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 In Business, Finance, Marketing

The beginning of a new year brings often with it the desire to implement change and drive growth in our businesses. In this blog, we round up four key consumer trends that will influence retail small businesses in 2018.

Subscription-model businesses

With convenience becoming of ever-increasing importance to consumers, 2018 will be the year that subscription-model businesses move from niche to mainstream in Australia.

Subscription-model businesses offer customers a selection of products regularly delivered to them for a set ongoing subscription fee. Grooming and beauty products, alcohol and meal-planning kits and some examples.

Product-led businesses can embrace this trend by seeing how they could package and market their offering to work within the subscription-model. British fashion brand Paul Smith, for example, has a sock subscription service where customers receive a new pair of socks each month. Florists can send out fresh flowers to loyal customers on a monthly basis, or grocers can deliver seasonal fruit to corporate customers at the beginning of each week.

Bitcoin

Much has been written about crypto-currencies (digital money) in recent times but 2018 may be the year that Bitcoin becomes a more common form of payment.

Fast, low-cost and secure, Bitcoin is accepted by brands including Expedia, Microsoft, Intuit and PayPal, and is being adopted by innovative small businesses in Australia.

Prospa tip: Check out Coinmap to see where it can be used around the world.

The ATO also changed legislation last year that saw digital currencies, from 1 July 2017, treated the same as other forms of money where previously it had been subject to double taxation.

Introducing Bitcoin as a payment option to your small business involves:

  • Understanding how Bitcoin (i.e. that its value can rise and fall) and blockchain (an open database that stores transactions) work.
  • Choosing and creating a wallet (an online system of which there are many, such as Bitcoin Australia, to store your Bitcoin).
  • Promoting that you accept Bitcoin via your website and marketing.

Social responsibility

Consumers are driving a big shift towards businesses becoming more sustainable and socially responsible in 2018. Research by Nielsen – which was based on a survey of 30,000 respondents in 60 countries – found that 66% of consumers said they’re willing to pay more for sustainable brands.

Of them, key purchase decision drivers were:

  • If was a product was made from fresh, natural and/or organic ingredients (69%).
  • The business was environmentally friendly (58%).
  • The business was known for its commitment to social value (56%).

More than a passing trend, it’s about businesses changing the way they operate in the long-term to be more ethical and transparent. For example, retailers can adopt more sustainable practices in the production of their garments and be clear about this on their labelling to help differentiate them from their competitors.

AI chatbots

Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots are steadily growing in popularity and it’s a trend set to continue into 2018.

AI chatbots are online robots that use machine learning to constantly grow and refine their knowledge and aim (at their best) to mimic speaking with a human. Businesses tend to use them to provide basic customer service and support, for example, to answer simple queries, provide product suggestions, or direct customers to related online resources. This helps ensure customers’ questions are answered quickly and saves the business time and money employing someone to answer basic enquiries.

Many AI chatbots operate through a business website, social media or messaging apps. Facebook Messenger is an accessible platform for creating a chatbot for your business.
Some ways you can do this include with Messenger Platform or BotBot, a tool that helps users build a bot for Messenger.

Want to grow your business in 2018? Prospa offers business loans with a fixed term between three and twelve months. We look at the health of your business, not your personal credit score, to determine creditworthiness. Contact us to learn more.

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