6 trends startup and SMB founders must consider in 2019

By Charlie Carpenter

Here’s your sobering fact for the day: more than 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years of their existence and three out of four venture-backed starts eventually fail. To ensure that your company finds itself on the other side of this statistic, it is imperative that you stay ahead of the curve. To implement the most up-to-date practices, you first have to know what they are.

I’m going to give you a whirl around what pulses to keep your fingers on, so that when it comes to making decisions for your company’s sustainable growth, you make the right ones.

– Freelancing and virtual working

If you’re not already aboard the freelance-driven train, it’s time to consider why not. Hiring a virtual workforce is no longer a fringe employment option, but at the very heart of how many startups do business. Notably, many top employees are moving over to the freelance lifestyle because of the autonomy it provides. The talent pool is skilled, productive and ready to work.

[amazon_link asins=’1619617218′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’4106531c-e9a1-11e8-ac88-e5da0f5f086f’]In 2014, one in three Americans had done freelance work, and that number is set to increase. What’s more, with 47% of millennials in America already engaged in freelance work this is a trend you cannot ignore if you want to entice today’s young, bright things.

While it is necessary to be cognizant of how this trend can improve your business, like any market adaptation, it should be adopted with caution. As Michael Burdick writes for Entrepreneur magazine, “startups won’t be able to attract talented workers unless they take steps to show them that the company values their contributions.”

This means cultivating relationships with the right freelancers, and respecting their independence as well as their talents. Freelancers have chosen this lifestyle. As a business owner, you must understand the benefits that a freelance lifestyle affords those who choose it, and how your company can help them realize it.

– Voice search

Yes, the future depicted in sci-fis of yore has become a reality – we now talk to inanimate objects and they respond like digital oracles. This trend has grown in popularity to such an extent that it is predicted that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches.

So what does this mean for your business? Quite simply, that if you don’t embrace this shift now in every element of your business from marketing strategy to where you shelve your products, you will be left behind in the not-too-distant future.

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a quick cheat sheet on how to leverage your business for voice search:

• Make your products available and offer voice-only deals on all the major voice shopping platforms.

• Structure your SEO efforts with voice in mind. Think of how people interact with voice-activated devices. An important clue is that they tend to talk to them more like human beings, over the more directory-style searching of the text search box.

• The need for concise, informative content has never been so great. Conceive of your product descriptions like scripts for sound bites. No digital assistant will wade through to find gems. You have to offer them up front.

[amazon_link asins=’0749479795′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’54bb081a-e9a1-11e8-b127-8d1b143d1dfe’]- Mobile-first index and mobile search

2018 marked the dawning of a new age in Google search – the mobile-first index.

Google’s core mandate is to respond to what their users want, and after much research, they have concluded that their searchers want mobile. As a result, they have started to move their crawling and indexing practices over to mobile-based practices. Rather than searching your desktop site to rank you on their SERPs, they will use the mobile version.

What does this mean for your company? If you haven’t done so already, start optimizing for mobile Make sure that all the wonderful SEO work you have done translates to the mobile version of your site. Create mobile-friendly content.

Perhaps most importantly, focus on the loading speed. This is not only one of Google’s top ranking criteria, but will also have high impact on conversion rates for your mobile customers.

– Flexible markets and competition

Similar to the advent of freelancing, technology has forged a generation that appreciates flexibility and immediacy in what they buy and sell. This means embracing a new way of working. Here the millennials have emerged as a colossal force.

For small businesses and startups in ecommerce, this has been particularly critical. Market opportunities have emerged, but competition has also grown. At Kite, we see that people love the low-risk option of launching their own print-on-demand store, in order to monetize creativity and build revenue in a flexible way. This injects the market with a wealth of unique products, and means that traditional supply chain processes have been disrupted.

[amazon_link asins=’153023722X’ template=’ProductAd’ store=’succeedingi0d-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’68fe9043-e9a1-11e8-b863-7be2bfe00823′]- Crowdfunding

According to the Sage Small Business Index, 67% of small businesses are exploring other options when it comes to funding. Venture capital is not the only way of providing funding for your goals. Whether you want to start or grow your business, the option of sourcing the funds yourself can be a promising one.

But as Lawton Ursrey writes for Forbes, crowdfunding must be embraced with diligence and caution. Make sure you know exactly what you’re building, and how much you need to make your dream a reality. This means putting time into researching and perfecting the proposal.

– ROPO (Research Online Pay Offline)

As we currently straddle the paradigms between the digital and brick-and-mortar realms, it’s vital that we embrace the grey areas between them.

One major trend that sits firmly in this middle ground is that of ROPO – Research Online Pay Offline. Essentially, customers are creating fluid boundaries between their online and offline practices, embracing both as they move towards conversion.

To embrace this trend, the first thing to do is to make sure that you too are able to exist in both realms. The next step is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to pay whenever and wherever they want. Technologies such as Shopify’s credit card reader have made this simple for you. You and your team can have a POS device in your pocket at all times so you are armed and ready for whenever people want to hand over their money to you.

In conclusion…

While it has always been important for startup and SMB founders to stay abreast of business trends, never has the pace at which these shifts occur been so rapid. The digital world has brought with it a temporal pattern that is ever on the go. The result is that you as a business owner have to survive in an environment constantly in flux. Take comfort in the fact that if you feel like every time you learn the dance the market learns new steps, you are far from alone.


Charlie Carpenter is the co-founder and CEO of Kite. He is a mobile advocate with over ten years of industry experience. After working for large and small agencies for many years, he co-founded Kite, a software solution for print-on-demand, zero inventory merchandise, and personalized photo print goods. As well as an entrepreneur, Charlie is a seasoned product strategist with experience of various types of digital projects which include: Responsive and Adaptive Websites, Mobile & Tablet Apps, Hybrid Apps, Cross Platform App development. You can connect with Charlie on LinkedIn, and follow him on Twitter.


  1. Mike says:

    Due to the fact that more people are now using their mobile devices and smart home assistants (Alexa, Google Home, etc.) to search for information, voice search optimization will definitely be an important trend in 2019. We should aim to optimize for conversational queries/keywords related to our niche.

    Also, a lot of people are using these devices for “near me” searches (restaurants near me, bookstores near me, etc.), so if you are a brick and mortar business, local SEO, which is optimizing your Google Maps listing will be even more important in 2019. If you can rank on the first page of the Google Maps results (which only show 3 businesses), you will get a significant increase in traffic.

    For content marketing, there is another trend that I believe will be important in 2019, which is, using A.I.-driven tools for content curation. Tools like BuzzSumo and newer ones like Frase.io can tremendously save time in the content creation process, as well as providing neat suggestions for topics, titles, and even what to write/talk about in the content.

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