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3 Overrated and 3 Underrated Trends Small Businesses Should Know in 2022

Marketing trends seem to develop overnight, and it can be difficult to keep up with what's hot -- should we be making TikToks or writing blogs? Updating our website or growing our email list? This is particularly true as COVID-related factors continue to impact the ways consumers live, work, and shop.

For small businesses to remain ahead of the competition, they must constantly re-evaluate their approach to ensure they can meet their customers' expectations.

I had to pivot many times to adapt to the ever-changing customer needs when I started my first company. It felt like there were a million directions I could focus my energy on every day. I've been among the ranks of small businesses that know they need to market but don't know that with such limited resources, it can be difficult to decipher what trends are important for the success of their businesses, and which ones are more noise than substance.

When small businesses look at what to invest in this year, there are some clear underrated and overrated trends. For the underrated ones, small businesses can give themselves an edge by getting familiar with the trending strategies. For the overrated ones, it's helpful to get familiar but no need for businesses to panic or rewrite their strategy. 

Overrated

1. Consumers Wondering About Shipping Status

Supply chain issues rocked U.S.-based companies in 2021, and many consumers who purchased goods found themselves stuck with no updates as to the timing of their goods. Ships got caught in canals, containers of cargo sat in ports for months, and the only information customers had was an email confirmation from months ago.

According to a Gallup poll, 60 percent of U.S. adults say they have been unable to get a product they wanted in the past two months because of shortages. While it's one thing to be unable to purchase a product, it's another to purchase a product and not know when it's going to arrive.

Small businesses looking to combat this customer confusion should focus on what they can control. That comes down to making sure delivery notification systems and communication channels can keep their consumers abreast of any delays or confusion. Small businesses have the benefit of stronger relationships and trust with their customers. Getting in touch with them via email or other forms of communication to quell concerns and provide inventory updates proactively can mitigate customer frustration.

2. Waiting for the New Normal

Shopping habits vary wildly from customer to customer, and for some small businesses, meeting customers where they are is a vital step to success. For example, for small businesses with physical products, it can make sense to take the leap into brick-and-mortar retail. A customer in search of a new futon won't get the same experience looking at pictures online. Retail space is cheaper than ever, and brands are opening up their second and third locations 15 minutes from their flagship store.

Ultimately, consumers want to shop however they want to shop, whether that means in-person or online, and small businesses that can be nimble and meet the variety of needs and preferences will find success. According to the Small Business Now Survey, of the small businesses that don't currently sell online, 61 percent plan to open an online store this year. Businesses with no online presence will likely suffer, but so might those with only one retail location.

Small businesses don't need to wait to see what the future of shopping looks like. Start now by understanding where customers are spending and creating an omnichannel marketing approach that connects with them on and offline.

3. The Metaverse

You may have heard that life is going to completely move into a digital universe and soon you'll be ordering art and homes and dog food inside the metaverse. The jury is still out on whether that vision will come to (our) reality, but for now, entrepreneurs and small businesses have a lot more pertinent things to concern themselves with.

Small businesses don't need to be concerned about an imminent switch to virtual avatars-- they can continue to focus on the "real world" for the next five to 10 years. Media buzz -- the dozens of weekly articles we see invoking a new digital future complete with headsets, avatar-led meetings, and virtually stocked shelves -- is not always indicative of the current state of things.

Underrated

1. Investing in Technology Infrastructure

As e-commerce continues to grow, companies need to be able to digest and act on the data their consumers provide them. Data opens so many doors that can help you serve your customer better -- more effective communication, better relationships, genuine excitement, and also buying offline.

Marketing technologies that were previously out-of-reach for small businesses are now relatively simple and inexpensive to implement. According to research from Constant Contact, customers are most likely to buy from email marketing over social media -- thankfully, building an email marketing campaign is easier than ever.

Lack of access to these tools is no longer the issue; rather, it's about taking the time to become fluent in these tools and using them to their full capabilities. After all, small businesses can use the same tools that the big guys are using to become more fluent in what their customers want, and efficient in how they deliver it to them.

Collecting the data is only one piece of the puzzle -- it's what you do with that data that matters. And research from Constant Contact shows that there is a lot of opportunity out there for businesses who embrace it.

2. Standing Out Without Online Marketplace

With online marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart continuing to grow in size, brands have to fight for their position in results, often with paid support. Small businesses may benefit in developing their direct-to-consumer platform and investing in their own digital presence, which would allow them to leverage first-party data and avoid floundering at the whims of marketplace algorithms.

According to research from Constant Contact, 34 percent of consumers say email is the most helpful method of communication to receive from a small business when they are considering a purchase.

This shift in consumer behavior will continue with businesses focusing on how to reach their customers directly and not be so reliant on other platforms to allow them to do so. This way as things continue to change (and they will) businesses won't be at the whim of an algorithm but rather they'll have first-party data they'll be able to use to uncover new opportunities

3. Product Packaging

As the direct-to-consumer model continues to grow, consumers expect that their products arrive in perfect condition in a timely manner. Moreover, novel unboxing experiences can become a hallmark of a brand's visual identity and product quality, lending themselves not only to cultural virality but also to customer loyalty.

Did you know that 40 percent of consumers share photos of products they perceive to have unique and appealing packaging? Investing in not only the logistics to ensure products arrive in perfect condition, but also quality packaging materials that communicate the brand ethos, will result in a more memorable experience for the customer.


It's likely the case that we will see many more food and CPG brands that are selling directly to consumers, such as Uprising Foods, which delivers keto bread and chips to customers. They need to figure out how to ship products to consumers in a timely manner. Packaging also becomes important to protect products that are shipped and arrive at our doors in perfect condition. The takeaway here? Brand packaging can tell your story and create a memorable experience - one that doesn't have to be expensive.

 

This article was written by Jerry Jao from Inc. and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

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