For many small business owners, 2020 will undoubtedly go down as one of the most challenging years since the Great Depression. But along with the challenges, there looks to be some interesting business transformations that could be viewed as opportunities in the year 2021.
For example, working remotely appears here to stay. Even the most reluctant small business owner is now a convert when it comes to having at least a partial remote workforce. While this trend has been gradually increasing, the pandemic certainly spiked those numbers upwards. By June 2020, 42% of the American workforce was fully remote. The stigma employers once had around a work-from-home employee doing nothing but walking the dog when not in the office or on-site seems to be gone. It appears this distrust wasn’t rooted in reality. In fact, a two-year Stanford study showed that employees are more (and in most cases, much more) productive than on-site workers. This trend for small business owners will have a ripple effect in a few areas we’ve highlighted as “food-for-thought” below.
Mobile-first communication is becoming routine
A lot of communication is now centered around mobile technologies. Everything from connecting with your younger millennial workforce to reaching your remote workers, mobile technology is, increasingly, at the forefront of communications. This can impact small business owners in several different ways. For starters, it’s important your company’s website is responsive, meaning it adapts to fit the screen on which it’s being viewed. In other words, make sure your website is easily viewable from your smartphone. Secondly, many job applicants are now applying directly from their smartphones. If your application process doesn’t adapt to this trend, you’ll lose top-quality workers to your competitors. Last, but not least, don’t be shocked when a new employee fails to respond to your email. Emails are so yesterday! Next time, try texting to quickly get their attention. Keep in mind, this method can also pertain to your customer base!
Storefront & E-commerce working together
While it’s true that the work-from-home trend is causing problems for the brick-and-mortar storefronts. Many of these businesses have used various distribution workarounds to keep themselves going. But if you do have a storefront, this can be a great opportunity to extend your brand outreach into the suburbs and surrounding communities. To further support a storefront, it’s also a good time to invest in e-commerce options. While execution can be a challenge, Amazon fulfillment has become a great way for small business owners seeking to maximize their e-commerce efforts. In the next five years, 74% of brands are expected to show up on the Amazon platform.
Digital payments & going cashless
Most estimates indicate that the economy is destined to go cashless in the near future. Digital pay is convenient and secure, and companies like PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay, offer businesses a way to reap the benefits of selling products in a touchless environment. This trend is growing and studies show that only four in ten millennials carry any cash at all on a regular basis. While e-commerce obviously lends itself to the digital payment, at least having a cashless payment option beyond a credit card terminal isn’t a bad idea for your business. While we may never go fully cash-free, keeping your options open in this area is a good idea.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the trends toward sustainability and “going green,” now’s the time to start taking notice. While the first part of 2020 may have had you scrambling to adapt to the unprecedented challenging business environment, consider shifting toward going green whenever possible in your business. Customer pressure to increase global sustainability from reducing reliance on single-use plastics to cutting carbon emissions is high. Research shows the pandemic only increased awareness around this issue. A recent survey showed 90% of consumers said they were equally or more concerned about environmental issues after the pandemic, than before. Your customers are concerned about the environment and your brand’s impact matters. Make changes now, publicize your efforts on social media and your website, and you could reap the rewards of growing your customer base in 2021.