If you have ever been a small business owner you have asked yourself the same question each morning while preparing for the day’s onslaught of challenges: Who or what is going to try and take it all away from me today? Few newcomers to the small business endeavor accurately contemplate just how difficult managing a small, emerging venture will become prior to the opening day. Optimism, that all important personality trait that is embodied in all entrepreneurs, can often suppress an impending reality. A well-developed strategic business plan will help identify and prepare for challenges like finance, competition, revenue, inventory, marketing, facilities planning and staffing, but most experienced business leaders know that the most formidable barriers to success are those that they cannot control.
The Covid-19 pandemic of 2019 and 2020 brought global economies to a halt. Mandates designed to impede the progression of the disease shuttered the world’s population of small businesses. During the first quarter of 2020, 3.3 million active small business owners closed their doors. Massive government funding programs were implemented in 2020 to assist small business owners in surviving the unprecedented event, but The World Economic Forum found that 34 percent of America’s small businesses remain shuttered at the start of 2022 due to the effects of the pandemic. For those ventures that are surviving, the list of challenges to sustainability and growth continues to grow.
Supply chain disruptions, inflation, increased cost of operations, a need for additional financing and a shortage of qualified workers are hampering a return to any definition of normality for small, independent operations across the country. But some positive trends for 2022 are beginning to emerge. Despite a negative outlook, a recent Upwell report indicates that nearly 90 percent of small business owners believe revenue in 2022 will be as good or better than 2021.
As interest rates begin to rise, alternative funding is returning just in time to help sustain many small businesses. Courtney Lawless, venture capitalist says, “Alternative sources of capital will likely play a pivotal role in keeping businesses solvent. Alternative sources include; grants, fintech, venture capital, angel investors, peer-to-peer lending, and crowdfunding to name a few. These are important because many businesses that actually need the capital will not be able to meet the requirements of traditional funding sources due to the negative impact (the COVID-19 pandemic) has had on their balance sheets.”
Social media marketing through multichannel platforms will continue to be important avenues for small businesses to connect with targeted consumers in 2022. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been in vogue for some time and it appears they’ll be an important trend in the coming year. “Virtual and augmented reality allow us to experience the world in a different way. And especially during a pandemic, it’s extremely powerful,” said Joe Apfelbaum, founder and CEO of Ajax Union.
Making customers a priority, and providing them with quality service, products and shopping experiences they desire is a marketing strategy that will lead to customer retention in the coming year. Consumers can be expected to be more deliberate in how and why they make purchase decisions, so a successful digital marketing strategy will continue to be centered on consumers’ desire for an authentic, trusted relationship with brands that provide a frictionless experience from research to purchase.
The year 2022 may be the year brick and mortar retailers arise from the ashes of the pandemic. Consumers are showing signs of renewed interest in local boutiques and owner-operated stores that provide a friendly, customer centric approach to doing business, but relying entirely on an in-person experience may be risky. It is a good time to update and refresh the website and promote a buy-online option.
Agility will remain important going forward. The unknowns of doing business during the pandemic taught us all the importance of trial and error. Getting the first trial wrong required close attention in order to quickly shift the effort and try again. Marketing agility will trend to be permanent and permanently fundamental to the marketing process in 2022.