Any small-business owner knows that keeping up to date with the latest trends is a fundamental part of their role.
Knowing exactly what the consumer wants helps them not only decide which products and services to sell but how to market them too – and therefore get ahead of the competition.
Here’s a look at our top trend predictions for the year ahead:
1. Mobile evolution
According to Catalyst's report Smartphone Behaviour in Canada, only 55% of Canadians owned a smartphone in 2014. In 2015 the figure increased to 69% and now a staggering 76% of Canadians own one (equating to three in four).
Catering to touch-screen shopping is crucial if small businesses are to stay relevant to consumers. Last year was a big year for mobile optimisation. As Google announced their potentially catastrophic algorithm change and published new guidelines on making websites more mobile-friendly, growing numbers of small businesses woke up to the importance of mobile-friendly websites and the damaging SEO effects of failing to heed this change.
In 2016, small businesses dedicated more time and resources to incorporating mobile into their web development and marketing strategies. But, this year the focus will be on speed and efficiency to provide a seamless and integrated mobile experience.
Smartphones and tablets are also increasingly important as a tool to run your business, as BusinessesForSale.com reported.
2. And mobile payment
With the mobile boom and the introduction of contactless payments, mobile payments are expected to grow significantly in 2017.
Catalyst reported that the major drawbacks surrounding mobile payments include concerns about security, with people over the age of 35 being the most concerned and millennials being the least.
The second largest drawback was not knowing how to make a mobile payment. However, for those who felt comfortable using their mobile to make payments, the favoured methods were: Paypal, the Starbucks app, Apple Pay, Google Wallet and specific store apps.
The methods, shown in descending order, show that users trust these companies and believe that their money will be protected.
In order to attract more customers, small businesses could offer mobile payments via Paypal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet or they could develop their own rewards app like Starbucks, where consumers can make pre-order through the app and pick up their order.
In order to build trust, small businesses could make a step by step guide to mobile payments, showing customers how to use the app, ensuring that their details will be kept safe.
3. Social commerce
Over the last decade, social media has been an increasingly invaluable marketing tool. And 2016 is set to become the year that social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ become more effective middlemen between product and consumer as social commerce goes mainstream.
The line between social media platforms and online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy has blurred as users increasingly buy products recommended or discussed on their newsfeeds.
Just one of the networks leading the way with social commerce is Pinterest. Their blue buyable pins now appear on more than two million products, taking the consumer from picture to checkout at the click of a button.
As more social platforms seek to exploit such revenue-generating opportunities, so too will retailers and service providers. It’s very much a worthwhile endeavor to formulate a social commerce strategy and better engage your online audience in 2017.
4. Location marketing
In 2015 GPS technology was one of the smartphone’s most popular functions. Thanks to advances in mapping apps marketers can now readily determine a customer’s location and use it to their advantage.
Location marketing, whereby you can notify customers when they’re near to your store and what you have to offer, is expected to grow in importance in 2017. With Facebook’s Bluetooth Beacons, for example, savvy business owners can use real-time mobile marketing to send push notifications and promotional prompts to nearby customers.
As a low cost and extremely effective modern marketing method, there are plenty of ways small businesses can capitalize on this trend.
It is one of the best ways of converting impulses to sales by removing barriers. Once a customer is geographically close there is a much higher chance of them making a purchase.
How about two-for-one drinks deals sent straight to your phone as you walk past a bar? Or 20% off sunglasses on a sunny day?
Over the years, content marketing has become increasingly visual and interactive. By 2017, video will account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco.
YouTube, which attracts four billion views per day, is the second most popular search engine in the world and the third-most visited web page after Google and Facebook.
This year video will continue its progression to becoming the advertising platform of choice – and it’s never been easier for small businesses to get on board.
Nowadays videos can be created on smartphones and tablets, meaning there is no longer a big budget necessarily attached. Given that many successful viral videos have been made on a shoestring, and the enormous buzz generated by Periscope and Snapchat in 2015, it’s no wonder video has become the must-use marketing tool.
6. On-demand delivery
We want it and we want it now! We have become accustomed to getting things when we want them and as quick as possible. Recognizing this impatience many larger businesses offer overnight shipping and same-day delivery – something that just hasn’t been a possibility for the majority of small businesses.
Until now. In 2016, on-demand delivery will be more accessible to smaller businesses. Uber has recently partnered with local businesses to provide an on-demand delivery service with real-time tracking (aptly named Uber Rush).
The new service allows small businesses to attribute the cost of delivery to the customer, enabling them to expand their business at virtually no added cost. So you can keep up with the fast-moving, on-demand consumer culture in 2016 – even with a limited budget.