The pandemic has paved the way for a number of sluggish digital trends, many of which have changed the way small business does business forever. So which trends will have staying power and are suddenly on every small-business owner’s to-do list?
We discuss five digital trends for small business that have appeared or been accelerated by COVID-19 and why they’re likely to stick around post-pandemic and become an essential part of your marketing activity.
Different social media platforms
When COVID-19 led to widespread lockdowns across the globe, we witnessed the rise and rise of short video apps such as Snapchat and TikTok. As a small business owner, you can create snappy and likeable videos with relevant hashtags to produce your own branded content. With mostly younger audiences engaging with these channels, it’s important to ensure your target audience is using them too.
The larger social players have also recently launched Instagram Shopping and Facebook personalised ads that are generated by machine learning.
Another key social media trend is social listening. Social listening is the process of monitoring social media channels for mentions of your brand, competitors, product and more. Social listening gives brands an opportunity to track, analyse and respond to conversations about them on social media making it a crucial component of audience research. Key players in this space include Hootsuite, HubSpot and Sprout Social that scan social networks favoured by your target audience and monitor keywords or hashtags relevant to your business and join select forums, Facebook or LinkedIn groups.
Voice recognition software
Voice recognition technology can help a business in two ways. Firstly, it can be used within your customer service team to direct callers to the right person or to your website for more general advice.
Secondly, it can be incorporated into internal software such as customer management systems and assist with laborious data entry. Staff can dictate emails or sales reports to save valuable time and boost productivity.
Voice recognition software can also be incorporated into video technology to record and transcribe meeting notes.
Automation is the way of the future, just ask Siri or Alexa. Voice recognition software has permeated homes and businesses and, with travel restrictions, customers are less likely to pop in to ask questions.
We may all have had enough of seeing ourselves speaking to a screen, however video conferencing has proven its effectiveness for business as employees headed home to work. This trend is likely to continue well after the pandemic has moved on as we see the shift towards working from home and away from the traditional office environment.
Remote work has meant a fast-tracked move to other digital technologies to replace the office scanner or printer, for example. Digitised documents and highly secure signatures are taking the paperless trend to the next level.
Project management software has also come into its own. Entire teams can follow their colleagues’ progress, track their own tasks and managers can oversee the whole process as it evolves. Cloud-based storage such as Google Drive will also permanently replace the need for on-site server systems.
Online shopping has grown exponentially because of COVID-19 and increasingly more Australians are confidently buying via their smartphones or devices.
Many small businesses who didn’t previously have an online presence had to move quickly to online sales by integrating a shopping platform such as Shopify or WooCommerce into their website or use existing channels such as eBay.
This is definitely one trend that isn’t going away, so an appropriate e-commerce solution with relevant delivery services is non-negotiable. Selling through social media, i.e. Facebook and Instagram Shopping, is also easy to set up and can be integrated with your social media marketing efforts.
If you have a service-based business, you should consider an online offering where possible. If you now hold client meetings virtually, you should include an online booking facility on your website to ensure you’re meeting your obligations and maintaining your relationships face-to-face.
Remote and flexible workplaces
Lockdowns have forced many to work remotely where feasible and for many workers it has been a major adjustment. Home offices, some sophisticated, some not so much so, were speedily created and work schedules disrupted by the integration of home, work and schooling lives.
Now, with many shying away from public transport, COVID Safe workplaces and social distancing requirements and experiencing life without the daily commute, many businesses are adopting and adapting to a new workplace model. This may include a hybrid of staff working in an office and at home, allowing employees to work flexible hours to work at various times to fit around personal commitments.
As a business owner this has required and will require a major shift in mindset away from the traditional office model and work hours in favour of promoting productivity. It does however allow business owners you to employ the best staff who may not live in your city and can work remotely. A small office will also reduce overheads.
We have discussed five digital trends for small business that have emerged quickly as a result of COVID-19. There are likely so many others bubbling under the surface. Business owners are encouraged to keep their finger on the pulse of digital technologies and trends that may assist in their marketing often at a low or no cost.