Running a small business is an ever-evolving process, and time never stands still. 

Sticking with the tried and true methods you know have yielded results in the past might not work as well in the future.

That’s why it’s wise to consider new ideas to delight your existing customers, attract new ones, get an edge over the competition, and grow your business’s profits.

Here are 10 small business trends for 2023 to think about as you map your growth strategy this year:

A small business's leaders discussing growth strategies.

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1. Layaway: The Original Way to Buy Goods

Retro is all the rage nowadays, and layaway is back. The increasingly popular option to buy now by making a deposit on an item to ‘lay it away’ and pick it up later after paying for it in full is gaining popularity with consumers. 

Originally introduced during the 1930s as people suffered through the Great Depression, layaway remained a popular way to purchase goods into the 1980s. 

Offering your customers the option to buy now and pay later can benefit your small business. For example, younger generations and people with poor credit are likely to use layaway. Offering your customers the option to pay in installments can encourage them to purchase more goods or services than they usually would. 

CNBC finds many retailers have embraced the methodology and are using apps like Sezzle, Affirm, and Afterpay, which offer micro-loans to consumers, allowing them to pay for their purchases in installments.

While layaway is often associated with retail businesses, it can also be implemented in other industries. For example, general contractors, auto technicians, and some medical clinics partner with these alternative payment platform providers to offer their customers the layaway option..

2. Growing Your E-Commerce Sales

While e-commerce is not new and is widely used by large businesses, some small businesses have yet to be as quick to make the transition. There are many reasons for this, including small businesses might lack the capital to implement an online sales system.

Although the pandemic triggered many smaller companies to add e-commerce to their websites or turn to third-party marketplaces to complement how they traditionally do business, government data suggests only 18% of small businesses planned to use e-commerce as online sales became more critical.

E-commerce is becoming more relevant with each passing year. Prioritizing e-commerce could help meet customer demand to shop online and increase your profits.

3. Offering Free Shipping to Your Customers

Most consumers who shop online have come to expect a free shipping option. Shipping is considered the last step in delivering products to customers. But it shouldn’t be the last thing on your mind. Your shipping pricing and policy demand attention.

Research from Google Canada shows 73% of consumers say they will shop with stores that offer free shipping. However, ‘free shipping’ isn’t free for small businesses. But there’s more than one way to offer free shipping that might work for your company.

4. Prioritizing Customer Service

Raise your hand if you enjoy long, seemingly endless automated phone trees and generic interactions with chatbots when you have a question for a company.

Face it; people want to speak with a human when they have a problem with a product or service or a question about your company, especially if they’re ticked off

It is another way to set your small business apart from the competition. Personalizing your customer interactions – in person, on the phone, and online – will potentially keep customers returning.

5. Turn On the Camera: Using Short-Form Video Marketing

The rise of short-form video is officially here, and it’s becoming as valued to users as text messaging is. From TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts to Facebook and Twitter, social media networks increasingly prioritize video content in their feeds as people spend more time viewing them.

Social media networks are vital to reaching your target customers and keeping them engaged. Canadians have eagerly embraced social media, with a network penetration rate of 89% as of 2022. That number is expected to grow to 92% in 2023, according to Statista. Moreover, the share of digital video viewers in Canada stood at 67% in 2019 and is forecast to reach almost 70% this year.

Adding short-form videos to your marketing mix, such as product tutorials and how-to guides, behind-the-scenes peeks at your business, and videos that answer frequently asked questions, can spur consumer confidence and help drive more sales.

6. Embracing Sustainability

Consumers are increasingly looking to do business with companies committed to sustainability. Be it driven by economic realities or environmental concerns, Deloitte finds people of all ages are adopting more sustainable consumer behaviours. 

For instance, reducing single-use plastics is generally a high priority for older consumers who are also keen adopters of renewables. Younger consumers prefer to support companies with ethical practices and values in their products and services.

Consumers are wary of companies that engage in greenwashing – making unsubstantiated promises or claims that their products and services are environmentally friendly or biodegradable. Instead, look for ways to reduce the waste your company creates, use sustainable practices, and commit to ethical practices. Doing so could boost your bottom line and ensure you’re keeping pace with what consumers want.

7. Enhancing Cybersecurity

As technology advances, cybersecurity cannot be an afterthought. 

Citing an IBM Security report, the Insurance Bureau of Canada notes the average total cost of a data breach to Canadian organizations in 2022 is an estimated US$4.35 million. Meanwhile, an Ipsos-RBC cybersecurity poll of Canadian consumers finds 47% are worried they’ll become a victim of cybercrime this year, and a 2022 Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) survey found 29% of Canadian companies experienced a breach of customer or employee data – up from 18% before the pandemic.

In addition to strengthening your company’s cybersecurity measures, adding cyber liability insurance to your policy can mitigate financial losses and reputational damage due to data breaches and other cyber threats.

8. Adopting New Technologies

In 2023, digital transformation will remain an important trend for small businesses. But the trick is picking the right solutions for your business to implement to help achieve your goals.

Staying current on new technologies to reach more customers and using data analytics tools to gain insights into customer behaviour and preferences can be a profitability driver. Additionally, business owners should consider adopting point-of-sale (POS) systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation to improve internal processes and customer experiences.

9. Nurturing Employee Relationships

More people are turning towards self-employment, allowing them greater control over their lives. With this trend on the rise – and as ‘ghosting’ and ‘quiet quitting’ gained traction last year amidst a labour shortage challenge – small business owners should focus on nurturing relationships with their employees and commit to establishing a healthy work-life balance that addresses their concerns. For example, allowing them to work remotely permanently or occasionally may go a long way to retaining your existing staff and helping attract recruits. After all, employees are the backbone of any small business.

10. Using Email Marketing

The value of email marketing is on the climb. VentureBeat calls email marketing the ‘workhorse of digital marketing’, noting it consistently delivers the highest return on investment and it’s cost-effective for small businesses. Email is also considered more effective at getting your customers’ attention and driving traffic to your website than social media. Additionally, Statista says the number of worldwide email users will grow to 4.6 billion people by 2025, which is more than half the global population.

Taking Care of Your Business

After several difficult years for small businesses, 2023 could provide the opportunity to breathe new life into your company. Think about ways to elevate and grow your business that will bring in new customers and keep them coming back.

Above all, protect your business and finances by ensuring you have the customized business insurance coverage you need. We can help you accomplish that goal in a jiffy.

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About the Author: Liam Lahey

Liam is the Content Marketing Manager at Zensurance. A writer and editor for more than 20 years, he has been published in several newspapers and magazines, including Yahoo! Canada Finance, Metroland Media, IT World Canada and others.