Originally written by Thanny Schmitz

In the last couple of years, amid a global pandemic, a challenging economic landscape and shifting client behaviours, small business owners found themselves constantly having to adapt and embrace new technologies. As a result, we see small businesses beginning to explore more and more of their industry’s resources to re-engage with clients, plan for the future and create new opportunities.
For example, Legal firms and wealth management companies leveraged online tools to expand their market presence since they are no longer restricted to only target prospects close to their offices; In-person coaches and consultants moved their businesses online to keep serving clients; Professionals of all areas became entrepreneurs and turned their passions into a business.
The examples above prove that being creative and objective goes a long way to staying ahead of the curve. And where there is innovation, there is also the opportunity for trends to emerge, setting small businesses up for success. With that in mind, we scoured the internet to bring you our picks of the top 12 small business trends to watch in 2022. Here are the trends specifically relevant to small business owners and entrepreneurs who want to stay ahead of the competition: Illustration of a blue “2022” sign at the centre with a group of people surrounding on an orange background. Two people are sitting on the sign and using their Apple devices; one person is doing check marks on a clipboard with “12 Small Business Trends” written on it, and one person is shouting on a megaphone with a sign saying “Free 2022 Small Business Trends Calendar for Desktop”.

Let’s get started.

1. Hybrid Work
With the rising discussions about mental health and how to cope with the pandemic, creating an environment where team members feel safe and can do their best work opened up an unprecedented need for hybrid work.
Many of us had no choice but to work from home for the past few years. With that, many people have reassessed what they value in life. According to McKinsey & Company, hybrid work is now the main preference among 52% of workers post-pandemic, while only 37% are willing to go back to a full on-site work schedule.
At the same time, the research also states that 90% of employers are planning to adopt a more flexible workspace, stimulating hybrid work in 2022. That is a calculated and strategically smart decision. By allowing team members to choose where they want to work, companies will see a rise in productivity, collaboration, and well-being among employees.
If you want to foster a workplace where your team members can feel more comfortable to be themselves and do their best work, get ready to embrace this rising small business trend – hybrid work and the new forms of productivity and teamwork that come with it.

2. Collaboration Tool
With hybrid work on the rise in 2022, team collaboration has never been so crucial. As a small business owner, it is your job to provide your team members with the tools they need to remain productive. This trend is all about ensuring everyone is on the same page at all times, even with half of your team working from home and the other half in the office. Information sharing, everyday communication, project and task management are essential components to keep your business running smoothly. Collaboration technologies are a small business trend that enhances teamwork, keeps everyone on track and helps you and your team communicate more efficiently. Stay tuned for the next trend on how to collaborate even more with connected devices.

3. Connected devices
Another result of the shift to hybrid work and the rise of collaboration tools is that now more than ever, team members are working together on multiple connected devices at the same time. The number of connected devices is expected to be threefold by 2023, reaching 43 billion devices worldwide. The more connectivity, the more productivity, and the easier it is to collaborate and work efficiently. For example, let’s say you’re out running errands and a client calls and asks you to make a change on the project your team is currently working on. You can simply use your connected device to create and delegate this task, so your team can start on it right away and it doesn’t slip through the cracks.

Pro tip: You can even leverage Siri on your Apple Watch or iPhone to create a task or set up an appointment for you. Perfect for when you’re driving or need a hands-free solution.
Many industries are boosting the use of connected devices to keep up with the trends. Real estate businesses, for example, can gift clients with a security camera (connected device) as a way to say “thank you” and provide clients with a luxury personalized client experience, which is the next small business trend you don’t want to miss.

4. Personalized Client Experience
If one of your new year’s resolutions is to build stronger relationships with clients, then you need to pay extra attention to this small business trend: personalized client experience.
People want to feel unique and are more inclined to support services from businesses that fulfil their specific wants and needs. In other words, they want to feel connected to the companies they do business with. That behaviour change is being watched closely by companies worldwide. According to a study by Forrester Consulting for Shopify, 27% of businesses surveyed stated that improving customer experience is among their top priorities for 2022. But as a small business, how exactly can you stay ahead of the curve and offer a personalized experience to your clients? First, you must accept that personalization is no longer about using Dear <Name> at the beginning of an email or adding <Name> in the subject line. It is about the whole customer experience.
One thing you can do to increase personalization is to ensure you offer multiple forms of contact. That means you must have a presence and open communication channels in the platforms your target audience uses and be there for them the same way you are outside the online world. If you visited any company website lately, you certainly noticed a Chatbot connecting you to a salesperson or customer success agent. You can even conduct video calls via Facebook Messenger, allowing 1-on-1 conversations with your clients, answering questions and providing better customer service. Those are clear signs of the market adapting to this small business trend and introducing new communication channels, fostering a person-to-person connection.

5. Artificial Intelligence
As clients continue to seek deeper connections with brands, significant advances in technology provide you and your team with the capabilities necessary to keep pace. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are by no means “new,” but their accelerated evolution in recent years is taking small businesses by storm. For example, Apple’s new “Live Text” feature uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert text from an image into searchable text. OCR technology is also popular in the professional services industry such as in the legal field. OCR converts legal documents (scanned documents, PDF files, and even digital images) that couldn’t be searched for text into searchable files, allowing legal professionals to search the entire contents of the document. This technology saves manual labour and avoids typing errors. That is just an example of how AI and machine learning empower your business with the knowledge and efficiency you need to create strategies that meet your business’ or client’s needs. But more than that, AI allows teams to become more streamlined, thanks to automation tools that ensure your small business is as productive as it can be in 2022.

6. Marketing
As a small business owner, it’s important that you feel confident in your marketing efforts. You must understand that the landscape has changed and that digital marketing efforts are stronger than ever. Here are the best small business marketing trends to build a bigger audience, close more deals and shine brighter in 2022:

Influencer Marketing
If you feel like influencer marketing is something reserved for big brands with lots of investment power, you might be surprised to learn that it is more accessible than you think. If you look at micro-influencers with a smaller – but still relevant – follower base, you’ll find many growth opportunities. They can help promote your company’s story, showcase your qualifications and drive awareness and excitement to your small business.

Personal Branding
After evaluating influencer marketing, you may not think it’s the best fit for your business. That doesn’t mean you can’t still take advantage of it. Create your own personal brand and become an influencer to market your brand. People love social media because it allows them to see the human side of brands and companies they support. Nothing is more authentic than the business owner showcasing their services and what makes them unique, fostering a connection with clients. After all, no one knows it better than you.

Video Marketing
You certainly noticed that whenever you open your preferred social app, about 80% of the content in your feed is video. According to a report by Cisco Systems, video consumption on the internet has been growing 31% every year since 2016. It should be no surprise that social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram feature like Reels and Stories have been so buzz-worthy recently. So why not leverage video content and use it to benefit your brand? Video content is the small business trend to follow if you want to enhance your digital performance and boost your presence.

7. Virtual Events
As we head into a “new normal,” one thing we’ve learned from being affected by COVID restrictions is that small businesses are adapting and embracing technology to boost customer experience (Hello, trend #4). We see virtual events rising and becoming a trend to be followed closely, with a special contribution from resources such as Facebook Live and Instagram Live and Reels.

Example: Real Estate businesses are joining the boom of virtual events and doing online home tours to WOW home-buyers regardless of geolocation or COVID restrictions.
Businesses around the world are leveraging virtual events to gather employees to celebrate special occasions, boosting morale even for remote teams.
Several trade shows and industry fairs turned into virtual events and got extra creative to keep the virtual live experience as real and exciting as they’ve ever been.
Professionals from all areas can plan or attend events remotely and still benefit from networking and the business opportunities that come with it.
Make sure to embark on this small business trend if you want to keep generating new buzz and expanding your audience, or simply benefiting from the industry events you know and love.

8. Wellness
Although easily overlooked, your well-being and your team members’ wellness are vitally important to the success of your business. After all, how can you do your best work if your health is failing you? The same goes for your team members. How can they stay productive if they cannot deal with their health issues? From coping with COVID restrictions and dealing with FaceTime and Zoom fatigue to fulfilling your client’s needs while staying competitive is no easy task. That’s why staying alert to physical and mental health issues has never been so important.
To take action on this trend and lead a healthy life and a wealthy business, make sure you communicate with your team on matters that affect their health and keep an open door and open mind to deal with mental health issues. But more importantly, always put your – and your team’s – well-being first.

As a guideline, you should start by:

Getting more sleep
Eating healthier
Meditating and using relaxation techniques
Doing regular physical activity: 30 minutes of exercise once a day keeps your body healthy, helps you sleep better and improves your mood over time.
Pro tip: Health and wellness apps on your smart device, can be your best friends when it comes to setting healthy habits.

9. A Shift in the Workforce
With more and more people choosing to work from home and companies embracing remote work, an employee’s geolocation or easy access to the company’s physical location is no longer a crucial factor for recruitment. This trend is also a significant opportunity for small businesses to expand their services and portfolios by hiring freelancers, which also helps reduce expenses while strengthening the workforce.

Example: Let’s say you used to attend trade shows and industry events as a vendor in the past, due to COVID restrictions that are no longer possible. You can hire and train local professionals as freelancers to be in the booth on your behalf. If you are a one-person team and have a business opportunity that requires skills outside your abilities, you can hire a freelancer to collaborate with you on the project and not lose revenue. To get on top of this small business trend, ensure that your culture and core values welcome remote and freelance work so that you can attract the right talent in the labour market.

10. Workplace Technologies
Workplace technologies will continue to be essential to watch out for as we head into the “new normal” in 2022. To follow this small business trend, you must think beyond upgrading outdated technologies and start offering a workplace experience that comprehends team members’ unprecedented productivity and safety needs. Take the following technologies, for example, that enhance productivity while offering a safe and optimized experience in shared workspaces:

Sensor-based taps
QR scan coffee dispensers
Facial recognition based entry
Apps for employee productivity engagement
Apps for health protocols

Think of collaboration tools that facilitate hybrid work, apps and platforms that offer easy access to health safety, or even smart devices that minimize touchpoints on daily tasks.

11. The C2C Economy
The customer-to-customer (C2C) landscape has been in fast ascension in the last few years. It refers to customers that have commercial interactions with other customers, usually through online platforms that foster the trade of goods or services, such as Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, Uber, etc. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the rise of creativity and the insurgence of professionals of all areas turning their passions or hobbies into small businesses. From selling arts and crafts or offering baking classes to becoming consultants or coaches, people became their own bosses and are now adventuring in the entrepreneurial world. Be careful not to underestimate this emerging C2C competition. As a small business, you must keep an eye out and be extra creative to stay ahead and leverage your expertise to keep impressing clients. Don’t worry! Our next and last trend might be just what you need to crush your creativity game.

12. Subscription
In an increasingly competitive setting, small businesses must be extra creative to stay ahead of the competition. After all, as you’ve seen in trend #11, entrepreneurship has been on the rise in the last couple of years, paving the way to new ways of doing business. One of the most up-and-coming small business trends for 2022 is offering subscription-based services. This trend is all about productizing your services so that your clients can sign up to receive them on a regular basis. But how exactly can you leverage subscriptions to keep up with the competition?

Example: Countless people decided to learn a new skill during the lockdown. That’s when wedding planners, photographers, and filmmakers found a chance to generate revenue by teaching other professionals via subscription. For fitness and health professionals, no in-person classes, no problem! Make the experience virtual to serve clients and no longer limit your classes to a certain number of participants due to spacing concerns in a physical environment. You can even gain more subscribers by offering virtual fitness classes. Consultants and coaches can productize and scale a service-based business by offering small group coaching sessions, bringing 5 – 10 clients together at once. Professionals of all areas who used to offer 1-on-1 sessions with clients now share their experiences and engage their industries by offering podcasts, masterclasses, and other subscriptions while remaining relevant and promoting their brands, sometimes making 10x more money. Pro tip: To learn more about how you can productize your services and take advantage of this small business trend, check out this blog post.

Wrapping Up

We hope you have found new exciting opportunities in these trends as our team specifically identified them to be the most relevant and insightful ones for small business owners. As we head into 2022, ensure your strategies are set up for success. Stay in tune with clients’ changing behaviours and be sure to have the right technology in place to keep up with the small business trends. Let us know in the comments below which trends are you the most excited about?