New technologies, social shifts and changing consumer desires can all have a major impact on business trends. Looking toward 2021, from the current globally disruptive social moment, what can we learn about the biggest likely trends for small business owners in 2021?
The importance of a business’s social responsibility has grown rapidly in the last few years. Millennials care about what a brand represents and carefully choose what they are putting their money behind. More and more consumers want to support ethical brands, whether that be environmental, socially conscious or inclusive.
In this social media age, reputations can be easily tarnished and news spreads quickly, as seen with recent claims of certain clothing brands paying their employees a pittance. In 2021, consumers will be asking even more of companies, what do they stand for, and how are they speaking out on and adding their voice to important issues?
Diversity and Inclusion
For a long time diversity and varied representation has not existed in many industries and businesses. The tide is definitely turning, with many confronting that reality and consumers demanding increased diversity and representation across the board.
Consumers are also noticing when this is done tokenistically or as a reactionary measure, so companies will be expected to incorporate this into their thinking at all stages, not just as an add on to a specific moment. Companies will need to think about their diversity and inclusion across gender, race and sexuality and be held accountable for it.
These last few months have seen the majority of companies shift to a complete team of remote workers. Despite some previously rejecting this model, it is now the norm and people are recognising the benefits it can hold.
For small businesses, remote working removes the issue of having to hire expensive office space. Removing the lengthy commute for many workers offers a better work life balance. Video conferencing apps, improved internet connection and team instant messaging services have greatly improved remote working.
This is a trend here to stay into 2021 and beyond. For small businesses, this also opens up the opportunity of hiring talent from further afield.
The Gig Economy
The gig economy will continue to grow, this will be a trend for workers and for small businesses. It suits a new type of worker who is keen to diversify their output and not work for one business solidly for years.
It also suits small businesses who cannot afford to hire lots of permanent employees, but want to work with top talent to deliver what they need. The gig economy will be the norm more and more for the flexibility it provides on both sides.
The smart adoption of AI to streamline processes and customer experiences within small businesses will continue to prove vital to their growth. AI can provide insights into customers and their buying habits, helping to tailor marketing campaigns and communication. Hieneken has been using big data and AI to improve each step of their supply process, customer engagement and even the taste of their beer!
The potential in this industry is huge. It continues to secure investments and will be a major player for the foreseeable future. It will open up many opportunities in the car and technology industries, and also allow an opening for other industries to target the passenger’s of the future as they have more time on their hands for entertainment, apps and productivity whilst they are no longer driving themselves.
This has been a growing trend, yet this moment has exacerbated the online shopping environment. People are buying online more than ever, and supporting small businesses through this avenue too. Expanding into the online space can increase your revenue and allow customers to buy your goods even if they can’t physically get to your stores. Your potential customer net will be wider.
We’ve also seen the emergence of more social forms of commerce. Apps such as Depop cater to a younger audience interested in recycling their clothing and buying second hand. Facebook Marketplace and Gum Tree are providing a way to talk to the buyer, negotiate and arrange pick up directly online before buying. This social and personalised way of buying is steadily increasing in popularity.
Impact of Customer Reviews
Customers are now trusting peer reviews much more than marketing content from specific businesses. Reviews from other customers who have tried and tested the product are a trusted source of information as a potential customer decides whether or not to buy.
If customers receive a product and service that they are happy with, they are often willing to share this experience, politely asking them to leave a review via email comms or social media can be key in building your customer reviews online.
Social Media Influencers
Along with the above, there is still a real pull and traction in what social media influencers promote and use. Appearing on their channels can boost sales exponentially as they give their endorsement on clothing, gym equipment, fitness drinks, make up and skin care. It will remain ever as important as a link to a wider audience pool.
The much anticipated and discussed arrival of 5G is nearly upon us. With download speeds of around 500 – 1000 Mbps it promises to revolutionise our online interactions. Everything will be instantaneous, completely at your fingertips.
For small businesses, this will mean an even more globally connected world, opening up communication and instant access. Improving internet access and download speeds will also impact sectors such as education, and see developments in virtual reality and the internet of things.
Subscription Based Business
An increasing number of companies are turning to a subscription based model. By 2025, this has been forecasted to be worth 10.5 billion dollars. This model allows businesses to have a steady stream of incomes and an ongoing relationship with the customer. Disney Plus had 50 million people subscribe in its first five months of launching their new video streaming service. But this model doesn’t just apply to music, tv and film platforms, businesses such as gyms are also turning towards this.
- Sustainability and Green Businesses
Gen Z and millennials care about the environment, and they want businesses to care too. They’re demanding sustainable products that don’t cause more harm to the environment, and they’re willing to pay more for those products. Investing in ethical and sustainable business practices will go a long way in helping small businesses garner the trust, respect and buy in from these audiences. There are also plenty of green business ideas for entrepreneurs.
Direct to Consumer
Recent months have seen consumers embrace a localised attitude to goods and services. People have been supporting small local businesses to provide support to their communities. This will continue, and businesses will be looking to simplify the supply chain to reduce costs. Engaging directly with the consumer will allow small businesses to foster personalised relationships with consumers and keep them coming back.
Popularity of Stories and Livestreams on Social Media
Content, as ever, is vital in connecting with your audience and branding your small business. The story feature on social media is growing in popularity, and throughout the period of lockdown, there have been numerous live streams from brands, businesses and musicians.
This will increasingly become an instant way of connecting with your audiences, giving them interesting content live and direct. It is a vital tool for your small business to remain relevant and on the pulse.
Keeping an eye on these upcoming trends will ensure you stay ahead of the curve and can be innovative in your thinking and offering to your customers.