What can small businesses do to thrive in 2022? For retail outlets of all sizes, innovations have been fast and furious over the past two years, with pandemic lockdowns spurring on eCommerce, delivery options and contactlesspayments. For smaller organizations, keeping up with shopping and digital trends can be challenging, but staying on-trend helps drive growth – especially as things heat up with the return to in-store shopping. To stay out front, here’s where small businesses should focus their energies and resources in 2022.
Contactless payment may have started out as a public health necessity, but it’s now a consumer preference. Shoppers grew accustomed to digital payments online during the pandemic and now, with restrictions lifting, they’re expecting and opting for digital options in-store. The added convenience, speed and record-keeping enhancements of digital payment and mobile wallets benefits customers and business owners alike, meaning digital payments are here to stay.
Social Media Presence
Social media will continue to command our attention in 2022. Research shows that Canadian adults spend over six hours online every day, and nearly two hours daily on social media. Small businesses have unique stories to tell and can leverage popular platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, to grow their online presence, build brand recognition and gain new followers. Influencers and micro-influencers can help boost and strengthen the business narrative through endorsements.
Climate change is top of mind for customers from coast to coast and environmental concerns are having an impact on shopping behaviour. A recent study by IBM indicates that 62% of consumers say they’re willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce environmental impact – and they’re willing to pay more for it, too. Small retailers that can pivot to green products and sustainable practices stand to win more support in 2022 – and benefit the planet in years beyond.
Throughout the pandemic, consumers watched as frontline staff took on personal risk and uncertain conditions to help keep businesses afloat. Working conditions and employee wellness are fast becoming an important differentiator for small, local brands. A recent RBC study, for instance, shows that Canadians value small businesses that place a priority on employee wellness and overall health and safety. Alongside health support for employees, a majority of Canadians expect businesses to protect them, too. 88% look forward to seeing COVID-heightened hygiene standards to be maintained beyond the pandemic.
That same RBC study suggested that local retail is poised for growth. 77% of Canadians polled said they planned to spend more money at smaller, local shops, restaurants and services than they did before the pandemic. The movement to support closer, neighbourhood living is growing and businesses that double down on their local appeal can win the hearts and dollars of their community clientele. As customers live more locally, they’re also seeking out and supporting more diverse, inclusive outlets, including 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC-owned businesses.
The current labour market might be tighter than usual, but recent shifts in employment patterns could help small businesses who are able to leverage change in 2022. As more people opt for remote work, small businesses can cast a wider net to recruit and attract the right kind of talent. Millennial and Gen Z employees in 2022 are looking to work for companies with clearly defined, community-oriented values that support a healthy work-life balance. Small businesses with like-minded objectives will be a top draw for employees in 2022.
Digital marketing and data analytics may have seemed like expensive extravagances for small retail businesses a few years ago. By now, it’s clear that digital marketing is here to stay. Sure, small businesses can continue to build up customer profiles using manual methods, but it’s slow, takes time and doesn’t scale. To reach bigger audiences and keep pace with customers and competitors, small businesses need to leverage digital and cloud technologies – from customer relationship management, to eCommerce platforms, to payment technologies. Small businesses that start harnessing these technologies now will secure a foothold on the future.
The future looks bright for small businesses that align their strategic plans with consumer expectations and digital trends. Look forward to more digital options, greener alternatives, and more local retail opportunities in 2022 – both in-store and online.