Business trends never stop evolving. What’s in today could be out by tomorrow.

It’s often challenging for companies to keep up with the speed of changes. This applies particularly in the modern world governed by technology, such as digital marketing and the use of data. Stay ahead of the curve by checking out these business trends for 2020, and learn how they might impact your business.

A man works on a laptop while virtual padlocks appear. Businesses should guard customers’ data against cyber attacks.

1. Need for Improved Data Privacy and Control

One of the concerns facing businesses as we move into the new decade is the privacy and safety of their data. It’s no longer an issue that’s only for enterprise-size companies, either. Data is one of your most important assets, and safeguarding it is a chief concern.

Research from Kaspersky shows 36% of small businesses had data breaches in 2019. This means data privacy isn’t something you can afford to ignore. Whether you collect and store only a few customer email addresses or have a larger database that includes credit card and Social Security numbers and banking details, failure to protect data can have devastating consequences.

The Personalization Paradox

A 2019 study by RedPoint Global showed hyper-personalization is key to a good customer experience. In fact, 43% of the respondents to the survey said they wanted to get personalized marketing offers. People believe personalization proves the company recognizes them as individuals. In fact, 37% of respondents say they will no longer do business with a company that doesn’t offer personalized experiences.

It can be a real juggling act to balance data for personalization purposes against your customers’ right to privacy. You’ll have to know your customers really well, which brings us back to trend #1 – data privacy and control. Protect the data you gather against access by bad actors because it’s as important as the personalization of your marketing.

How This Could Impact Your Business

Protecting your company and yourself from the risks will require you to have strong data privacy and control policies. Some ways these business trends for 2020 could affect you include:

  • Seeing more — and stricter — government regulations that you’ll have to follow
  • Placing stronger emphasis on the importance of employee security training
  • Setting aside money to reinforce data security protocols and prevent social engineering

Failure to protect the data and the privacy of your customers, staff and vendors can be costly. A single data breach can have a serious impact. People might suffer from identity theft or blackmail. Companies could experience financial losses and legal action. Organizations chance damage to their reputation and customer trust.

Spur your business growth by putting robust data privacy measures in place. This will be a unique selling point for companies that get it right, especially those in e-commerce.

A woman takes a selfie with her hairstylist, showing off her new haircut. Emphasizing customer experience is a big business trend in 2020.

2. Increased Focus on Customer Experience

Not long ago, the quality of your product or service was the most important factor in doing business. While quality still counts, customer experience is rising in prominence. A Digital Trends survey by Econsultancy and Adobe shows customer experience is now the most important business trend for 2020. It scored higher than content marketing, video and social media marketing. By the end of 2020, we can expect customer experience to overtake both price and product as the main differentiator between brands.

Importance of Reviews

It’s one thing to offer a great customer experience, but another to make sure your audience knows about it. Online reviews are popular because they allow prospective customers to be fairly sure they are getting authentic information.

BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey shows 81% of 18- to 34-year-old consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.

How This Could Impact Your Business

So, what does it take to create a good digital customer experience for your users that spurs your growth in 2020? Companies will find the need to do this pushes them toward digital transformation. Like it or not, it’s impossible to offer a secure, personalized experience without the help of technology.

Starting now, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Find out what your customers truly want by gathering feedback from them and analyzing it for patterns
  • Serve your customers through several channels, including your website, social media and live chat options
  • Deliver a seamless research or buying opportunity they can access using a mobile device

Business owners will also be under pressure to get positive customer reviews. You can do this in various ways, including in person, by email or on social media platforms. Otherwise, there are a number of trusted review sites — including Angie’s List, Yelp and Trustpilot — out there that you can sign up for to automatically request reviews from your customers directly after a transaction.

Ninety-five percent of existing businesses see customer experience as critical to their strategic growth, according to a report by Accenture. Companies that take this trend seriously in 2020 will stand out from the rest.

A woman buys cereal and grains in a plastic-free grocery store.

3: Becoming Greener and More Responsible

We’re all painfully aware of the climate crisis facing the planet. Whether you believe humanity caused it or not, the fact is we’re experiencing unprecedented weather upheavals. Popular thinking supports reducing our environmental footprint a lot in the next 10 years to combat it. This means companies using sustainable practices have a competitive edge, although it could impact pricing and profitability.

Awareness of social responsibility is another 2020 trend, and it goes further than environmental sustainability. Some social responsibility actions you can take in a small or medium-sized business include:

  • Supporting better labor policies
  • Taking part in fair trade buying initiatives
  • Staff volunteerism
  • Fundraising for worthy causes
  • Charitable giving

How This Could Impact Your Business

There are lots of ways to support environmental sustainability and be more socially responsible in 2020. Most of them deliver other benefits, too, in addition to public awareness. Improve your efficiency and trim your operating costs by:

  • Reducing the quantity of waste your company generates
  • Turning off lights, heating and AC to save energy
  • Limiting your use of paper by increasing digital options
  • Reviewing the amount of transportation you use for purchasing, deliveries and general operations

You can also invest in Energy Star-certified business equipment where possible. This is important for companies in fields like laundry services, food services and manufacturing.

Any actions that show you aren’t just aiming to thoughtlessly build wealth will go a long way towards improving customer opinion. It will also increase your staff retention and build your reputation in your industry.

A woman talks to her virtual assistant while she works. AI and machine learning are on trend to impact the 2020 economy.

4. AI and Machine Learning Deliver Intelligent Interfaces

The capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning continue to grow. Experts now predict these will have a big impact on the world’s economy in 2020. Use AI-powered marketing, resource management and quality control to improve efficiencies, regardless of the industry you’re in.

A Global Trends Study surveyed 835 top executives in 13 global industry sectors in 4 regions of the world. The study found 84% of companies view the use of AI as essential for staying competitive. One-third of respondents believe that AI’s greatest impact will be in marketing, sales and customer service. Twenty percent believe AI will also have a significant effect on back-office functions, such as financial management, strategic planning and human resources.

How This Trend Could Impact Your Business

You can transform your company operations through the use of AI, which enables you to handle more tasks faster and to improve the customer’s journey. AI’s use of chatbots, algorithms and natural language processing supports intelligent interfaces, which allow companies to automate their marketing and communications, and to boost their growth without increasing their costs. Other benefits include:

  • The ability to mine your data for business insights
  • Rapid identification of online fraud
  • Interpretation of analytics and delivering sales predictions

At first, implementing automated and intelligent systems might seem inconvenient. Once you discover the benefits associated with it and the ROI you get, however, you’ll be encouraged to find the right systems for your needs and budget. It’s critical to set aside the time and funding needed to make your business intelligent.

A young woman shops from her mobile phone. M-commerce is one of the top business trends for 2020.

5. Making E-Commerce Mobile

E-commerce will become more mobile in 2020. Purchases made using mobile devices rose by 15% since 2016. These fall under the term “m-commerce,” and voice commerce is particularly popular on mobile devices.

Experts believe people are going to spend more time on mobile-optimized social media websites like Pinterest, Snapchat and TikTok. Companies need to be able to sell on the platforms their customers frequent, but e-commerce sites generally don’t offer very good mobile experiences. For example, the pop-ups don’t always match the desktops, shopping carts don’t always work properly and the checkout process often generates errors on mobile.

If a recession starts to happen, people will begin cutting back on their spending and your company will need to make sure you can keep your customers satisfied and loyal.

How This Trend Could Impact Your Business

It’s vital to find out whether your mobile e-commerce users get the customer experience you want them to have. Streamlining and improving your mobile experience will help you stay competitive and increase your revenue growth. Enhance your e-commerce and m-commerce options by getting funding to improve your offering, and allocate enough budget to achieve a quality e-commerce operation. In some cases, you might need to redesign your processes completely.

This year will be an exciting time for small and medium-sized business owners. Take advantage of the business trends we’ve listed here and start thinking about how to address them in your company.

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