Understand Top Business Trends to Enhance Consultations with Clients
Small businesses endured a litany of challenges in 2020, from the COVID-19 pandemic to natural disasters, that made it hard to keep the doors open or operate at full capacity. As businesses change and adapt, they’ll require guidance and insights, creating an opportunity for most-trusted advisors such as CPAs to lead through change.
Businesses might continue to experience some of the residual impact from 2020, including a permanently altered employee and customer landscape, but CPAs can help them prepare by understanding upcoming business trends and the customer mindset, including:
- The importance of e-commerce
- Alternative pay options
- A focus on more personalized customer service
- The demand for virtual and digital services
Major Focus on E-Commerce
Customers have always taken great satisfaction from getting a package delivered and even greater enjoyment when one arrives the day after they ordered it. The pandemic fueled digital shopping and left brick-and-mortar storefronts in the dust. Clients might have participated in the change through curbside pickup — and their customers don’t want to sacrifice that convenience and efficiency.
CPAs can consult with small-business clients about their e-commerce setup; developing or enhancing their website so it is mobile friendly and easy to navigate, allowing their customers to find what they want quickly and purchase it even quicker from a mobile device.
Availability of Alternative Payment Options
In 2020, the percentage of transactions involving cash plummeted, mostly because of COVID-19-related fears of transmitting the virus through contact. According to Statista, 12 percent of all point-of-sale payment methods in the United States involved the exchange of cash. Contactless payment methods increased during the same time, with 38 percent coming from credit cards and 29 percent involving debit cards, according to Statista.
That trend will not change in 2021, and consumers will be looking for the most convenient way to pay, including mobile pay apps, credit cards and debit cards. CPAs can be proactive by advising clients to research contactless payment options, including understanding the growth of cryptocurrencies.
Focus on Customer Service
The COVID-19 pandemic created stress for many people — personally, professionally and financially. For businesses impacted by shutdowns, temporary closures, loss of employees and the need to secure funds to become operational, the stress level was elevated. What business owners discovered is that compassion is a wonderful marketing tool for products, services and the business itself.
One of the biggest trends is an emphasis on customer service. People want to spend their money where they feel appreciated, where they have had an empathetic, personalized experience.
There is an opportunity for CPAs to help clients develop a strategy that can serve the long-term well-being of the business. As clients bring employees back to work, whether they previously were employed there or are new to the company, they can offer training that focuses on customer service. It’s a perfect time to reaffirm the vision, mission and goals of their business.
Demand for Virtual and Digital Services
Depending on the type of business and the regulations within the state, clients might have already begun the process of adapting their business to offset the impact of the pandemic. For example, as many people found themselves unable to work out their frustrations by lifting weights or doing yoga in person during 2020, some businesses began offering virtual classes and training sessions. Businesses providing technology services, cybersecurity, food delivery, gaming and virtual events also saw a growth in demand.
Even with the return of in-person services, many customers might continue to enjoy partaking in some of the digital services they have become accustomed to from their home. Advising clients about pivoting their current practices, expanding the business to take advantage of the technology and demand for digital services or even launching a new business in an in-demand field demonstrates a proactive approach and can help solidify a CPA’s consultative role.
Some of these outlets might require remote work, a lasting impact of the pandemic, and small businesses that embrace this new normal will find a readily available tool to recruit and retain talent. Incorporating and managing a remote workforce will be instrumental in how well a business bounces back and potentially begins to thrive.
Paychex, an NJCPA member benefit provider, can support CPAs’ efforts to work with clients on the types of technology and software solutions needed to help simplify running their business so they can focus on growing their business. Learn more at paychex.com/accounting-professionals.