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The year 2020 changed business in unprecedented ways. Companies had to adapt to new working environments and new customer demands. Specific industries like events and travel took a hit, while others like eCommerce saw unexpected growth. 

Now that we move into 2021, we can learn from the past year and prepare for emerging trends in the business landscape. 

While having a robust eCommerce presence is not a new requirement, 2020 showed just how critical online offerings could be to businesses. Those offerings will be expected to keep up with developing technology like mobile and voice recognition in the coming year. 

The year 2021 will also bring a focus to relationships, both with customers and employees. It will be vital to build strong customer relations and enhance employee wellness for every company to stay competitive and keep up with industry standards.

Read on to learn more about the forecast for 2021 and how to prepare, with trends including: 

  • Keeping up with eCommerce technology demands 
  • Prioritizing employee well-being
  • An online shift for employees and customers 
  • Building customer relations

An Elevated Baseline for Technology

As more business takes place online, there is a slew of technological standards your business needs to meet and those to keep your eye on for the future. 

With the rise of mobile commerce, or m-commerce, your website needs to accommodate mobile shoppers. Creating an application (app) would be even better for customers. 

Voice search also needs to be implemented on your website or app as it rises in prominence with consumers. 

Even the way customers pay is changing, with more people using digital payments. The Visa Back to Business Study: 2021 Outlook reports 65% of consumers prefer contactless payments, and 74% say it will stay that way even after a vaccine is distributed. 

Be aware of other business trends likely to become more prominent, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence

But instead of trying to keep up with all of the developments, figure out which would be the most useful and beneficial. Maybe focus on building a comprehensive mobile app instead of investing heavily in virtual reality.

Employee Well-Being Is Non-Negotiable 

After a devastating 2020 that forced companies to navigate an ongoing global health crisis, employee wellness has become a priority for many businesses. 

Employee well-being could include offering:

  • More physical and mental health benefits 
  • Social support
  • Team building opportunities
  • Flexibility in the workplace 

Future legislation will contribute to the mentality of the importance of employee well-being, like the proposed increase in the minimum wage or federal paid leave.

Work is a critical part of life, and a turbulent 2020 showed that well-being and compassion in the workplace go a long way. Show your employees you care by instituting supportive programs in your company.

Employee well-being can improve your business too. A study by Oxford University found happier employees are 13% more productive.

A Shift Online for Employees and Customers 

eCommerce has seen significant growth over the last several years. But 2020 accelerated eCommerce growth by an estimated five years. It’s clear that small businesses have to serve their customers online, no matter the industry.

Whether your company moves away from brick and mortar or continues to do business in person, make sure your online presence is strong, and customers can interact with your business virtually.

While the pandemic still isn’t over, keep providing virtual events and serving customer needs like delivery and pickup. Also, look to the future and see if you need to adjust your business to be better suited for online markets. 

Remote Work Is Here To Stay

Remote work became a necessity for many as people stayed home during the pandemic. But workforces are making remote work a more permanent solution. A Gartner survey showed 82% of businesses would allow at least partial remote work after the pandemic. 

Assess your current workplace and see if you can downsize your space, or if you need to learn tactics to manage your remote team better

Customer Relations Take Center Stage

Customer retention will be a huge factor in success going into 2021. So keep your focus on your customers in the new year. 

As the future of the economy might worsen with the pandemic, consumers will become much more prudent in their shopping habits. They’ll want quality products from companies they can trust. Do what you can to keep customers happy and loyal. 

Create a plan to cater to your dutiful customers with ideas, such as: 

  • Incentivizing customer reviews 
  • Bolstering social media and engagement
  • Introducing a loyalty or reward program
  • Offering promotions and discounts 
  • Enhancing customer service 

The year 2020 solidified business practices that were many years in the making. As 2021 unfolds, prepare yourself by knowing the trends that will affect your company. 

A push for eCommerce and the need for flexibility with work locations were just some examples of the new normal that took hold. Keep up with market demands as new technology like voice recognition becomes more prominent. 

And remember, the foundation of business is people. So devote time to strengthening bonds with your customers and providing employees with a caring workplace.

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