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Easing into a new calendar year is more than a ceremonial exercise for small business operators. Among self-employed entrepreneurs, the year-end transition represents a time to reflect on the prior year’s successes and failures, as well as an opportunity to look forward, plotting a course for prosperous times ahead. As you wrap up 2018 and set your sights on the coming year, tracking business trends and expert analysis can help you map your road to success for 2019.

No one knows your business as well as you do, but outsiders still possess valuable insight, guiding you in the right direction. Analysts’ predictions for 2019 are based upon data and observation, so their forward-looking viewpoints may provide the clues you need to gain a competitive edge. To start the year on the right foot, consider these trends and predictions, which may affect businesses in the coming year.

Change is Certain

If there’s one thing small business owners can count on, it’s steady change. From technological advances to regulatory updates, outside forces continually shape the way you do business. If you’re not ready to embrace changing times, you risk being left behind.

Whether you’re working out your next marketing campaign or putting together financing for a wave of expansion, timely information helps you pick the best path. Staying tuned to trends and weighing expert opinions are two ways to stay informed, providing the exposure you need to make prudent business decisions.

Business analysts and other commercial stakeholders dig deeply, dissecting wide-ranging economic issues. They assess everything from tech advances to credit conditions, identifying business trends entrepreneurs can use to get ahead of the curve. If you need clues about 2019, you may find the answers you’re looking for within these top trends and predictions.

Ratings and Reviews Won’t Lose Their Place

Sprout Funding logoThere’s no substitute for first-hand experiences, so it’s not surprising that consumers gravitate toward helpful online ratings and reviews, provided by actual users. They have become such a credible part of consumers’ research that many shoppers won’t buy goods and services from businesses with negative online reviews. The phenomenon has grown so quickly it is now thought a vast majority of online sales are influenced by customer reviews, in one way or another.

As consumers continue to share through word of mouth, sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Trip Advisor can provide a business boost to companies consistent enough to earn positive ratings. Let your performance slip, however, and these consumer resources can quickly turn against you. You can’t underestimate the power of positive reviews in 2019; each of these direct consumer endorsements builds trust, which is the first key ingredient for cultivating new business. Forward-looking entrepreneurs will leverage review forums in 2019 and aggressively spread the word about their positive ratings and reviews.

Personalized Marketing Becomes Standard Practice

Consumer data drives marketing practices, so access to information remains a strong theme for 2019. The evolution away from generic brand messaging will likely continue in 2019, as sophisticated shoppers demand personalized consumer experiences. The most effective marketers will find ways to integrate highly specific consumer data, using it to make each buyer feel coddled.

You don’t have to look any further than Amazon to see a successful case study in personalized marketing. The company’s recommendations algorithm is a large-scale example of how a business can grow sales by connecting with individual shoppers. The recommendations encourage impulse buys, at the same time making each buyer feel “understood” by the online sales giant.

Banking Continues to Evolve

The banking industry progressively evolves, integrating the latest technology and responding to shifting consumer demands. In recent years, young people have reshaped banking practices, moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar banking model, in favor of an increasingly mobile, tech-driven experience. From adopting preferred payment methods to automating your payroll, aligning your business with modern banking preferences makes your operation easier to manage and builds goodwill among tech-forward consumers.

Similar to consumers’ call for streamlined banking, business operators also want access to flexible funding in 2019. The financial industry has responded with simplified alternatives for business borrowers. Among them, online loans fill a growing niche, providing fast access to funding for commercial applicants and sole proprietors. The option suits diverse small business owners’ needs, offering loans of all sizes and customizable sales-based repayment terms.

Social Advertising Stays Competitive

Paid advertising on Facebook has drawn active participation from big companies, but small businesses aren’t as well-represented on the social platform. That could change in 2019, when growing numbers of independent enterprises find their niche in the social ad space.

As the competitive environment grows increasingly crowded, demand for social advertising will push prices higher. And with advertisers vying for consumers’ attention, the stakes will continue to rise in 2019. Posting updates won’t be enough to make an impression on your customers. At a point in the near future, they’ll expect you to engage with them in real time, as some sellers have already learned.

It’s hard to accurately predict the future and project how conditions might impact your business. What you can do is track trends and weigh the value of predictions, in order to make informed business decisions. Transitioning into a new year provides an opportunity to take stock and read the signs and signals that will shape your venture in 2019. From social media advertising to personalized marketing, and the increasing sway of customer reviews, changes are in store for 2019. Is your small business ready for the new year?

sprout-fundingThe Sprout Funding blog offers tips, reports, insights and other ideas to help small business owners learn and grow. Have a question for our team? Email us at: info@getsproutfunding.com, and tell us how we can help you.
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