I’ve been in the business game for over 30 years. In that time, I’ve learned and mastered a lot of business essentials, like how to do payroll, market effectively, and maintain accurate accounting books. But, do you want to know something just as essential as the basics?

Business trends

Keeping up with business trends is an absolute must if you want to stay ahead of the game and avoid becoming obsolete. And once your competitors start evolving, you can look pretty prehistoric comparatively. 

That’s why you need to beat them to the punch. Stay on top of the latest trends—and be a trendsetter, even—to keep your business fresh.

6 of the latest business trends to keep on your radar  

So, what’s on the horizon for small businesses for the rest of 2019 and beyond? 

As technology continues to advance, it may seem like a new trend pops up every other day. Some trends may last decades while others fade away after a few hyped-up months.   

I won’t go over all of the trends circulating. But, here are a few of the latest and greatest trends hitting the business streets….  

1. Personalization 

What do consumers want more than anything? Recent trends point to personalization. 

In one survey, 63% of consumers said they want personalized recommendations in their shopping experience. Are you giving the people what they want?

We live in a fast-paced world where a lot of things are automated. And although that’s all well and good, your customers likely still want that sense of personalization from your business. 

If you want to personalize a shopping experience for your customers while also saving time, you may want to invest in some customer relationship management (CRM) programs. CRM simplifies the way you manage information about your customers and analyze their preferences. 

You can keep up with this trend by personalizing everything from your marketing efforts to your sales process to after-sales support. 

Include customer names and buying preferences in your marketing outreach (e.g., email campaigns). 

When making a sale, detail how the product or service fits into your customer’s buying preferences. And, try cross-selling products or services based on what you think would best help the customer. 

After making a sale to a customer, don’t write them off. Follow up with them by sending a simple email or giving them a call. Find out how the product or service is working out for them. See if they have any questions. 

An extra touch of personalization and humanization reminds customers that there’s a person behind your business front. 

2. Review-based marketing

If your customers love you, wouldn’t you want to shout it from the mountains? A lot of business owners do just that. 

But instead of shouting from the mountains, they shout it from their websites, social media pages, and email campaigns. 

It’s called review-based marketing. And the trend of incorporating online reviews into marketing materials seems like it’s here to stay. 

This is one strategy my company was quick to jump on. I love hearing what my customers have to say about our software, and I appreciate when they take the time out of their day to write a review. Why wouldn’t we share that feedback any chance we get? 

Not to mention, including reviews in your marketing materials is great for business. Eighty-six percent of consumers read business reviews. The more reviews a consumer reads, the more they’ll start trusting your enterprise.  

Before you can hop aboard this trendy bandwagon, you need to gather some sturdy reviews from your customers. A lot of people are more than happy to review businesses if you ask them to—especially if they have something really good to say!

After you’ve assembled a library of customer reviews, include them in your marketing materials (e.g., social media posts). To add a touch of humanization, ask your customers if you can include their photos, too. 

3. Online sales

Joining the online marketplace doesn’t mean you are strictly an eCommerce business. You may have a brick-and-mortar shop and also ship products halfway across the country. 

Not sure if making online sales is worth it? Fifty-eight percent of adults have purchased clothing online. Forty-eight percent have purchased electronics. Need I say more?

For shoppers, there’s a lot of pros surrounding online shopping. When everything is fast-paced, some consumers expect their shopping experience to be, too. With online shopping, there’s no line, no time constraints, and no hassle of walking around a store to find something. 

In short, online shopping saves time. 

So, if you want to get in front of the online shopping community, consider branching out to the online sales sector. Promote your products on your website, add some pretty pictures and pricing information, make sure you’re equipped to receive payments and handle sales tax, and start selling. 

4. Crowdfunding

Here’s one for the business owners who are struggling to secure financing. Crowdfunding is huge right now. 

Don’t believe me? Crowdfunding is currently a $17 billion industry. Just hop on your social media and see all the businesses and individuals raising money through crowdfunding. 

So, what is crowdfunding? If you’re not familiar with crowdfunding, it’s a method of raising capital by appealing to your family, friends, investors, and anyone else who is interested. You can pitch your financing request on a crowdfunding platform.  

Crowdfunding is one trend that could have long-term effects on your business’s financial state. So if you want to raise business capital, you may want to look into crowdfunding. 

5. Artificial intelligence 

How many of you use voice recognition to send texts, play music, set reminders, search for something in Google, or make a phone call? 

If you’re like one of the 35+ million Americans who use a voice-activated assistant device each month, go ahead and raise your hand. 

It’s no secret that artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over. From voice recognition tools to chatbots, AI has wormed its way into our hearts and become a standard in business practices. 

What do other small business owners have to say about it? One recent study found that 32% of small business owners have plans to implement AI. 

In what ways will small business owners incorporate artificial intelligence into their companies? According to the study, business owners want to add things like chatbots, automatic recommendations, and lead prioritization. 

So, what are your plans for AI?  

6. Mobile wallets

Do your customers struggle to dig around in their purses or wallets for money at the point of sale? Probably. 

Another trend that started about 10 years ago is the use of mobile wallets. Mobile wallets store a person’s bank or card information on their smartphone. That way, people can use their phones to pay for purchases.  

Mobile wallet usage growth has been relatively slow, with approximately 16% of consumers saying they’ve used the payment method. But according to one market research report, the global mobile wallet market is projected to surpass $3 billion by 2022. 

About 36% of companies in one survey said they accept mobile wallet payments. Will you be next? 

Mike Kappel is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Patriot Software Company, and its subsidiaries. Patriot Software, LLC is a developer of online payroll and accounting software for U.S. small-business owners. Connect on Twitter: @PatriotSoftware.

Business stock photo by Preechar Bowonkitwanchai/Shutterstock