Knowing what customers want helps you get ahead of the competition, build customer loyalty and repeat sales, and increase long-term profitability. But knowing what customers want (and will want next) is often easier said than done.
If you’re a small business owner looking to stay one step ahead of customer demand trends, keep reading for these five trends to know about today to help you grow your business and capture the maximum number of sales.
Online sales are not going away
If you previously resisted online sales and marketing, it’s time to shake off your hesitations. The COVID-19 Pandemic led to a more rapid shift from in-person shopping to online sales. That means your digital storefront is equally important to your physical one, if not more important.
According to United States Census Bureau data, online sales surpassed 10% of all sales in the United States in early 2019 and have since held relatively steady at around 15%. While there was a slight downtick after the immediate COVID spike, many consumers were forced to start shopping online and are happy to continue doing so.
Restaurants, retailers, wholesalers, and service providers should all consider their website and online presence a key entry point to their sales funnels. Be ready to accept credit cards and other payments using your bank’s payment management tools.
Product and brand discovery
TikTok is in. Other social networks are out. Even if you’re not a regular user of TikTok, Instagram, and other major social media platforms, they are an important part of brand discovery. And online ads are not just for Fortune 500 brands. Even solo-owned and operated businesses can benefit from online engagement.
You can build an audience by posting compelling content regularly without spending anything on advertising. However, growth will accelerate if you’re willing to pay for promotion on Google and social media advertising platforms. Online review sites also appear in search results, so encourage your customers to leave a positive review.
When building an online presence, beware of the common temptation to focus on followers and likes over sales and conversations. While large followings can turn into revenue, that’s not always the case. Stay focused on the numbers, so you know your time and effort are being spent in a way that brings you the greatest return.
Tip: Go where your target customers are already spending time online. Also, beware of associating with unflattering brands or themes.
Rapid fulfillment and delivery
Amazon Prime, ShopRunner, and instant on-demand delivery services have changed customer expectations of delivery times. They want free shipping and fast shipping. If you’re able, adding those into the final product cost is ideal, so you don’t have to charge any additional fees.
Making the checkout process as quick and simple as possible also improves conversion rates. You’re optimized to capture all potential sales when customers see a single, predictable price and can check out in just a few clicks.
Did you know? Adding PayPal to your checkout options improves conversion rates by approximately 28%, according to a Nielsen survey commissioned by PayPal. Some customers use online payment platforms for interest-free loans where they can pay over a period of a few months instead of all at once.
Feel-good companies and products
People want to spend their dollars with brands they identify with and feel good about. While that’s always been a factor, the preference to support brands that align with consumer values is on a strong upward trend.
Savvy businesses consider the environment and social causes when operating their companies. Even small businesses can make a difference in the world, and customers are looking for companies working to improve the world.
Conversely, paying attention to which issues may be considered controversial is important. While you may believe in a specific cause or viewpoint, those on the other side of the spectrum may be turned away. Tread carefully when dealing with politically charged issues and topics.
Connecting to the people behind the brands
Consumers don’t want nameless brands. They want people and human connections. You may think it seems more professional to put forward strong branding, but don’t forget to let yourself shine through at least once in a while. This is a core aspect of modern digital marketing for small business owners.
Consumers like connecting with people. The rise of online influencers shows how readers, listeners, and viewers crave an authentic, personal connection. Don’t be afraid to show that you run an independent business. Many buyers would happily support a smaller company over a multinational corporation.
Community involvement may help spread brand awareness and increase sales if your business is focused on a local area. Getting involved in local nonprofit organizations and business owner groups brings new opportunities to show off your products and services.
It’s your job to know what customers want and need
Being a business owner or manager in a rapidly changing environment is tough. Leading the evolution of your company to keep up with your target customer or client demands is part of the job. When you’re looking ahead to what customers want next, you’re poised to keep customers happy, leading to repeat business and referrals. When you understand and capitalize on small business trends, that’s a big win for any business.
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