Small Business Trends for 2023

The 4-day workweek is the new 9 to 5. And for good reason. Perks include flexible schedules, greater availability for parents and caregivers, efficiency, a boost in morale, and better work-life balance. One restaurant operation switched to a three-day work model and has retained all top management. And a service-based consulting business switched the team to a Monday through Thursday schedule, resulting in higher sales, better strategy, and a more productive business operation.

TSG Boulder POV: In late January, local strategy leader Elliot Freeman, former CMO of Skratch Labs, launched a new platform, Eighty Percent Jobs, for firms and job seekers both looking to optimize the 4-day work week lifestyle.

Retail will merge in-person and online shopping. After several agonizing retail years, 2022 saw more store openings than closings since 2016. Office spaces will be reimagined as retail stores and ecommerce warehouses, and consumers will seek out a physical shopping experience just as much as the late-night scrolling.

Pop-ups will continue to be the norm. With the retail landscape changing, ecommerce brands will vie for in-person consumer contact via pop-ups, either in standalone spaces or through opportunities in existing retail stores. Forsey says, “Expect to see service-based brands offering pop-ups, too. Imagine a personal organizer in your favorite boutique or a marketing firm bringing photo backdrops to a restaurant.”

TSG Boulder POV: Pop-ups are more than just in-store experiences, they are incubators for new products and services. With local fashion, we’re seeing pop-up trends with permanent jewelry, hat making, and (our personal favorite) aura photography.

Downsizing of digital channels. Marketing will continue to see constant shifts. Updates on platforms will constantly evolve, with small business owners trying to keep up. As a result, businesses will start to choose just 2 or 3 digital channels to share their brand on. The focus on less channels, means a greater focus on better and more relevant content for their audience. “The be everywhere all the time approach is one of the biggest causes of burnout for small business owners,” reports Groom.

Retreats and workshops will expand. From opportunities to work in-person as a team to off-the-grid weeks to reconnect with oneself and push pause on potential burnout. Virtual meetings will see some shift to in-person gatherings and small business stakeholders and key employees will be seeking vacation days. Opportunities to learn and rest will be the ultimate small business owner solution.

TSG Boulder POV: Retreats in conjunction with outdoor adventure are a staple for Coloradans. Follow the work of local entrepreneur Bart Foster, Founder of Business Outside, and you’ll see how corporate offsite meetings are looking more and more like micro-retreats.

Sustainability. From looking to source local first to the type of packaging on a product, customers will be seeking ways to make their shopping and services more sustainable so they can be one part of a solution to environmental concerns. Think packaging that can be reused, an uptick in shoppers with their own bags, and conscious consumers looking to work with professionals in digital formats only.

TSG Boulder POV: We really want to talk about slow fashion.

Philanthropy. Customers will continue to seek out reasons to support a small business, with philanthropy as a purpose to shop there. Charitable giving provides clients, and businesses, with a sense of dedication and a greater connection to the community. Whether a one-time contribution, or ongoing givebacks, small businesses will be making a big difference to non-profits locally.

Behind the scenes. Clients and customers are more curious than ever and love an opportunity to see and learn more about the business, a “behind the curtain” opportunity a la Wizard of Oz. From how the company started to the day in the life of a founder, expect more creativity and authenticity in how small businesses present themselves. “It’s hard to get in front of the camera or talk about yourself, but the truth is people buy from people,” says Forsey.

Customer reviews for the win. Social proof will be a necessity for customers to consider utilizing a small business, and online reviews or website testimonials will be key in providing that much needed consumer currency. “Asking for a review after a client has used your service is becoming the norm, and if someone really raves about your business, do not be afraid to ask them to share their sentiment with a wider audience online,” Groom says.

Hyper-local marketing. The upside of a pandemic is the renewed focus on small businesses. When consumers shop local, they support local in more ways than one with approximately 67 cents of every dollar spent remaining in the local economy and the creation of an additional 50 cents in local business activity. Expect to see hyper-local marketing that utilizes more than one form of media. “The Scout Guide is the perfect example of hyper-local marketing, cross-promoting businesses with a foundation in print, and continued community exposure through email, website, and social channels, all while fostering a local network of small business owners,” says Groom.

TSG Boulder POV: New strategies and new solutions in hyperlocal will bring much more “human touch” back to a marketing landscape that was dominated by digital transformation during the pandemic.

Rise of subscription-based models in service-based industries. Many e-commerce brands have utilized a direct-to-consumer subscription model, think dog toys and clothing rentals, and service-based businesses are jumping in on the trend. “Knowledge is power and many professional, service-based businesses have a wealth of information to share with consumers. Offering a lower price point with a subscription-based model is the goldilocks price point to reach more people. We see Substack being the new community for writers and educators,” Forsey reports.

Storytelling. With the “blink and you’ll miss it” reality of social channels, brands are easing back to their websites and blogs, utilizing email lists to share their brand story. Digital advertising costs continue to rise, social channels have new owners and epic fallouts (ahem, Twitter), and the continuous app and algorithm changes leave small business owners restless and weary. “A return to quality and less of a focus on quantity is key to small business sustainability when it comes to marketing,” Groom says.

TSG Boulder POV: Dr. Rachel Remen, the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom, penned one of our favorite quotes about stories. “Stories are someone’s experience of the events of their life, they are not the events themselves.” People and experiences are necessarily at the heart of quality storytelling. Consumers can tell the difference.

Coaching is the new consulting. 2022 has been a year of many buzzwords – think bandwidth, burnout, and quiet quitting – that leaves small business owners desiring more positivity in their own approach to business. Fractional positions and consulting work will continue to be a norm for growing small businesses, with coaching for individuals and teams entering the business arena. From working on scaling a business to accountability, professional coaches will provide support, maintain a business owners vision, and work as a brainstorm partner.  “We’ve been where many small business owners, feeling the burnout and struggling with analysis paralysis. Coaching helps establish new paths and discover balanced solutions,” Forsey says.