the diverging opinions we’ve noticed in some members’ comments mean we should watch holiday season 2019 very closely to see if the optimism holds or if more people start thinking a major slowdown is imminent.”
4—Retailers and Customers Don’t See Eye to Eye on Returns or In-Store Experiences
Retailers are not meeting customer expectations, and in many cases are missing on the fundamentals, according to a new 15,800 respondent global consumer study by Oracle Retail. The two sides dramatically disagree on how easy it is to return purchases. While 57% of the retailers surveyed noted that returning products is ‘very easy,’ 57% of consumers disagree, rating the return process as a ‘complete hassle’ or at least could be easier.
Shoppers and retailers also differ on what constitutes their most important in-store experiences. Convenience tops the list or 56% of consumers (such as having their size in stock), while only 34% off retailers thought that was an issue. Consumers also rank discovery, as in space to experiment and try new products (36%) and expert advice (22%) as important when shopping in-store. This was much higher than retailers who indicated these attributes at merely 18% and 6%, respectively.
Retailers beware—don’t be late—13% of consumers say they’re never order from you again if your delivery were late.
Seamless, Convenient Shopping: It’s all about the omnichannel for today’s shoppers. They don’t view online and in-store as separate channels and expect the same level of ‘perceived convenience’ no matter where they shop. In North America, convenience has been raised to new levels, with 57% valuing it above all else.
Delivery on Demand: Consumers are increasingly open to whatever gets orders to their door the fastest, with more than 90% seeking free one-day delivery by whatever means is fastest, including drone, driverless car or a messenger. This is more than double (43%) the number from last year.
Consumers equally value choice, with 86% agreeing retailers should offer the ability to choose the most convenient delivery option at the time of ordering. While 87% of retailers recognize choice is important to consumers, the need is not yet being met, with 47% of consumers reporting that the delivery option they want is ‘sometimes, rarely or never’ available.
Online-only retailers are winning on this front as 61% of consumers say “the delivery option they want is always available” compared to 52% for traditional retailers and 46% for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands.
Rewards for Loyalty
Consumers want preferential treatment based on their relationship with the brand. For 48% getting offers or discounts which are better than what anyone else can get based on their loyalty to that retailer are “absolutely essential.”
Loyalty also relies on transparency to succeed: 52% of consumers have greater trust in retailers who respond immediately in the event of an issue or recall, and 47% are more likely to trust emerging brands with if they are ‘honest and authentic.’
But only 21% of Generation Z and millennial consumers completely trust what retailers tell them.
You can get a free copy of the Setting the Bar report.
5—What’s More Important—Data or Sales Growth?
What if I told you most business owners would rather lose half their company’s revenue growth for next year than lose half their company’s data? That’s just one of the shocking findings revealed in a new IT operations survey commissioned by leading managed IT services provider, Logically.
Businesses are not prepared. Most business decision makers (BDMs) recognize IT is strategically and operationally critical, yet 66% agree their companies’ investments in IT are not keeping pace with their growing technological needs.
Businesses are paying a price. In just the past 12 months, many companies have experienced major disruptions, including system downtime (66%), system slowdowns (64%) and cyber security breaches (28%).
Businesses are lacking talent. 46% admit it has taken three or more days to resolve an IT-related issue, due in part to the lack of specialized staff and deficient IT processes.
Learn more in the infographic below.
6—New Credit Card Offers Expanded Benefits
Complementing Visa’s Signature Business and Business card products, the company just introduced Visa Infinite Business, which provides high-spend SMBs in the U.S. with a rich set of protection, travel and lifestyle and business-centric benefits.
“Visa is a true advocate for the 30 million SMBs in the U.S. With Visa Infinite Business, we have developed an all-encompassing offering that empowers and rewards small business owners for pursuing their passion,” says David Simon, senior vice president, global head of small business and medium enterprises, Visa. “We aim to provide small business owners with peace of mind and value to help keep their businesses secure, competitive—and ultimately, drive growth.”
Tailored Small Business Owner Benefits: Reliance on electronic payments is on the rise, with 52% of SMBs in the U.S. regularly leveraging credit cards for their businesses. The Visa Infinite Business portfolio was designed with direct input and research from high-spending SMBs in the U.S. The result is a premium product that addresses their specific challenges and needs for protecting their business, earning and redeeming travel perks and enhanced services.
Visa Infinite Business is designed to address critical pain points by offering a tailored solution, which include:
- Higher credit lines
- Travel protection: trip delay, travel accident, travel emergency assistance
- Extended warranty
- Accounting software integration
The Visa Everywhere Initiative is a global, open innovation program that tasks startups with challenges to solve the future of payments and commerce. More than 6,000 startups from over 100 countries have applied, collectively raising $2.5 billion in capital.
For more information on Visa Infinite Business, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
7—Do Consumers like Chatbots?
Customers are more accepting of automation and chatbots than ever before. Today’s consumers are focused on efficiency when it comes to solving their customer queries. All this is revealed in State of Customer Service Automation 2019, a report recently released by Helpshift, which helps businesses address their customer service needs. The report shows in our digital-first world, automated chatbots and messaging are taking off because of their efficiency and ability to provide an asynchronous conversation. Efficiency is the common denominator when it comes to consumer preferences and brand objectives as shown by these key findings:
- Twice as many consumers will engage with chatbots. 30% of respondents say they’d knowingly engage with a customer support chatbot because “chatbots are very helpful.” This is double the number of 2018 respondents who stated this. The research also revealed a 19% year-over-year drop in the number of consumers who found chatbots annoying.
- 83% of respondents would make messaging their primary means of contacting customer support if they could be guaranteed an immediate response, compared to 76% in 2018. By taking advantage of the right customer service automation— like purpose-built chatbots—businesses can support this growing consumer preference for immediate support.
- The average number of distinct messages sent by all chatbots (i.e., chatbot outbound) increased an average of 35% from Q1 to Q2 amongst brands using Helpshift. In comparison, total issue volume expanded by 24% while agent outbound messages increased just 8% during that time frame. So, even as the volume of issues rose dramatically, agents did not significantly increase their issue load.
- 96% of consumers say it’s important being able to return to and pick up a customer support conversation where it left off. This is a capability unique to messaging and connected customer service.
- 54% of respondents say customer service has actually improved in the past year, compared to only 43% in 2018.
- A plurality of all age groups agreed, with the exception of baby boomers, where only 28% reported improvement; 13% of boomers say support has actually gotten worse, while only 8% of respondents overall agree with that statement.
- 66% of Gen Z respondents say service is improving, along with 59% of millennials and 47% of Gen X.
“Today’s consumers care about having their time valued above all else, and that’s clear in their communication preferences for interacting with brands,” says Helpshift CEO, Linda Crawford. “By giving customers the option to have their support needs met through a more convenient channel, brands adopting chatbots, messaging and other automation-powered customer service initiatives are putting customer needs first.”
Massive increases in retail volume during the holidays can trigger a surge in customer service issues. While the holidays often prove to be high stress, Helpshift’s analysis of 71 million chatbot interactions, found that customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores held steady during the difficult time last year.
Helpshift says, “Customers value efficiency; and to increase efficiency, brands must step into the digital age with the help of automation and chatbots. However, technology only goes so far and the need for live agents remains for certain support queries. Therefore, a combination of chatbots and live agents is the ‘sweet spot,’ as demonstrated by the combination of agents and chatbots leading to the highest CSAT across the board.”
The bottom line: By automating to increase efficiency for your customers and brand, you can satisfy customer expectations and drive better results in the process.
8—Get Paid Faster
Kabbage, Inc., a data and technology company providing small businesses cash flow solutions, just announced the general availability of Kabbage Payments to its customers, a new payment-processing solution for small businesses “that makes getting paid faster and as simple as sending a text message.”
Two-thirds of Kabbage’s more than 200,000 customers rely on invoicing to receive payments today and wait as long as 90 days to be paid. Leveraging technology that powers Kabbage’s fully automated working capital solution, Kabbage Payments drastically reduces the time required to receive payments in typical net-term invoicing. With Kabbage Payments, users are settling invoices in as quickly as 24 hours.
Among the many features of Kabbage Payments, the new custom pay link solves a fundamental challenge for business owners relying on invoice payments. Kabbage Payments customers can create a unique URL for their business and send payment requests through texts, emails or the web to collect card payments securely and quickly. With more flexibility, the custom pay link eliminates the need to manually create new accounts, open new payment orders, and duplicate work for recurring invoices.
Kabbage Payments also includes:
- Online invoicing: Quickly and easily create, send and manage invoices.
- Convenient dashboard: See all payments activity in a single view.
- Next-day deposits: Access the money you earn in 24 hours or less.
- No-fee invoicing: Send unlimited invoices and estimates for free with no monthly fees.
- Only pay for card payments: Save with low costs at 2.9% + $.25 per credit card payment. Cash and check payments are always free.
- Free customer support: Speak to a real person on Kabbage’s trusted customer support team.
Kabbage Payments is now available to existing Kabbage customers with public availability coming soon. You can request early access here.
9—How to Assemble the Best Team
It’s about time to steer your business’s interviewing practices away from the list of questions that are “safe.” Afterall, what is the point of interviewing someone if they have memorized whatever generic responses Google has recommended for a list of unsubstantial interview questions. Thomas Edison famously asked over 150 questions during interviews. While we’re not recommending you do that, implementing new interview practices can help find better employees that fulfill the needs of the company and align with the organization’s beliefs.
Human Resource MBA shares their insights about how you can create your “dream team.”
Asking the interviewee to tell you about themselves is one of the most popular beginnings to an interview. Some job candidates will explain their college and degree, or where they are from, or where they have worked previously. These things can likely be found on their resume, almost defeating the purpose of asking the question. Instead, give the candidate an opportunity to show their research skills and ask them what interested them about your company. This way not only weeds out those who simply clicked on a job posting, but also shows you who is committed to the company, who knows what the business does, and who knows what they would be able to contribute.
Most companies say they are very focused on fostering community, but you can’t find the perfect fit by asking the same questions everyone else does. The people you hire are the foundation of your business, making it crucial to hire the right team. Ensuring a successful team starts with the interviewing process. How can one’s skills or personalities be accurately represented if the interview is generic and unsubstantial? If a candidate wants the job, they want to show that they know more than how to use Google. Ask questions that force interviewees to think on their feet or challenge creativity, rather than rely on those that have easily searchable answers.
Nearly 7 in 10 hiring managers struggle to fill important positions and end up with a bad fit. The hiring strategy your business uses could be bringing you down, and it could start with the interview itself. Asking open-ended questions, making the process collaborative, and talking about the future are all steps towards finding the perfect new hire. The people you hire are the foundation of your business, making it crucial to hire the right team. It all starts by asking the right questions. Learn more about the importance of assembling the right team and how to do so from the infographic below.
10—A Small Increase in Online Star Ratings Boosts Conversion by 25%
Uberall, Inc., the location marketing solution for businesses competing to attract and win local brick-and-mortar customers, recently released its first Reputation Management Revolution Report, a global benchmark report analyzing the impact of customer reviews on brands and consumers. For the report, Uberall analyzed the Google My Business (GMB) profiles of 64,000 global (+740 reviews per location), enterprise (+10 locations) and SMB (>10 locations) business locations in four countries—the U.S., UK, France, and Germany.
“Near me” searches have exploded with 82% of people having tried a “near me” search on their mobile devices. Among millennials, “near me” adoption is even greater, at 92%. As search engine and smartphone technology has advanced, consumers are prioritizing proximity and convenience.
For brick-and-mortar brands, online customer reviews are a key part of the “near me” brand experience. When conducting “near me” searches, consumers often turn to reviews and star ratings of locations across platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, Instagram Google, and more. In fact, almost half of all consumers have left such a review online, with 95% influenced by reviews in their buying decisions.
A Review Rating Increase of 0.1 Can Boost Conversion by up to 25%: Unsurprisingly, the higher the star rating of a business location, the higher the conversion rate. Conversion rate is a combination of phone calls, requests for driving directions and website clicks. However, even a marginal increase has a dramatic impact. Uberall found a star rating increase of just 0.1 could increase the conversion rates of a business location by 25%.
Getting to a 3.7-Star Rating is a Key Benchmark: Locations that move from a 3.5 to a 3.7-star rating experience conversion growth of 120%—the highest percentage growth jump from any star rating. This means that a business location’s first priority should be to get all their locations above the 3.7-star rating threshold. Uberall also identified three specific review benchmarks businesses need to reach to achieve the best growth for their locations: 3.7 stars, 4.0 stars and 4.4 stars.
A Review Reply Rate of 30% Wins More Customers: Global and enterprise business locations have the lowest review reply rate. Reply rates by business type were SMB (25%), enterprise (12%) and global brands (9%). However, Uberall found that a 30% reply rate is the benchmark for conversion growth to outstrip competitors. For example, when enterprise locations replied to at least 32% of reviews, they achieved 80% higher conversion rates than direct competitors and SMBs that replied to just 10% of reviews.
According to Norman Rohr, SVP of Marketing at Uberall, “Consumers who are engaging with the brand are also extremely likely to visit a store within 24 hours, so a 25% rise in conversions could also mean a 25% increase in foot traffic every day. By focusing on review star rating and reply rate, brands can massively impact their overall conversion rates.”
When broken down by business size, Uberall’s analysis show SMBs are averaging higher conversion rates than the bigger brands until the 4.4-star rating mark. At that point, global and enterprise businesses start to outperform SMBs.
“SMBs, more so than bigger brands, rely on customer reviews to drive brand awareness and visibility,” adds Rohr. “As a result of that, they are performing better than the enterprise and global brands, who typically have lower review rates and lower reply rates. To outperform both larger and smaller businesses in their area, SMBs need to be focused on replying to a large majority of reviews and keeping their rating above the third star rating benchmark of 4.4.”
11— Student Loan Default Rates
The high cost of student loans and its impact on the economy is a major issue—especially for millennials. LendEDU has released a comprehensive report on student loan default rates by school and state.
- While the national default rate was 10.10%, it was 15.66% at HBCUs, 5.35% at women’s colleges, and 9.45% at non-designated schools.
- For-profit schools had a collective default rate of 15.20% compared to a 9.60% default rate at public schools, and a 6.60% default rate at private schools.
- Nevada had the highest state default rate (18.16%) with the next highest being Mississippi (14.94%). Massachusetts had the lowest default rate (5.82%) with the next lowest being Vermont (6.17%).
- Southern states typically had very high default rates, while states in New England and the Midwest had the lowest.
12—How to Disaster-Proof Your Small Business
More likely than not, your business will experience an unexpected disaster at some point. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Fires. Floods. They’re all happening more and more often and inflicting billions of dollars of damage on small businesses and local economies.
It’s important to be prepared in the event that a disaster inevitably strikes your business. That may seem obvious, but 70% of small business owners say they don’t have a plan for when disaster strikes. And not being prepared can be devastating, especially when you consider that 90% of small businesses close within a year of a disaster if they can’t reopen within five days.
Fundera has laid out some tips for how to prepare your business before a disaster (including prepping yourself to be in the best position possible when you have to file your small business insurance claims) and how to respond during and after a disaster occurs. Check out the infographic from Fundera below.
13—Worker’s Comp Tool
Is worker’s comp insurance required in the state where you operate? It likely is—but you can find out by using this tool from QuickBooks. Worker’s comp insurance helps protect your company and your staff in case someone is injured on the job—and includes medical coverage and salary replacement. It can also protect your business from potential lawsuits. Read this great explainer from QuickBooks about the importance of having worker’s comp coverage.
QuickBooks is simplifying the process—enabling you to protect your business with pay-as-you-go workers’ comp insurance, by making worker’s comp part of your payroll. This is a lot simpler if you use a solution like QuickBooks payroll.
Here are some reasons to look into the Workers’ Comp Payment Service from QuickBooks:
- Monthly premiums are pay-as-you-go allowing you to hold onto your money longer and free up cash flow
- No guesswork or estimates on annual payroll.
- Accurate calculations minimize risk of penalties.
- Premium payments are automatic, so you’ll never miss a deadline.
- They compare options so you get the best value for your business.
You can get a free quote here.
14—Getting Actionable Marketing Data
Bluume, a solution for making marketing decisions easier, recently introduced Business Warrior, a software solution that has built-in metrics that simplify marketing for storefront business operators’ specific locations.
Business Warrior monitors listings, reputation, social and website search in an objective and unbiased manner. Based on algorithms from billions of behaviors and relationships online, Business Warrior provides personalized recommendations about what will have the most impact on revenues by location—and it measures the impact of those changes once they are made.
“Small business owners have a lot on their plate, and that can be overwhelming at times. I know this, because I’ve spent 14 years as a small business owner myself,” says Bluume CEO Rhett Doolittle. “Business Warrior helps owners manage the load by simplifying marketing with built-in metrics. Now small business owners can go from worriers to warriors—attracting new and more profitable customers and spending more time on the aspects of their businesses that got them excited to be entrepreneurs in the first place.”
Business Warrior helps storefront owners and operators to:
- Simplify and prioritize their daily decisions to become more profitable
- Determine what is working and what is not related to their website/SEO, social media, local listing and reputation efforts
- Trust the decisions they make and the money they spend
15—Free Video Tool
Vidyard, a leading video platform for business, launched a free-tier of their platform so that “any business, of any size and any budget,” can now use the platform to host, manage, and share video content without having to fight the frustration of using traditional video hosting platforms like YouTube (which have ads, storage, and bandwidth restrictions).
Available now so you can immediately access an online video hosting service that is free of ads, free of storage and bandwidth restrictions, and includes integrated tools for video creation and sharing.
Designed for businesses first, Vidyard helps you use video to engage audiences on your website, social media channels, email marketing, in one-to-one customer communications, and even for internal communications.
In addition to offering free video hosting and publishing, Vidyard’s zero-cost solution includes integrated tools for video content creation and sharing:
- Vidyard is fast:One-click uploading and video creation means no fussing with multiple tools, no hassle embedding videos for quick sharing of global content, and a delivery network for smooth playback.
- Vidyard is built for any business:Easily add videos to your company website or outreach emails, control your viewer’s experience with an ad-free, engaging video player, and keep your customers on your website, not a social network.
- Future-proof your video strategy:With Vidyard’s scalable video management offerings, businesses can start for free then add additional capabilities as their needs expand. Vidyard’s premium offerings include enterprise-grade video content management, security controls, interactive video, personalized video, integration with leading marketing automation and CRM tools, and more.
16—E-Commerce Marketing Checklist & Calendar for the 2019 Holiday Shopping Season
17—State of Access to Capital
The latest Private Capital Access Index (Q3) has just been released by Dun & Bradstreet and Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. The Index measures the demand for, activity, and health of the private capital markets. The purpose of the PCA Index is to gauge the demand of small and medium-sized businesses for financing needs, the level of accessibility of private capital, and the transparency and efficiency of private financing markets.
Check it out—there’s so much valuable information in the report.
18—Collecting Consumer Data
20—Highest Pay Increases
What states and cities have seen the highest pay increases? Overheard on Conference Calls has the latest data.
- The 5 states with the highest % increase:North Dakota (41.2%), D.C. (29.7%), Nebraska (29.2%), Iowa (28.5%), and Montana (28/3%).
- The 5 states with the highest overall pay in 2018:C. ($87,920), Massachusetts ($50,990), New York ($49,590), Connecticut ($49.530), and New Jersey ($48,690).
- The 5 cities with the highest % increase: Midland, TX (44%), Bismarck, ND (39.86%), Fargo, ND (34.96%), Corvallis, OR (32.68%), and Peoria, IL (32.66%).
- The 5 cities with the highest overall pay:San Jose, CA ($80,480), San Francisco ($72,400), Washington, DC ($70,980), Bridgeport / Stamford ($68,590), CT, and Boston.($67,370).
For more details, check out their blog post, The States and Cities with the Largest Increase in Pay Over the Last 10 Years.