The business world has experienced incremental changes for several years, but the pandemic forced an irrevocable shift to happen in mere months.

Businesses that failed to innovate and evolve closed their doors. Businesses that moved quickly in response to the wavering needs of the markets continued to thrive.

The business world is never going back to how it was. The only option for continued success in business is to mature. 2021 will usher in even greater changes as entrepreneurs continue to adapt. Here are six emerging business trends for the coming year.

Remote work will be the new normal

It isn’t just the customer-facing aspect of business that is changing. Internal configurations, too, are entering an era of transformation. And, one of the major changes here is remote work setups. This is nothing new as it has been in existence even way before the COVID pandemic started. The lockdown measures just accelerated it into adoption.

It is also really popular with employees. Researchers found that 67% would leave their jobs if work flexibility was reduced or removed. It can also save companies money as about 50% to 60% of onsite office desks and equipment aren’t used. They can save on electricity and depreciation costs, among others.

Shifting toward eCommerce

To nobody’s surprise, COVID-19 has accelerated e-commerce growth, with retailers experiencing significant growth. Certain categories are up considerably, including games and toys; beauty products; and fitness products. Home and family-related items can all be expected to continue to do well.

Social commerce has also received a pandemic-induced boost. Sites like LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have become increasingly important sources of social marketing, with 87% of e-commerce shoppers getting buying insights from social media connections. Younger consumers are more likely to make buying decisions based on  social media input, and will be even more encouraged to do so by companies and brands that tell a story instead of just advertising a message.

Contactless Payment Options

The new normal can be expected to include the coronavirus periodically rearing its ugly head, at least until a vaccine capable of long-term immunity has been proven viable.

This suggests an impact on all aspects of society for a much longer period than was originally projected. Businesses will need to maximize their efforts moving forward to limit in-person contacts to slow down the spread of the disease, preferably with contactless payment options. MasterCard reports such payments are up 40% this year and, to address consumer fears of contamination, should be expected to increase further. Once contactless payment strategies are baked into the system, they’ll be difficult to dislodge.

Increased Virtual Services

The pandemic has demonstrably shown many of our face-to-face interactions were needless traditions that can be easily replicated online. Software like Zoom and Slack has allowed seamless communication online, cutting out the need for in-person facetime. As budgets remain tight in 2021, look for this trend to continue, with business travel and in-person meetings staying online. For local businesses, the trend of offering services online will flourish this year with a mature marketplace of savvy consumers used to navigating the technical side of things. For a concrete sign of this, look to the recent purchase of Slack by Salesforce for a reported US$27.7 billion. That’s a big bet on the long-term viability of the platform.

Local Focus

Another important trend in 2020 was the move toward shopping local and supporting small businesses. COVID-19 interrupted international supply chains and more people began to see the value in keeping money within their communities. This is great news for businesses and the trend looks set to continue in 2021. When possible, offer “Made in ……….” products and promote this offering with your community. Not only are you supporting other local small businesses, you’re also helping to cut down on emissions and hit those sustainability targets.

Being eco-friendly and socially responsible

Consumers, especially younger ones, are demanding companies step up to the plate and tackle in some shape or form social and environmental issues such as climate change, species extinction, and more.

Businesses are taking action in a number of ways, such as improving work culture, donating to causes, supporting them on social media and becoming more sustainable within their own operations. If you choose to take steps such as cutting down on packaging waste or diversifying your workforce, be sure to notify your customers through anything from a social media post to a bold mission statement.

Companies of all stripes and sizes are beginning to perceive that business as usual is not the only option and in turn have begun embracing change. Multiple causes around the world are able to raise awareness and make a difference with strong nonprofit websites, petition websites and other forms of supporting their cause, both online and off.

2020 isn’t over yet but to date, these are the latest small business trends to keep an eye on. 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.

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