Liz Sheffield

4 Small Business Trends for 2019

Small business owners often find that their success depends not only on their ability to stay on top of day-to-day operations but also on how well they can see what’s on the horizon. According to one recent survey, for instance, 64 percent of small businesses are concerned about how future changes in health care legislation and policy might affect their business.

To help you anticipate what may be coming in the new year, here are four of the top small business trends for 2019.

1. Businesses Will Bring Customer Service to the Customer

Customer support applications can be expensive. Developing an app, handling tech upgrades and paying for the marketing to get customers to use it — all of those efforts can easily burn through a company’s budget.

As it turns out, that hard work might not be worth the cost. Gartner has predicted that 1 in 20 businesses will already have phased out their mobile app by the beginning of 2019. Instead, organizations are starting to invest in delivering customer service through automated technology and chat apps. This allows customers to get, well, a more customized experience as they drive the interaction and ask the questions that bring them closer to what they need.

Other businesses may lean increasingly on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to bring customer service to the places they’re already gathering.

2. Artificial Intelligence Will Do More Than Just Automation

Predictions indicate that companies will continue to use artificial intelligence (AI) in wide-ranging applications. As the mainstream begins to join the early adopters, AI could find a home in just about any industry. Are you poised to start leveraging machine learning in your company’s products or services?

AI can also optimize routine tasks and other processes your business relies on to run. Keep in mind that despite doomsday worries about robots taking over, experts predict that on the whole AI will be used to support, not replace, human employees, allowing them to function at higher levels. What could your employees achieve if some of their most tedious and repetitive duties could be handed off to an algorithm?

And don’t overlook the ways AI could improve your business in less indirect ways. For example, chatbots and smart wearables have already begun to take root in the health care landscape, potentially transforming wellness programs and boosting employee health and productivity.

3. The Desire for Sharing Economy Solutions Will Grow

In recent years, collaborative consumption, or the so-called sharing economy, has revolutionized a variety of industries by answering some people’s preference to rent or borrow rather than buy and own goods. Next year, look for ways that the sharing economy, which has created success for companies like Uber and Lyft, can be applied to small business trends and consumer needs.

Would your business be better off if your customers had a way to rent or subscribe to your products, rather than purchasing them once? Of course, sharing economy solutions won’t apply to every business’s offerings, but 2019 may also be the year to consider whether there are any processes or functions you can “share” via outsourcing to save money and free up time for other things.

4. Association Health Plans Will Increase Employers’ Health Care Options

When faced with health care cost increases in 2018, many small business owners moved to high-deductible consumer-driven health plans. This approach helped drive costs down by an average of 13 percent, as the Society for Human Resource Management reports.

In 2019, small business owner trends around health care may continue to benefit employers due to a rule finalized by the U.S. Department of Labor in June 2018. The ruling makes it easier for small businesses to manage health care costs by joining association health plans, which allow employer groups to buy health insurance together at a generally lower rate.

Small business owners understand the significant effect trends and economic shifts can have on a company’s financial health. 2019’s small business owner trends are a reflection of the people who work, invest in and do business with companies, so use their knowledge to make 2019 a success.

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