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10 Small Business Trends and Predictions for 2021

10 Small Business Trends and Predictions for 2022

Tom Gerencer
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2022 is shaping up to be a better year for small companies than last year, but as business comes roaring back, “return to normal” is a misnomer. Organizations quick to adapt to new norms in consumer-business interaction will stay several steps ahead of the rest of the pack.
Get a head start on growing revenue and capitalize on new opportunities by prepping for more in-person interaction. But don’t expect to forgo remote work entirely during the rest of this year. Tap into AR and VR, brace for increased HR regulations, and multiply your digital marketing.
By focusing on these 10 emerging small business trends for 2022, you can put your best foot forward.

1. More remote work

After a taste of freedom, many employees don’t want to go back to the office full time. In fact, more than half of all U.S. employees want to keep working from home at least part of the time when things settle down. Studies show that remote workers are more productive when they don’t have to spend the average commute time of 27 minutes each way. That means they can do more work, while they also enjoy a higher quality of life.
Small businesses can stay cutting edge by catering to remote productivity. Support remote teams by providing them with speedy internet connections, allowing for flex time, and using remote-work tracking apps like Jira or Trello. Also, source the best WFH gear designed to take advantage of bursts of micromobility with fast startup times and speedy 5G and WiFi 6 connectivity.

2. Embrace AR and VR

“Nothing can replace being there,” they say, but many of us have recently discovered we can come pretty close. With more remote work, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will bring some exciting business boosters like “try before you buy” and enhanced collaboration among your team.
Experts predict the VR market will grow tenfold by 2026, to $184 billion, with a big part of that hitting in 2021. Small businesses can get ahead of the curve by updating their websites and apps to let shoppers see how products will look in their living room or on their shoulders. This applies to product development, too.
You don’t need a team of highly-paid techs in lab coats to put this new business trend to work for you, either. Your SMB can try out Facebook’s Spark AR or Shopify’s AR Quick Look for free and then have a dreaming session to discuss implementation.
Small Business VR Trends

3. More HR regulations

HR regulating bodies are responding to the challenges we faced in 2020. Here are a few upcoming changes that may take effect in 2021 and 2022:
  • A federal minimum wage increase could bump the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. up to $15 per hour. Other legislative bills would boost the minimum wage for contract employees. In its current form, the legislation is unlikely to pass both houses of Congress. But business owners should expect some kind of a minimum wage increase.
  • The PRO Act passed the House and made it to the Senate. If passed there, the bill’s ABC test would effectively end large sections of the gig economy, making it harder to hire freelancers and contract employees. The bill is expected to fail, but it’s worth watching.
  • Federal paid leave may become law, thanks to the extension of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the recent passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). That legislation already allows for unpaid leave, but the Democrat-majority Congress is expected to push for paid leave, as well.
  • Tougher OSHA regulations will require new safety protocols for SMBs. Companies can get a head start on this by monitoring CDC guidance and putting their own employee bylaws in place.
  • COVID-19 vaccination policies may be par for the course, as the Biden Administration rolls out tougher regulations on how businesses respond to the pandemic. Work with your HR department to get practices and policies drafted now to save on hassle later.

4. Digital marketing multiplies exponentially

Social media and other digital marketing will become orders of magnitude more important over this year, as "remote everything" continues even after the pandemic winds down. Consumers have discovered that they like curbside pickup, shopping from home, and home entertainment. In fact, home entertainment spending skyrocketed in 2020 and 2021, so expect the connected “homebody” to be the consumer of the future.
To reach today’s shoppers, SMBs can keep up with this popular business trend by spending more on a multi-channel digital marketing approach. Digital marketing spends for most companies are exploding, which makes sense thanks to massive and swiftly growing ROIs.
On a smaller scale, customer review scores will be more crucial than ever. Raise yours by asking for reviews on multiple platforms and review-optimizing your website.

5. More paid placement advertising

Paid placement is coming into its own, with immersive, targeted, and video-centric content. While Google will stop targeting ads based on recent searches, this doesn’t apply to mobile ads or non-Google advertisers. As a result, targeted ads are here to stay for the long term.
With paid placement ads or pay-per-click (PPC), you appear in the search results along with organically-ranked articles. That’s powerful, because customers who are searching for what you sell will see your content. According to research by search guru Rand Fishkin, PPC enjoys a high 11% click-through rate.

6. Personalization through AI and big data

For decades, one of the biggest problems for SMBs has been an impersonalized sales process. Customers have to wade through a forest of website info, form emails, chatbots, and phone menus keeping them at arm’s length. Artificial intelligence (AI) circumvents this, letting SMBs relate one-to-one with many of customers at once.
Getting started with AI is easier and more affordable than ever, with small business licenses available for top AI tools. For instance, Legal Robot uses natural language processing (NLP) to help you parse out contracts before you sign, and Bold360 uses that same tech to chat with your clients in a “human” way.
Small businesses can lead the way with AI tools, since big companies take a lot longer to approve and test new tech before using it.

7. More women small business owners

Recessions spur new business growth, and the 2020 contraction was no exception. But one of the most notable small business trends for 2022 is the number of SMBs owned by women.
There are 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. and this number is growing rapidly, with 1,821 new businesses started by women every day over the last year. B2B sales and marketing efforts in 2022 will need to cater to women owners to a much higher degree than ever before.
According to ForbesWomen author Geri Stengel, marketing to female entrepreneurs starts with a robust social media approach and includes a more user-friendly, continuous-improvement based approach with ongoing incremental positive changes to the business relationship.
Women Business Owners

8. PPP extension

The paycheck protection program (PPP) isn’t over yet. The House almost unanimously passed an extension of the popular and helpful program, and the Senate will likely fast-track it into law.
SMBs can borrow the equivalent of 250% of their average monthly payroll, capped at $10 million. You can use these funds to cover employee pay and related costs, and a large portion of those funds may be eligible for forgiveness.
To see if your small business is still eligible for PPP help, see the Small Business Administration’s PPP page.

9. Alternate funding

In 2022, many small businesses will take advantage of alternative financing sources like grants, venture capital, fintech, angel investors, crowdfunding, and peer-to-peer lending (P2P), steering away from traditional business loans. These will be vital for cash-strapped businesses well into this year and beyond.
One example is fintech funding for SMBs. Rather than walk into a bank, cap in hand, toting paperwork, services like Kabbage, OnDeck, and Fundbox now let you apply for financing right from your smartphone, with approval in as little as three minutes.

10. A farewell to COVID

Numbers of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. started dropping in early 2021, and a significant percentage of the population has been vaccinated. Add in the number of recovered cases, and we’re approaching herd immunity, which happens between 50% and 80%.
As we return to business as usual, it will take some time to readjust. And while many aspects of our day to day activities will revert to pre-COVID status, there are some lessons, both personal and professional, that we want to retain. These may look different for each of us, but SMB owners and employees will benefit from examining which pandemic practices to hold onto into 2022 and beyond.

Summary

The world is changing fast, and the small business environment is right at the forefront. To stay relevant (and profitable), SMBs need to keep abreast of these 10 small business trends and predictions.
Get ready for more remote work, more VR use and digital marketing, and broaden your scope when it comes to funding. Your small company can use the shifting winds to make new landfalls by embracing these up-and-coming business trends.
About the Author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP Tech@Work. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.
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