Small business trends have always provided an exciting look where commerce is heading, but they’ve never been as revealing as they are now. Much has changed over the past year, and the pre-pandemic ways of doing business are forever in the rear-view.
To survive, today’s SMEs must be flexible and resilient. To thrive, they need to be digitally empowered and customer-centric. And, even if businesses tick off those boxes, they still might have problems retaining workers in the face of ‘The Great Resignation’.
In other words, small business trends reveal a world on the precipice of something unique. And while business transformation will present some growing pains for SMEs, it also promises a faster, more innovative and better connected future.
To precisely determine what the future might look like, Salesforce has compiled insights from 2,500 + SME leaders in The Small and Medium Business Trends Report.
Customer expectations have permanently shifted
There’s no denying that we’re now in a digital-first world. What this might mean for the traditional high street remains to be seen, but for SMEs, the meaning is clear: adapt or fail.
Today’s customers expect lighting-fast service. They expect personalised communication. And they expect companies to understand their individual pain points and needs.
While most companies seem to be successfully digitising their operations and moving towards e-commerce, it’s important to note that digital experiences are not the only things that today’s customers are paying more attention to. They’re also focusing on brand values.
Business-community relationships are becoming less transactional
A Forbes story revealed that consumers are up to six times more likely to support purpose-driven companies. And the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report shows that 68% of customers expect brands to demonstrate empathy, but only 37% say that brands generally do this.
The new consumer is looking beyond more transactions to build more meaningful relationships. They desire empathetic messaging. They care about more ethical business practises and healthy work environments. And they want businesses to prioritise sustainability, in other words, they’re focusing on purpose-driven commerce.
And when SMEs show up for their customers, their customers show up for them.
Tech is turning old school businesses into digital powerhouses
Some of the impactful small business trends revolve around the implementation of new tools and the acceleration of digital transformation projects. Companies that were not technologically equipped to pivot in the face of lockdown had to adjust quickly. And many businesses that were already digitally mature doubled down on their tech investment.
Where will these small businesses take us?
The word ‘trend’ may be a bit misleading. There’s nothing short-term about the small business trends revealed in the report; ethics, agility, resilience, and relationships. There have been concerns for SMEs for ages. But put them in a pressure cooker of a pandemic, and you’ll create something new.
In this case, what is left behind is as important as what has been created. And what’s left behind are limitations. The limitations of the physical office space. The limitations of office hours. The limitations of the brick-and-mortar stockroom. The limitations of unconscientious consumerism. For small businesses and their customers, the possibilities of the future are limitless.
By Robin Fisher, Senior Area Vice President, Salesforce Emerging Markets