Five small-business trends to watch out for in 2019

As we often do at the start of the year, many of us are looking back at our past achievements and accomplishments – but many more of us are looking forward. We’re curious what trends the new year will bring.

What should you, as a small-business owner, be paying attention to this year?

The Internet of Things rises to prominence

In 2019, the Internet of Things will dominate. We’re bringing just about everything online these days, and using connected devices to make our personal lives more convenient and our professional lives more efficient.

Expect to see the number of IoT systems increase exponentially. Maybe you’re already talking about integrating sensors into your own products or tools. Maybe you already have.

Regardless, this wave of new devices will demand a new approach to both cybersecurity and resource consumption. It’s a bit technical for us to get into here, but that’ll be where blockchain and edge computing come in. Essentially, they’re a decentralised method of cybersecurity and resource management, respectively – two things that will be critical in supporting a hyperconnected future.

Voice search takes off

Driven by tools like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, voice search saw something of a renaissance in 2018. By 2020, 35 per cent of searches will be conducted via voice. For the time being, most of those searches will be chiefly informational in nature – meaning that if you operate a storefront, you probably don’t need to worry too much.

That said, it couldn’t hurt to start optimising your website to be voice search friendly. Set up a Google My Business and add as much information as possible. It might also be worth your time to look into long-tail conversational keywords and set up an FAQ page on your site.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) enters the marketing arena

2018 saw AI’s emergence in marketing and advertising. This year, we’re likely to see trends in actionable technology that actually builds on that foundation.

In 2019, technology will continue to evolve, and AI will truly come into its own in the marketing space – as it does so elsewhere. For now, the best thing you can do is keep your ear to the ground. Watch the market, and be ready to tap into any tools that you think might help.

Banking undergoes a radical shift

The banking and payment industry is going to see some big changes this year. As a small-business owner, these changes in trends will impact how people purchase and pay for your goods and services. Most notably, new innovations will allow customers to pay wherever, whenever, and however they desire – and business owners that only accept traditional payment methods are going to be left behind.

User reviews will be more critical than ever

For all our efforts to automate lead generation and marketing, nothing trumps human relationships. For that reason, user reviews have always been important and will continue to be.

Given scandals like Cambridge Analytica and the plethora of data breaches we saw in 2018, it should come as no surprise that consumer trust in businesses is at an all-time low. That’s why, moving forward, it’s in your best interests as a small-business owner to start leaning more on word of mouth marketing. These reviews are the most powerful tool in your brand’s arsenal.

Brad Wayland, Chief Strategy Office, www.bluecotton.com

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