Market changes that impact small businesses and can upend consumer confidence are a constant. For example, small businesses face inflation, government policy changes, the demands of a digital marketplace, and a shifting workforce, among other things.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, comprising more than 99 percent of all American businesses, according to the Census Bureau’s 2019 Statistics of U.S. Businesses, released in 2022. Whether you're an e-commerce storefront or brick-and-mortar store, continuously adapting to market changes can be key for your future success.
I started the marketing studio Tote + Pears over a decade ago, and I have been navigating trends for my business and our clients ever since. I know how important it is to not only see the changes businesses like mine face but also to proactively build my business strategies to address major shifts in consumer behavior.
If you're looking to better adjust to an ever-changing market, you may want to consider a few new strategies.
1. Embrace agile project management.
Agile project management is a methodology taken from the tech world that allows teams to be flexible while building complex systems. It can help foster a mindset of innovation while minimizing risk.
Because project-based teams act on smaller, incremental deliverables, they can adapt to changes in the industry as they arise. For example, if your business wants to test new e-commerce products, agile project management allows teams to “soft launch” and strategically release products into the market to assess their viability. This can include target audience-segmented message testing, image testing, varying price points, and customer service modeling. This can all happen before the products fully launch, potentially avoiding costly mistakes.
Agile product management allows your team to assess and test the risks and rewards of new products, then use the results to respond to market changes quickly.
"I know how important it is to not only see the changes businesses like mine face but also to proactively build my business strategies to address major shifts in consumer behavior."
2. Hire a consultant.
When you're focused on day-to-day tasks, it can be difficult to keep an eye on the changing market trends. Hiring a consultant can provide valuable guidance on effectively adapting to market changes, evaluating your market position, and flagging problems. If you're using agile project management, you can take the feedback and incorporate it right away to prevent potential issues.
As a consultancy, Tote+Pears brings outside expertise to help clients expand their reach. We bring new ideas to the table and empower our teams to be flexible and think differently.
3. Stay attuned to your target customers' needs.
Customers can be the driving force behind changes to your business. Keep the people you serve top of mind as you create more relevant products and services.
It’s also vital to know your target audience beyond the numbers. What and who do they care about? What stage of life are they in? What keeps them up at night? What gets them out of bed in the morning? As they change and as the world they live in changes, your product, services, and business can too. An agile project management style allows you to adjust as you go.
4. Hire forward-thinking employees.
I believe in hiring forward-thinking employees who share the vision and values of our brand. By underscoring this through the hiring process, you too can adapt to market changes, be more agile, and gain a competitive edge with a team that is committed, collaborative, and connected.
Putting people first shouldn't just apply to your target audience. Employees who feel seen and valued may be more invested in your brand and want to do what it takes to move forward.
Fostering an environment that encourages creativity, flexibility, and thinking on one's feet can help ensure your people can respond to change as needed.
5. Don’t let a trend catch you by surprise.
From e-commerce to AI and virtual reality, a consumer’s buying appetite is constantly being fed by new ideas and technology. What needs to change with your business? Which products are just plain outdated and no longer meet your customer’s interests?
For example, artificial intelligence has disrupted customer operations, marketing and sales, software engineering, and research and development, per a 2023 report from McKinsey. This means there are more opportunities than ever to find a niche in changing markets, where Americans spend billions of dollars every year.
Running a small business can be a process of constant evolution. By adapting agile project management, you can keep your business ahead of the curve and ready to meet the next challenge.
A version of this article was originally published on September 27, 2019.