Three key trends that SMEs must be focusing on in 2022

Source: Unsplash / Signmund.

Sustaining your business for the long term – especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic – is an ongoing struggle for many business owners. Add to that extreme flooding on the east coast of Australia and global economic uncertainty thanks to Putin’s war in Ukraine, and we’ve got a recipe for an unstable future.

In order to combat this sense of uncertainty, it’s important for business owners to sure up their online strategies and future-proof the way they work. Businesses must fight against the tendency to maintain outdated practices simply because ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’. Here are three key developments that are proving especially pertinent to small businesses as we progress through 2022 and beyond.

Silver techies take online shopping to new heights

It might sound obvious but it’s worth reiterating: Australians love online shopping, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. According to data from Australia Postonline purchases had grown 23.4% over the previous 12 months as of August 2021.

Online shoppers are no longer a specific, young demographic of internet-savvy gen Zs. Purchasing groceries and clothing online has become standard practice for many, even those who had never done it before the pandemic.

In fact, a good portion of the growth in online purchases can be attributed to the silver tech generation, aged 50 to 75 years old. PayPal reported a 65% increase in sign-ups from the silver tech generation during COVID-19 restrictions in Australia compared to pre-pandemic levels. During the pandemic, online shopping became a critical tool for survival – providing them with physical safety while purchasing essential items.

Clearly, the time to start selling online is yesterday. In our current mid / post-pandemic era, everyone has become an online shopper.

Video – but not as you know it

The next lesson for business owners is that video is no longer purely a marketing tool to promote your products. Many businesses now use video throughout the customer journey, inviting their customers to get closer to the brand through education and entertainment.

Video can serve as a great tool for providing assistance, especially when your customer is interacting with your brand almost solely online. Use video tutorials – accessed by QR codes – to provide more information about a product and encourage continued engagement.

Don’t panic: today’s consumers don’t expect professionally edited and color graded footage filled with special effects and animation – in fact, the rise of Tiktok and Instagram reels has seen professional footage set aside for creative and playful content that humanises brands.

The experience customers expect

Customer experience (CX) has always been an important focus for businesses, but since the advent of the pandemic, getting it right has become even more of a necessity. Successful companies don’t take a cost savings approach when it comes to CX – they choose investment and growth.

Those growth strategies include investing in technology to improve their customer’s experience, while simultaneously increasing customer service staff to provide a deeper human connection. Since those staff members are able to work from home, the pandemic hasn’t severed this important connection.

In the modern age, CX looks like reliability, flexibility and personalization. Customers expect brands to remember their personal information, such as location, preferences and shopping history, in order to provide them with tailored recommendations next time they want to shop.

Live chat is now best practice for any online business, providing customers with immediate access to a customer service assistant who can answer questions on the spot without needing to pick up the phone or wait for a response via email.

Tap into existing e-commerce data in order to provide personalized recommendations for repeat customers and take online reviews as an opportunity to improve customer service. Look for opportunities at different stages of the purchase cycle to provide a personalized, enjoyable, efficient service.

After the couple of years we’ve just had, it’s vital that businesses take online seriously. Pay attention to the ongoing trends and expectations from customers, and put in the necessary effort into creating a website using live chat, video, and access to real humans. In short, consider online as not just a channel, but the channel to secure your business into the future.

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