What Will 2021 Bring And How Can Businesses Be Ready?
Many businesses bolted into 2020 with firm plans and optimistic outlooks, growing and flying high. All that evaporated by mid-March as the focus turned from thriving to surviving for most companies. Now, as this turbulent year enters its final months, a new question lies just over the horizon.
The future still seems so uncertain and the end of the pandemic still feels a long way off, but despite that there is a lot that businesses can do to prepare for success in 2021 and if I’m honest there have been so many things that have changed the way we work and how we do business right now, that we’ll feel the shockwaves long past 2021.
I’m sure the new year will come with its own unexpected twists and turns, but I am also confident there will be huge potential for business who remain open minded and can be nimble to take advantage of the opportunities. All the unknowns make business and marketing planning a challenge, but it is very possible to begin gathering hints about how the world will operate going forward. You just have to know where to look and where you should keep your eyes open.
So before we get stuck into the man body of the blog, here are a few things we need to consider NOW; right now.
You Need To Review What You Learned in 2020
My apology’s if that’s a bit obvious, but you would be surprised. There have been, and continue to be so many reason to be distracted right now, but you have to make this a conscious thing and a massive effort. Think about what you did this year to manoeuvre through the endless onslaught of obstacles that came your way.
What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently?
Use what you’ve learned to get your ducks in order to manage your business in a manner that meets both your own standards and your customers’ needs. Then, ask yourself what the future may hold and how you would have handled things better, had you known the obstacle.
I suggest this simply because a client that I worked with sold an online course on how to ‘Pass Your Theory Test’, through Facebook Ads. Very successful it is too, becoming a 6 figure business. But imagine what happened when every single theory test and driving test suddenly shut down for 6 months. The business could easily have gone bust…
But 6 months prior to ‘Lockdowns’ I challenged the business owner to come up with a way that meant he could still use his knowledge and skills and make money, because what would happen if his course was so good, that it got banned?
So he began to use the skills and knowledge he had amassed in making his own business a success, and turned it into coaching, outsourcing and mentoring with other business owners. So when one part of the business ‘went down’ he could still provide a service and this replaced most of the income from the online programme he had built. Some would call this a ‘Plan B’, but we just called planning for eventualities.
Talk To your Best Customers
I’ve banged on about this all the way through lockdown and maybe, just maybe, this pandemic has forced some of us into ‘battening down the hatches’ a little bit too much and cutting ourselves off from the people who pay our wages in our business.
If you don’t believe me, I was shocked by the amount of accountants, professionals and people in my industry, coaching, that just went to ground, quite simply because they didn’t know what to do! Phones not being answered, emails not being replied to. I know for a fact that the accountancy firm I work with GREW during lockdown by 50% because we made sure they were available to answer any and all queries, even if they didn’t have the exact answers because the situation was so fluid at the beginning.
Find out what they want and need, and how they anticipate their lives – or their businesses – will look in 2021, especially post-pandemic. Learn how your product or service will fit into their flow. Do they want you to continue delivering your product line in some virtual way, or is it important for them to be able to come into your facility for a real sit-down to discuss what they need and view the options in person? Does your solution lie in providing the best of both worlds, offering virtual visits alongside opportunities for physical interaction? Or is the right option something you haven’t yet explored? Your customers know the answers to these questions, so start asking them.
Look At What Your Competitors Are Doing
Review how they are reaching customers and clients today and whether you can glean any insights about what they may do tomorrow.
Rethink How To Use Your Marketing Spend
In-person events, such as speaking engagements, trade shows, or conferences where you could network with potential customers were put on hold because of the pandemic. They might not return all that soon in 2021, so explore other options for getting the best use out of the money that would have been budgeted for those events. Remember staying visible means you continue to be viable. That might mean pitching the media more to land radio or TV interviews or publishing a book that tells your personal or company story and can be given to current or potential clients.
Can your business handle the unexpected if something you couldn’t possibly anticipate were to arise, as happened in 2020?
If the answer is yes, chances are you’re ready to play in a post-pandemic world…so let’s look more in depth into the opportunities that lie ahead in 2021…
The Focus Is On User Reviews
One of the first things you need to be very conscious of is that although things have shifted online, so has the ‘social way’ in which we shop.
Purchasing a new products or services from a business involves many steps but recently, customers and clients have started to focus on a single aspect above all others, the reviews. It isn’t just about features or price anymore, it’s also about what other people have to say about a particular service or product. Users feel a lot more comfortable purchasing something that another individual has already bought and tried.
Fan & Fuel reported that 92% of people will hesitate to complete a purchase when there are absolutely no reviews available. Reviews are now essential to selling products online, just having a 4-star rating by more than hundreds of customers makes it that much easier and more appealing to customers.
And I’m going to make a quick point here too. Having hundreds of 5-star reviews is also a bit of a turn off. Why? Well..when was the last time you were perfect and never made a mistake? There are now as many reports out in the world of the internet that suggest having a perfect customer rating score is as damaging as none, because people don’t trust that you’re as perfect as you appear to be.
Many small businesses won’t have deep pockets when it comes to marketing efforts so it’s crucial to focus on user reviews, with great case studies. I feel they will also become an art form in their own right. When real people advocate your brand online, your business and product becomes more trustworthy and can lead to increased sales.
Remember customer reviews influence more than 95 percent of online customers before they decide to purchase. Moreover, more than 90 percent of people step back from buying the things online which do not have any reviews, good or bad. In the coming years, these customer reviews will be the greatest influencer of any business. Most businesses will open their review forums to publish their customers’ opinions. Most importantly, brands will drive innovative marketing campaigns through these review forums to influence their target audience. Get there first in 2021.
Mobile-first Employee Communication
Currently, millennials represent 50% of the workforce both here and in the USA, and are projected to represent 75% of the workforce by the end of 2025. And if there’s one thing everyone knows about millennials, it’s that they’re very tech-savvy and mobile-driven. Therefore, if you want to keep your millennial teams focused and engaged, you need to adapt to their level of communication, i.e. mobile-first communication.
Emails, conference calls, phone, or meetings where 73% of attendees aren’t paying attention are all outdated methods to spread your message effectively to your employees. In order to boost employee communication, more businesses are shifting to using communication apps – doing so strengthens productivity, lifts engagement, reduces misunderstandings, and so much more.
A communication app offers business owners, managers and employees a direct and immediate communication channel. It’s also going to be a massive cornerstone as to how employees and management are managed going forward.
Streamline communication, limit unnecessary phone calls, and improve employee productivity with its robust communication features such as:
- Surveys, Suggestion Box, and Live Polls: ensure every voice is heard through a suggestion box to get feedback and make decisions based on business surveys and live-polls.
- Announcements, Newsletters, and Updates: communicate one-on-one, to a group, or the entire business with rich and engaging content. Advanced features include pre-scheduled updates, social engagement support for likes and comments, share GIFs, videos, and memes, and automated follow-up capabilities.
- Employee Recognition and Acknowledgment: be prepared to recognise your employees (they’ve had a crap year too remember!), share employee ‘spotlights’, and allow team members to nominate other team members for awards. Boost engagement by celebrating and sharing birthday wishes, anniversaries, personal milestones, and the teams achievements.
- Employee Directory: all your team’s contact information is always available and easily searchable without needing to be saved on a personal device.
Remote Work Is Growing
As a small business, infrastructure and space can eat up your bank balance. Business premises doesn’t come cheap and yet businesses must grow, however, if you’re drowning in costs and overheads then you’ll struggle far more. That’s why remote woking has appealed to so many small businesses, because working 9-to-5, five days a week is no longer the norm. Apps and software will make it easier to video conference, send team messages, fill out forms or checklists, and so on. However, also make sure you’re familiar with the challenges, benefits and solutions to working form home. Two that spring to mind are the management and Health and Safety consequences that will arise from people being at home. The Health and safety one is potentially a ticking time bomb in 2021, with people working from kitchen tables rather than a well lit, well positioned work station that has been checked for health and safety compliance…just leaving that there for you!
People will be spending less time commuting and traveling, but more time working remotely, causing business leaders to find other ways to share corporate info and increase workplace collaboration. With the rise of telecommunications (video, chats, etc.), the need for employees to hit the road has subsided, meaning that business leaders will need to rethink their communications strategies and how team members are managed with their goals and targets in mind.
Gig Work Is Growing Too
According to Gallup, around 35% of workers in the United States are in the gig economy – which trends with the rise of the remote worker. Gig work is becoming popular because people like flexibility and enjoy being their own boss. With furlough and the current economic situation hitting hard at the start of 2021, this number is only likely to grow.
Most small businesses aren’t able to financially hire permanent employees and the larger businesses that do make it through 2020, will have more financial constraints than ever before, so that will make it harder to identify and hire the right talent, that will give a business a return on investment. That’s why gig work is key here because you can hire someone temporarily, and they can work remotely instead of at the office.
A lot more people are choosing to adopt a greener lifestyle. Beyond Meat is a maker of plant-based proteins and since its launch, it experienced a massive increase in stock prices – by over three times! However, for consumers, living an eco-conscious lifestyle doesn’t just mean following vegetarian diets and using organic hygiene products. Now companies of all types and sizes are amping up their efforts in order to save energy, lower carbon dioxide, use sustainable materials more often and streamline packaging.
However if you decide to go down this route, when you’re appealing to new customers and clients, who are already in the green market, it’s not enough to just be green. The answer may lie in supplying consumers with details — and authenticity. As a business, you must help the customer understand exactly what an eco-friendly choice means for you and more importantly for them.
E-commerce Is Dominating
Several reports have alluded to the fact that global e-commerce will grow to about £3trillion within the next four years. With these numbers, tons of retailers are moving investments from brick-and-mortar storefronts to online stores. It’s important to leverage social media to gain more sales, use a cutting edge warehouse to ship orders more quickly, and more. All of the following can help your e-commerce beat the competition.
AI Is Not Taking Over
Yes, AI helps customer support representatives deliver top-notch experiences to customers, however it isn’t going to replace the human worker….well, not just yet. Instead, we need to look at AI as the co-worker who helps the business become more efficient, so customers are better served.
Technology is always improving, and with the latest and greatest tempting every business, we need to keep in mind that AI and predictive analytics will not replace the human when it comes to delivering a great customer experience. While there are definitely some great opportunities ahead for AI … it will not be a true game-changer, at least in the next year. AI can really be thought of as ‘augmented intelligence,’ because it can augment the human, giving people better information, greater insight and the ability to perform their roles better.
Stories Are More Important Than A News Feed
Thanks to Snapchat, we were first introduced to “stories”, which are now a default of almost all social media channels. Stories are short video content that disappear after 24 hours – this kind of “in the moment” content makes a stronger connection to an audience.
It used to be that news feed posts brought a ton of attention to companies on social media, however, stories are growing top to 15x faster than news feeds, so much so they are now included on Linked-In and on Twitter. In addition, to live streaming, stories are the primary way that brands should convey their message. As a business, build an authentic voice and use it to connect with your audience. While stories are short in length and disappear, you are able to reach a larger audience and can quickly catch their attention.
Customer Service Should Continue To Have A Personal Touch
Providing your customer with a personalised experience is what it’s all about, after all, customers are individuals with their own tastes and wants. Consider Amazon, when visiting your homepage, you see product recommendations that are similar to something you purchased before – if you bought books then you’ll see more books or if it was running shoes then more exercise equipment is targeted. Your homepage on Amazon is tailored to your needs.
Websites that have taken this on board also reported that smart personalisation engines that recognise customer intent will also enable digital businesses to increase profits by up to 15%. Instead of just showing every little thing to the customer, you can cut out the noise and show the options most relevant for modern customers.
5G Is In The Game
Quick put on the tin foil hats! The last latest small business trend is all about 5G. 5G networks will likely be all across the world in 2021 and can open avenues like we’ve never seen. On average, 5G pushes download speeds of about 1 Gbps and with high download speeds, it completely changes how we interact on the internet. It makes interactions far more instantaneous which benefits small businesses so much because they can communicate and get things done so much faster.
Generation Z Is Entering The Workforce
There is no doubt that you’re probably working hard to engage your younger workforce or customers and clients, but now, they’re about to get even younger as Generation Z is entering the workforce and more of the market space. In fact, Generation Z makes up around 40% of consumers right now, so the consideration is huge
In order for you to fully take advantage of Generation Z employees coming into the workforce, you need to understand how their needs and priorities differ from generations. They are a very complex beast, and even faster with technology than the millennials. They are also likely to be an untapped reservoir of skill as employment issues will hit many companies. The wiser of the business owners will want to tap into the pool of new ideas, new energy and malleable skills.
Be Active On Social Media BUT Be Authentic
Research found that 77% of small businesses in the UK are using social media to promote critical business functions such as sales, marketing, and customer service. What does all this translate to? More traffic and profit for your small business!
Understand that 84% of the UK are shopping for something at any given moment so ensure you’re capitalising on social channels to bring these consumers to your site to purchase your goods or services.
By recognising where your weaknesses are in terms of marketing, it becomes easier to create a plan of action to correct the challenges you’re faced with. It can help to bring aboard a Generation Z worker who is incredibly tech-savvy when it comes to social media marketing as this channel alone can open doors to better profit and more customers.
However this comes with a warning. People are genuinely getting turned off by people talking about themselves over and over again. 2021 is the time to stop patting yourself on the back, but spend the same amount of time showing what you can do for other people.
The Bottom Line On Small Business Trends For 2021
2020 isn’t over yet but to date, these are the latest business trends, I believe you need toto keep an eye on in 2021. Stay ahead of the competition by adding these trends into your next strategy and growth meeting, it’s the best way to keep your business ahead of the competition.
Yes it’s been tough planning and putting things in place simply because we keep coming across obstacles…here’s the thing, I truly believe my word of 2020 was ‘nimble’. If you look across the board or the business world as a whole, you’ll see that the winners, if you can call them that, across business were the businesses that remained or tried to be nimble. They made quick decisions. Pivoted when necessary, took pro-active steps, decisive reactive steps when needed but always had two or three strategies in place, and weren’t afraid to change when necessary. Learn the lessons from them, but start thinking ahead…we’re nearer the end than the beginning, but put some of these into play and you could be near the beginning of a street business in 2021.
If you’d like some help taking up the opportunities of 2021, book a FREE 30 Minute Focus Call with HERE