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In the past two years, the only constant for small business owners has been change. Thousands of businesses changed their business model at the beginning of the Pandemic, introducing new products or services and embracing new channels to reach their customers. Thousands of new businesses were launched, looking for opportunities in the new normal.
The impact of the past two years has crystallized and new trends are emerging, like the beginnings of the metaverse to changing how we define small businesses and how they operate.
I sat down with my colleague, who leads Meta's Business Product Marketing Group for small businesses, a few weeks ago. We identified four trends that will change the small business landscape.
The evolution of entrepreneurship.
There was a lot of creativity after the Pandemic. New, exciting ideas and businesses were born when people reexamined assumptions like the need to conduct business exclusively in-person. The small business space has been redefined by this. A record number of businesses are predicted to be started in 2022, which will accelerate this trend further. The increasing frequency of creators turning their passion into a living is one of the most interesting evolutions. The Cheese Board Queen, Emily Delaney, started her account with a simple post about her love of cheese and charcuterie boards. She has a book coming out in the spring and has hosted virtual classes and workshops for three years. Her story of sharing a passion online and turning it into a business is not unique, and one we will only see more of in the future.
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The science of creativity.
Over the last two years, small business owners have had to become more creative with their digital presence. For many, this opened new doors for driving sales and building their brand. Live Shopping is a great example of a digital technology that helps businesses showcase their offerings while also giving them a unique personality into an online experience. Live video and online shopping have opened up new revenue streams that will last beyond the outbreak.
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Kelley Cawley, an Illinois boutique owner, credits regular streams on Facebook Live with making her customers more engaged and driving more online and in-person traffic to her store. Kelley mixes the art of a fun Live experience with the science of digital tools and insights that help her understand what keeps her customers engaged to make Live Shopping a success. Since she implemented the Live Shopping strategy, her sales have jumped. Combining the art of creativity and the understanding digital tools give of what drives the most success enables businesses like Crawley's to experiment, innovate and make strategic decisions based on real data. Businesses that have found a home online will be able to experiment further, combining the art of creativity with data science tools to find the strategies that work best for them.
The next era of communication is paved by messaging.
Businesses are using messaging to personalize their communications. People's preferences for how they talk with companies are changing. 75% of adults globally say they want to communicate with businesses via messaging in the same way they communicate with friends and family, in this digital era. We know that businesses large and small will work with more immersive formats to forge personal connections online as we transition from the mobile Internet to the Metaverse. The groundwork is already underway. Small businesses can now conduct video calls via Messenger, allowing them to speak and see their customer, helping them to answer questions faster, provide better customer service, and of course, truly connect person to person.
The physical/digital divide is being bridged.
Many businesses are now operating in a hybrid model, which means they are maintaining a physical presence while also selling via ecommerce platforms that became a necessity during the pandemic. There is no longer a divide between online and offline, as a result of the pandemic, which has accelerated what digital actually means. Akila McConnell is the owner of Unexpected Walking Tours in Atlanta. Akila provided walking tours focused on Black History in Atlanta before the Pandemic. She lost all of her revenue overnight when the Pandemic hit. Akila introduced virtual tours and gift boxes on hershopify.com to bridge her physical offering with a new online experience. Figuring out how to balance and maintain both in-person and digital experiences will ensure small businesses are reaching the largest possible customer base, not limiting them based on their geographical footprint, while also providing the convenience that local customers desire.
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Some things remain the same despite all the changes and innovations we have seen over the past few years. The ability to watch, listen and connect with your customers is always paramount to small business success, and now digital tools make this easier than ever.