By Sasha-Lee de Bod

We all discovered in 2020 that we cannot predict the future. We have learnt how we can position ourselves and our businesses better for what may lie ahead.  The pandemic intensified or accelerated some of the 2020 trends we predicted.

Every business needs to prepare for 2021 and beyond by actioning, implementing, and improving on trends to gear the business for success.  Let’s focus on fast-forwarding these 11 trends in your business to ensure you transition your business and shape your future.

1. Survival mechanisms – pay attention, become agile and adapt to be sustainable.

  • Businesses need to understand the current environment and how it is changing in order to adapt or evolve accordingly.  The past year indicated how quickly things can change and that a business needs to respond and change instantaneously. Agility and adaptability are vital to the survival and sustainability of the business.

2. The world as we know it is getting smaller by the minute

  • Conferences, meetings, events, and gatherings were forced to downsize and businesses needed to find innovative ways to reach their target market. Computer-generated interactive experiences have been adopted by some businesses. E.g., Augment Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). which has made networking, events, tours and exhibitions more cost-effective.
  • There is a movement towards less content, shorter videos, intimate launches, mini-courses/offerings, etc. We have experienced video as a growing medium for sharing content or distributing information as people pay more attention to a visual format than text.
  • Simplicity and less complex are the keywords for success.
  • This trend is also driven by personal needs.

3. A wave of new entrepreneurs creates a pool of potential franchisees.

  • Some individuals have been forced to seek alternative employment solutions. Some feel insecure in their current position or have changed their priorities in life.  This has led to an increase of new entrepreneurs in the market or people seeking to buy employment opportunities.
  • Franchising offers an opportunity for individuals that want to invest in their future or build a successful and viable business.  Franchising offers a proven model and ongoing support.  If all the principles are followed the chances are greater for success. It must however be known that what you put in is what you get out.

4. Talent and employee investment is making a comeback.

  • Businesses need to invest in recruiting and retaining employees that make a valuable contribution to the company. One does not necessarily have to attract good candidates with additional monetary benefits.  This generally includes personal and talent development of each individual e.g., skills, growth opportunities, mentoring, promoting from within the company.
  • Employees are the key to the success of any business; therefore, it is important to focus on the wellness and happiness of employees.  This results in employee contributions to be meaningful.
  • The employer-employee relationship needs to be managed and nurtured, both parties should not take the other for granted.
  • Employees learn and grow by creating milestones, goals and KPI’s.

5. Embrace your community.

  • Businesses are realising the power of the local community. During the pandemic, customer behaviour tilted towards supporting local small business.
  • Localising your supply chain may add to the sustainability of your business.
  • Build an online community by sharing quality content in your field of expertise through blogs, webinars and social media posts. This would help gain trust and authority with your community and customers.

6. The future of remote working came ahead of schedule and is here to stay.

  • Remote working has rapidly influenced customer-facing aspects and the working structure of most businesses.
    • Initially, remote working was a temporary solution to continue with business operations. Many businesses have adopted a more permanent remote working strategy beyond the pandemic.
    • We foresee that travelling for business purposes will remain on the decline due to remote working and mobile connectivity.
    • Remote working has brought on challenges and benefits alike. 
      • Benefits of remote working include flexibility for employees and reduced overheads for employers i.e., without needing office space this enables a business to increase savings or reinvest capital into the business. This also enables employers to employ candidates without having them needing to reside in the immediate area of the company.
      • Challenges of remote working include difficulty in collaborating, communication, and productivity concerns.  Managers are not necessarily trained to effectively manage or monitor daily performance remotely.
    • A balance between remote and on-site working needs to be structured to ensure the business remains fully functional and operational.

7. The financial focus has shifted from growth to profitability for the foreseeable future.

  • The previous year instilled a conservative business approach for 2021. Businesses prioritise profitability above growth during these uncertain times.
  • Businesses are focusing on offerings, products and/or services that generate the most revenue.
  • Businesses are selective about new partnerships, synergies, and projects.

8. Seeking alternative capital sources.

  • Traditional funding solutions may not be accessible to businesses. This can be due to their performance, risk profile and not being able to meet the required criteria for approval.
    • Businesses in need of capital will seek alternative funding sources to remain sustainable in the current economic conditions.  Sources of capital may include investors, grants, venture capital, crowdfunding, etc.

9. Business divisions should no longer operate in silos.

  • Various divisions within a business should work together to ensure alignment, collaboration and ultimately growth for the entire business.

10. The rise in on-demand, online digitisation, and omni-channels

  • Customers want products and services on-demand, almost instantly.
  • Businesses had to evolve and accelerate online digitisation, this was essential for survival and expected by customers.  Online digitisation included the following:
    • Seamless digital experience and convenience.
    • Mobile ordering.
    • Contactless delivery or in-store pick-up.
    • E-commerce platforms.
    • Apps for businesses.
    • Self-service portals/stations.
    • Online booking or scheduling systems.
    • Contactless payment options for example tap-and-go or mobile payments.
    • Social commerce – social media marketing and insights gained.
    • Personalised offerings based on customer history and data.
    • Recommendations and reviews.
    • Automation of Artificial Intelligence for example chatbots on website help desk, embedded typing functions, personalisation through big data, etc.
    • Utilising the Internet of Things (IoT) to seamlessly connect devices.
    • User experience in terms of site navigation, content structure, site speed, security, and accessibility across various devices.
    • The progression and implementation of 5G connectivity, combined with AI (Artificial Intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) will create opportunities for businesses to:
    • gather data,
    • recognise behaviour,
    • generate insights, and
    • recommend solutions based on the data.
  • Customer confidence will return, we are noticing people queuing outside businesses with social distancing, i.e., customers are frequenting businesses and increasing their spending.  However not all customers are comfortable returning yet, and businesses need to accommodate the needs of those customers by creating an Omni-channel experience and support structure. An Omni-channel enables customers to reach businesses through various channels whether it be traditional through a brick-and-mortar channel or an online e-commerce channel.

11. Influencers are a great social asset.

  • Influencers are people with a large following on social media that can promote your offering and bring attention to your brand, without excessive marketing spend. 
  • Social media platforms have been frequented more over the past year. Businesses should adopt marketing strategies to reach their customers through these platforms.
  • Due to the large amount of information and adverts customers see, daily, they have the option to opt-out to of seeing the adverts.
  • Businesses that embrace influencers have regarded them as an asset and are experiencing a return on investment. This is a subtle tactic to market your offering through sponsorship and partnership with reliable, influential people that your customers trust.