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Top 2024 trends for small businesses to implement 🔥

Danielle Collard
12 Jan 2024

As spending habits change, businesses that manage to stay ahead of market trends are well-placed to dominate their competition, so here are some of the projected developments for this year, ready for you to incorporate into your model. 

Incorporated AI

AI technology took the world by storm in 2023, stepping to the forefront of commerce and the public consciousness:

  • AI chatbots are offering online businesses the chance to provide 24/7 customer support
  • AI integrated into websites is helping to improve product recommendations
  • AI voice assistants let customers shop easily and interactively by conversing with customers in their homes. 

No matter where you look, AI seems to be cropping up all over the place with a myriad of effective applications. And no wonder: it can save your small business time, redirecting your energy to higher-value work.

2024 will see AI become prevalent across multiple industries with small businesses getting the chance to ride the AI wave cheaply, simplifying service and supporting customers.

Here are a few ways you could explore using AI in your business:

  • Ecommerce - Many website builders use AI to automatically create businesses or to write website copy, saving you time and money.
  • Writing content - Use AI to write content like menu or product descriptions, social media posts, or proof your content to be free from spelling errors.
  • Customer support - Implement AI-powered chatbots to handle routine customer questions with instant responses (ChatBot), and automate routine tasks like sending order confirmations and following up on support tickets.
  • Social media - Utilise the most popular social media scheduling apps that use AI to help publish posts to multiple social media platforms from one dashboard, generate new ideas, and find ideal times to publish for better engagement (Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout Social).
  • Project management - Stay organised with your tasks using AI to manage your to-do list and schedule optimal times to undertake tasks.
  • Market research - ChatGPT and Google Bard can be used as market research tools - ask specific questions to get detailed insights about your industry, competitors and customer demographics. 
  • Videos and imagery - Create high-quality imagery for your social media or website using text prompts and AI (DALL-E 2, Shutterstock AI, Adobe Photoshop Generative Fill, and Magic Design in Canva). Produce natural-sounding AI voices for voiceovers (Murf). Or make videos in minutes based on text content (Lumen5).
  • Transcribe - Record meetings, videos or podcasts, take notes and create summaries instantly with AI transcription tools that turn video or audio into text (Happy Scribe or Otter.ai).
  • Automate skillless tasks - Consider using AI to automate the manual tasks that take up much of your daily work, like data entry, account management, and business analysis.

ChatGPT may be the most recognisable name, but there are a number of AIs out there for businesses to incorporate, such as Google Bard, Bing Chat, copy.ai and Jasper.ai.

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Increased personalisation

We’re afraid you’ve got to do more than personalise an email with a customer name in 2024!

The aim of personalisation is to improve customer satisfaction and build customer relations, which will increase sales and customer loyalty. Think about how it can be implemented in every touch point with your customer.

With more and more SMBs incorporating technology into the sales process, 2023 saw a reduction in contact points between staff and customers [1]. This makes providing personal service more difficult, given the limited contact time. However, in 2024 it looks like businesses are back to building personalisation into their business models.

However, many businesses are all following the same route - using programs to personalise marketing emails with names. So how can you stand out or take it further? Here are some hot suggestions for 2024:

  • Loyalty programmes - Don’t be generic to every loyal customer! Offer exclusive rewards or discounts to customers based on individual preferences and purchase history.
  • Email campaigns - Segment your email lists by customer interests, behaviours and demographics and send targeted emails which include addressing customers by name, making relevant product suggestions, or offering exclusive deals to the customer’s interests.
  • Email receipts - Include personalised recommendations or exclusive offers in email receipts, tailored to the customer’s purchase histories.
  • Targeted advertising - Deliver ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google to specific customer segments (interests, demographics and behaviours). Great for targeting new customers, as much as previous ones, with personalised product recommendations or offers! It also means you can use your marketing budget more efficiently.
  • Tailored products and services (👈 This is the biggest advantage for smaller businesses!) - You have the flexibility (unlike larger suppliers) to create unique experiences for your customers here, so be creative, such as offering custom engraving or personalisation, colour options, packaging, or design.
  • Product recommendations - Present product recommendations that resonate with your customers, based on their browsing and buying behaviour, to help them find exactly what they are looking for.
  • Website content - Introduce simple touches, like personal greetings, recommended products, and customer testimonials to connect with your audience on a personal level further.
  • User-generated content (UGC) - Curate and showcase customer-crated content to encourage engagement and show a relatable experience.

But personal service also means ensuring your staff provides that emotionally intelligent human touchpoint for your customers. With 2023 being the year of AI, consumers are more conscious of robotic voices and more hungry for humanity in their service. So here’s our biggest tip:

  • Train your team to listen to the wants and needs of customers and make sure your service offers that warmth that today’s communities are looking for.

 

Chat GPT

Delivering at speed

During 2023, more businesses moved their services online: retailers joined the world of ecommerce, either by creating their own websites or using web-builders as an easy way of reaching shoppers virtually. Meanwhile, the hospitality industry continued to expand the online ordering and delivery industry, creating more competition for those already running delivery services.

While the quality of your products is essential, consumers have become used to quicker service. That means your business will be judged more and more for any extra minutes and hours it takes for your product to reach the door, and a quick service is likely a sure way to bag their next purchase.

Changing your drivers, paying a little more to improve your delivery service, or putting an extra option online for those customers concerned about speed are all ways your business might follow the trend and get the green light from speedy customers looking for a fast fix!

Simpler, more efficient structures

Whether you integrate your online and in-house inventories, take on a chatbot, or find new ways to automate your business, these developing technologies can quickly feel overwhelming (even if they’re there to save you time!). That’s why using simpler business structures for trade is a top trend for 2024.

In some cases, this may mean fewer human resources and more automated tasks. However, it could also mean a redistribution of resources towards other roles or encouraging skill diversification by cross-training employees.

Increased efficiency doesn’t just mean incorporating technology. For many businesses, this could mean:

  • Reducing wastage - Optimising resource allocation and minimising unnecessary expenses from the supply level upwards helps to make your business more efficient, and promotes a sustainable approach to operations. 
  • Becoming more cost-effective -  Find ways to cut your utility and supply bill, cut excessive operational expenditures and improve financial stability to help streamline your business and allow you to foster a flexible approach to adapt to market changes.
  • Changing suppliers - Moving to a closer local supplier is one way of simplifying your business structure that can have an enormous impact on your sustainability, but also helps to protect you from supply disruption, with shipping delays becoming more prevalent in recent years.
  • Outsourcing - Freelancer websites are booming, so consider outsourcing non-essential tasks to specialised service providers - so you can keep your internal resources focused on core business activities.
  • Flexible inventory management - Implement just-in-time inventory practices to minimize storage costs and prevent overstocking.

Nevertheless, technology remains a key way of creating a simpler structure. POS systems like Epos Now offer businesses a number of automation options, from reporting to syncing integrations. A popular choice for Epos Now users is an accounting integration like Sage, Xero, and Quickbooks, which send sales data straight to dedicated accounting software to automate business accounts.

Other changes to look out for in 2024

  • Augmented reality (AR) on the rise - Augmented reality offers a more immersive ecommerce experience while reducing returns by giving online customers more exposure to products before purchase. Be sure to watch out for it in 2024!
  • Cyber-security, alternative currencies and changes to payment methods - Bitcoin and other alternative currencies have received a mixed reception, but the way we pay online is slowly changing. 2-factor authentication, face and voice recognition, and protection from cyber-hacking will all be key issues for ecommerce this year.
  • Data transparency - Privacy and cookie policies are already must-haves for online sales, but consumers are increasingly conscious of the importance placed on their data and how businesses handle it in 2024 will influence the trust of their customers.
  • Caution on social media - In 2023, TikTok was meant to be banned in the US (no longer the case), Twitter got an abrupt rebrand to X (and saw a drastic decline in both usage and downloads), and Threads launched with huge initial success before usage dropped by 80% in the first three months. So while social media is here to stay, it’s clear that not all ‘new and improved platforms’ are hitting the mark. So be cautious before launching your business on any new social media platforms that may pop up in 2024.

We hope you found our trends for 2024 blog helpful. Want to read more? Take a look at some of our other blogs!