Here at AppSumo, we keep an eye on both the supply and demand side of software tools for today’s online businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.
In this post, we’re looking ahead to see what’s going to be hot (or not) in 2020 and beyond. As the COVID-19 novel coronavirus sweeps the world, it’s essential now more than ever to stay ahead of the curve and make sure your business is ready to adapt to sudden changes.
Hint: Half of these trends involve using automation to boost productivity.
Let’s get to it.
1. Remote Goes Mainstream Fast
After a decade of steady growth, experts predicted that remote work would continue to grow into the 2020s. But they had no idea that this year would be what Time has called the “world’s largest work-from-home experiment.”
With the outbreak of the coronavirus, mandatory work-from-home policies and even self-quarantining have become facts of life for folks all over the globe. With widespread event cancellations causing over $1 billion in losses in the tech industry alone, many event professionals are looking into moving industry conferences online.
Remote everything is needed now more than ever. Current multi-purpose remote work tools in the AppSumo store include:
- SquidHub – client-facing project management and collaboration platform
- Clapboard – screen and webcam recording Chrome plugin
- Stackby – data automation and work management platform
- Agiled – All in one business management platform to manage your clients, team, projects, finances, proposals, and contracts in one place
- Honorable mention: Loop Email – collaborative email app
Check out the entire AppSumo remote work tools collection.
If you’re looking to take your conference online, you might also look into former AppSumo partner deal HeySummit.
Most of all, stay safe out there. Cue the handwashing TikToks.
2. Niche Online Communities And Membership Sites
The Sprout Social Index reports that “40% of marketers view private communities as a top social trend to prioritize in 2020.” With the internet feeling a bit overwhelming and crowded, people are moving closer to brands, causes, and topics that they care about. The result?
More and more niche online communities.
“I think creating an online community allows an audience to gather around an idea,” says Doc Williams, host of AppSumo YouTube series Diving in with Doc.
It’s incredibly important for companies today to make their customers and clients feel loved, heard, and wanted. “Having a hyper-focused group built around an intention allows you to test your ideas, connect with others, and really build something that’s impactful for the industry—and find your target demographic to take it to the next level.”
Doc recommends checking out the ecosystems around the no-code movement at Makerpad to get an idea of the power of these small online communities. Mighty Networks is another exciting iteration of website- and community-building.
“Facebook Groups are still crushing it,” Doc confirms. “But I think people are finding their own communities—and they’re even willing to pay for them.”
At AppSumo, we’re also seeing this trend manifest. Look no further than the wild popularity of WordPress membership site plugins like WishList and WP User Frontend Pro in our WordPress Tools Store. This ties into the next point about the value of user-generated content.
A great non-WP example of this is Tribe, a former AppSumo partner. Tribe is an online community platform designed to “increase user engagement, drive retention, and boost customer lifetime value.” You can see examples of Tribe at work on their Customer Showcase page.
As a result of all this private community-building, SaaS companies are seeing massive success with channel partner programs. (Honestly, all roads lead back to the rise of influencers, amirite?) Another recent AppSumo partner tool, Intellifluence, helps you find influencers and create campaigns all in one platform.
3. Social Proofing Platforms
Social proofing platforms are all the rage right now. Not only do they help build group consensus, but a good social proofing tool can also boost conversions by 15%, meaning that social proof is particularly useful on sales pages. These tools automate the outreach needed to collect the verified social proof for you to scale.
According to BrightLocal, “The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business.” User-generated content signals trustworthiness and helps potential customers learn about your solution.
Sure, reviews aren’t new. But what is new are platforms that do all the work of collecting reviews and data for you—and then some.
Many of these tools, like wildly-popular AppSumo partner deal Endorsal, make use of what HubSpot calls the “wisdom of the crowds.” Endorsal’s “Wall of Love” feature gives business owners the ability to stack user reviews on their websites.
Missed the boat on Endorsal? Luckily for your reputation management needs, there’s Repuso, which automatically collects and organizes online reviews. You’ll be able to display them on your website and manage multiple client accounts and pages at a time.
Evidence, another social proofing tool, lets you run real-time verified user social proof campaigns on your site to appeal to FOMO. You can also use this tool to send personalized deals, coupons, or new products to potential customers on your site.
Collecting and sharing social proof is an indispensable part of running an online business in 2020.
4. The Money Is In The Automated Follow-Up
Here at AppSumo, email marketing is kind of our thing. But email can also be a pesky extra step when you’re dealing with other tasks.
Luckily, with the upfront commitment, email automation can majorly boost your productivity and make your life a whole lot easier. According to Campaign Monitor, “automated emails get 86% higher open rates, produce a 196% increase in click-through rates, and generate 320% more revenue than standard promotional emails.”
In another blog post, we recently compared top autoresponder email service alternatives to Mailchimp—in case you’re looking to mix things up.
For tips about optimizing your autoresponder sequence, check out Noah’s tip #3 in the video below.
Hyper-personalization marketing features are also on the rise. For example, check out AppSumo partner Hey Oliver, which helps you build automated marketing campaigns based on criteria from your website. Another marketing automation software in this space is Jepto, a tool that lets you plan tasks and analyze data within the platform itself.
Valentine’s Day might have passed, but MixMax, we’re looking at you. Our client onboarding team has fallen in love with MixMax’s templates, sequences, rules, and general Gmail-integrated helpfulness. (Ask Dusty or Mel and they will gush about MixMax!) If you do a lot of email outreach, it might be worth a look.
Or there’s past AppSumo partner Lemlist, an outreach tool that lets you embed personalized images and videos in outreach emails to convert more potential leads (and have more fun doing it).
You can also find these features in more advanced CRM’s. They’ll offer built-in email features that not only include sequences, but can also allow the setup of cadences that move items along your sales pipeline.
Check out these recent AppSumo email follow-up automation tools:
5. Podcasts For The People
Welcome to the golden era of podcasting – we’ll take it from here, Ira Glass. Podcast listeners now listen to 7 shows per week on average, up 40% since 2017 according to statistics from Music Oomph.
And the growth shows no sign of stopping. According to Nielsen, the total U.S. podcast audience could double by 2023.
Interestingly, podcast-listeners have more purchasing power relative to generic audiences, with 45% of monthly podcast listeners earning over $75K annually (compared to just 35% of the total U.S. population).
Another recent AppSumo partner, Krisp, is an AI-powered desktop app that mutes background sound. That way, no loud coworker belch ends up in your next podcast interview (or client call) – pretty rad. For podcast websites, check out AppSumo’s LTD on SecondLineThemes for WordPress.
With the indomitable rise of podcasts, more and more business owners are also seeing opportunities to be featured guests.
Podcast.co has launched MatchMaker, a booking platform that Doc Williams has his eye on. “This is a huge thing. I have done very little so far: I just made my profile and already I have two shows asking if I can be a guest on their podcasts.”
6. Ambient Computing And Workplace Voice Assistant Integrations
By now, there’s been a lot of hype about how voice assistants are the future. As of mid-2019, more than a third of the U.S. population have used voice assistants in their everyday lives (Alexa, play “Mr. Roboto”).
But integrating voice assistants into our everyday workflows—beyond voice-to-text dictation or voice-activated music—is limited. This should change in 2020 and beyond. According to The State of Voice Assistants as a Marketing Channel by Voicebot, “More than one-third of brands expect to have a voice app by the end of 2020.”
Some project management platforms are starting to tap into this, but we’re still far from mainstream workplace adoption at this point.
For instance, today you can use Zapier to connect Trello, Asana, or Todoist to your Google Assistant, creating cards for specific tasks with your voice. (And there’s a lot more you can do as well.)
The list of possible workplace applications for voice is vast. Some things we’ll likely see are educational resources (e.g. having Google Assistant walk you through an onboarding process, training, or workflow), conversational processes (much like a website chatbot), or perhaps true voice-based virtual assistant AIs.
This is one more step on our way to ambient computing, moving beyond the screen and into workflows that aid users in naturally immersive ways.
In the coming months, keep an eye (and ear) out for new tactics involving voice search to rethink your SEO and further optimize the content on your blog and website.
7. Let The Bots Do The Social Media Marketing
With organic reach on social whittled as close to zero as it can go, social is becoming ever more competitive. You need to be super strategic with what you post, when, and why.
Yep, we’re talking automation yet again. According to Entrepreneur, marketers who automate social media posts and ads save an average of 6 hours a week.
This push to be smart and efficient with content marketing efforts has led to a whole host of social media automation tools including SocialBee, Hootsuite, and more.
Tools like AppSumo partner HelloWoofy provide high-quality social content automation powered by AI—helping you quickly optimize, post-on-trend, and get on with your day. Other tools like Socialplanner.io help you schedule, publish, and see how specific ads are doing.
The lesson here is: if you’re not playing the algorithms, the algorithms are playing you.
8. BATTLE: Integrations vs. “All-In-One” Platforms
There’s an ongoing battle between tools that “do it all” and tools that rely heavily on integrations. While DevSquad reports the “all-in-one” SaaS tool is making a comeback in 2020, APIs and integrations are still in extremely high demand.
Replacing many different tools with a single software is a tantalizing prospect for many people. Many emerging SaaS players are positioning themselves as a wholesale alternative to a suite of SaaS products (think Hubspot or Notion’s value proposition).
But as platforms add more and more functionality, they can get overly complex, heavy, and suffer from featuritis. “All-in-one” overload can wreak havoc on usability if it’s not coupled with expert UX, UI, and information architecture expertise. This horizontal, catch-all approach has led some companies to start “unbundling” their product into individual APIs, giving customers bite-sized access to their product.
On the other side, integrations are more in demand than ever before. For example, Sumo-lings have come to expect certain integrations from almost every tool we launch—i.e. at least G Suite and Zapier. There’s no denying that integrations can be life-savers and workflow-makers.
That said, some in the industry look unfavorably on platforms that heavily depend on tons of plugins, widgets, and integrations to give users the functionality they need. It’s the WordPress approach–we’ve all seen the benefits, but also the issues that can start to emerge. Besides the additional costs and security risks of bringing in many third-party softwares, this approach also depends upon a fundamental complexity for functionality.
As popular SaaS tools like Zoom create their own app marketplaces, the need for third-party automation software may decrease somewhat. But overall, the market has to focus on usability and UX while giving users the features they need to stay loyal.
9. Call Me, Beep Me—Just Don’t Email Back-And-Forth To Schedule It
In 2020, if you’re sending emails back and forth to schedule anything, you’re wasting massive amounts of time. That said, don’t just dump a link on people. I’ve included a script below that has been massively effective for me.
One-click book and confirm calendar tools will increasingly become the norm among entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners. Calendly and 3-time AppSumo deal Book Like A Boss are catching on like wildfire. Other super popular tools include MeetFox, Amelia, and Vectera, a Zoom competitor with automated scheduling features.
“I’d love to chat, X looks pretty open right now, any chance Y would work? If it’s easier than the back and forth, here’s my calendar with an option to one-click book and confirm: [link]”
10. Finding Signal In The (Channel) Noise
According to Nick Christensen, AppSumo’s Head of User Acquisition, the online competition for eyeballs will only heat up into 2020.
“The proliferation of channels—mainly private channels— is forcing marketers to be more creative with their spend. The best marketing happens where your competitors are not. Paid will only get more expensive with lesser returns. SEO is important for sure—but also super competitive.
But the upside is opportunity! In 2020, there’s no shortage of traffic. Online spending is higher than ever. The big paid channels can still work, but it’s getting harder to make them work for you, especially for smaller companies.
My recommendation to people starting out is to find your niche and become a thought leader in the space. Be the best in the world at whatever your niche is. Fall in love with what matters most to your customers and solve for that.
Don’t look at growth by channel. Look at it by where your best most profitable customers are. Then reverse engineer how to get in front of them.”
Some current and former AppSumo partner tools that can help with various aspects of this include:
Special thanks to Sarah Flores, Doc Williams, and Nick Christensen for their input on this piece!
What are your top 2020 software trends? Feel free to share tools in the comments below.