Business Trends in Technology, Networking, and Marketing in 2021
Date : Aug 26, 2021
Author : Isaac Addo
Categories : Business Tips
The pre-pandemic world was when we shuffled between the digital and real world. However, the pandemic has forced tech-facilitated digital existence upon us. Businesses too didn’t escape this transition. More than 50 per cent of small businesses say that technology is driving their customer interactions. 1 in 4 small business owners has accelerated their investment in technology since the pandemic.
Businesses are also looking for innovative ways to network with like-minded business owners and educate customers digitally. Both consumers and event organisers have shown a preference for virtual events, with over 1 million virtual events organised in 2020. Aiding these efforts are the innovative digital branding exercises that businesses are coming up with. Digital marketing spends among small businesses is seeing a jump.
In this article, I will review business trends in technology, networking, and marketing for 2021.
You are a small business owner. You may not really be aware of the advancements unfurling in the tech industry. However, this does not mean that your business should stay behind. By embracing changing trends, you can surely leverage technology to grow your business. They will also improve the efficiency of your day-to-day processes.
Changing Trends in Business: Expected technological trends for 2021
1. Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will see an increase in demand
Throughout 2020, AI and Machine learning (ML) were hot topics. Businesses will continue incorporating them into their processes in 2021 too. Application is diverse, ranging from personalised customer experiences to voice assistants.
Meredith Schmidt, executive VP and GM of small businesses and essentials at Salesforce says, “AI will help small businesses offer more personalized experiences to their customers by maximizing their time and automating manual tasks.”
A majority of small businesses often cite the challenge of insufficient time. Using AI solutions can help them be more efficient.
Success story: Company Nurse, a US-based company offers an array of facilities such as:
- Nurse triage services,
- COVID-19 screening, and
- Workplace injury reporting for employers.
The company is leveraging AI on several fronts, right from classifying the data of private workers, data analytics, and sales lead generation to identify zero-day security vulnerabilities and speech-to-text transcriptions.
Since investing in AI, Company Nurse has observed multiple benefits including:
- Better work-life balance for employees,
- Enhanced security, and
- Improved service quality to its clients.
2. Comprehensive and improved HR collaborative tools
2020 saw an unprecedented surge in the need for comprehensive human resource tools. These tools help business owners track their employees’ performance and manage their requirements. Remote working is not going away anytime soon. That is why experts believe this trend to continue in 2021 and beyond.
“The shift to remote work has changed businesses in terms of productivity, engagement, culture, two-way communication and employee development, and has highlighted the need for effective technology to help navigate these challenges,” says Rhiannon Staples, Chief Marketing Officer at Hibob.
3. Unified software will finally see a breakthrough
Do you use different software to:
- Connect with your teams?
- Send emails?
- Manage leads and customers?
- Plan projects? and
- Store data?
Of course. The modern workplace has a solution for every problem. There’s Salesforce for customer management, Gmail and Outlook for emails, Slack for chats, and Drive for storage. But how do you ensure that every platform is connected with the other? Especially when even your IT team is working remotely?
2021, it seems, will finally see a breakthrough. Integrated platforms will become prevalent, allowing software to connect seamlessly with each other.
4. Cybersecurity will have more focus
Cyber-attacks are quite prevalent today. In fact, small and medium businesses are particularly more vulnerable to data breaches. Accenture’s Cost of Cybercrime Study shows that 43% of attacks target small businesses. Out of these, only 14% are equipped to defend themselves. According to embroker, by 2025, cybercrime will cost companies an estimated $10.5 trillion annually.
2021 will see businesses protecting their digital assets and confidential customer data with robust cybersecurity measures. In fact, the global spending on cybersecurity measures is predicted to exceed $1 trillion in the cumulative five-year period from 2017 to 2021.
COVID-19 crisis was the trigger, but the networking and events industry was already on the brink of transformation.
Changing Trends in Business: Expected networking trends for 2021
1. Hybrid IS the future
2020 was the year of virtual events. However, for those expecting virtual events to take the front seat – hybrid events will be the showstoppers. The final quarter of 2020 saw a marked rise in the number of hybrid events. Experts predict that their adoption will only increase in the near future.
Interestingly, the future of hybrid events is quite enthralling. Participants can expect integrated experiences combining the irreplaceable in-person interactions with the reach and insights of the virtual.
Success story: Empower 21 announced a hybrid event on February 22nd and 23rd, 2021. It was one of the first hybrid events and it had everyone’s undivided attention. Empower 21 allowed virtual and physical attendees to register exactly the same way. From workshops to keynotes and luncheons, enhanced integration allowed virtual attendees to interact seamlessly with their in-person counterparts.
2. Growing demand for strong online communities
With eCommerce expanding, buyers are looking for places to share information about brands, products, and services. Therefore, there is a huge potential for online B2B and B2C communities. This means more virtual exhibitions, webinars, digital product launches, and tradeshows. Removing the physical element of attending bolsters accessibility and encourages more participation.
Success story: Eventbrite reports that despite the initial hiccup due to the pandemic in 2020, both consumers and creators got on board with virtual events quickly. By June 2020, attendees were spending 28x more time in virtual events than in January 2020. By November, this figure jumped to 34x. All in all, a whopping 75 million attendees registered in over one million virtual events in 2020, logging more than 100 million hours!
3. Networking in-person will still be practised
While hybrid events will take the centre stage, in-person interactions will still be relevant. This will especially be true for the industry leaders. Countries with fewer COVID-19 cases, strict safety regulations, and massive testing will emerge as key meeting destinations in the world.
81% of shoppers research online before buying a product. In fact, 60% of potential customers start their product research with a query on search engines before heading to any website. As many as 64% of small businesses have a website. All this data from fundera clearly points to one thing – marketing is poised to be the game-changer for small businesses in 2021.
Changing Trends in Business: Expected small business marketing trends for 2021
1. The need to work the fallout of the pandemic in the marketing strategy
Vaccination is a welcome move, but there’s no telling when the restrictions imposed by governments will be lifted. The pandemic has had an enormous impact on buyer behaviour and marketing strategies, and some of these changes will be permanent.
This is why small business owners must update their market research. Every industry has been affected differently. Some have seen growth while others are struggling. To help your business survive and grow, you need to invest in new market and demographic research for 2021 and beyond.
2. Purpose-driven and charitable marketing
2020 was bleak and depressing, but it certainly brought out the best in humans on many occasions. Viral hashtags like #SaveLocalBusinesses are a testimony to this statement. However, consumers also expect the same empathy from businesses. In fact, they prefer brands with a charitable or a social edge.
Businesses need to offer a human-first approach if they want to be relevant to customers in 2021. A Deloitte report states, “brands need to be deeply attuned to why they exist and who they are built to serve.”
Success story: BrewDog, the beer giant, offered their pubs as temporary vaccination centres in the UK. The company also promised a free can of beer to anyone vaccinated on their premises. Such gestures put brands in a positive light and give customers a sense of purpose while shopping.
3. Social media will emerge as the top-purchase channel
There’s a reason why 90% of the top 100 brands are on Instagram. Making sales via social media was once a pipe dream, but it has become a reality in a relatively quick span. From discovery to purchase, brands are leveraging social media to allow shoppers to buy with a single click – without even opening the browser. Small businesses, can, and should, jump on this wagon and leverage it to generate revenue.
Success story: CLUSE is a stunning example of user-generated content or UGC in action. The IG feed of the brand showcases a shoppable feed that exemplifies elegance. The company credits its evangelists by tagging and has a whopping 899k follower base.
The brand uses a purchasable feed to make things easier for eager shoppers. It is masterful proof that brands can sell while gaining more followers online.
2020 was supposed to be a good year. But the way it turned out, it’s difficult to predict how 2021 will be. However, based on experience, it is best for businesses to be prepared for anything. Flexibility and agility are a must-have to pivot the business in new directions at a moment’s notice. Hopefully, these business trends will help small businesses to adapt and grow better.
5 Small Business Trends in 2021
If 2020 was a year of disruption for small businesses, 2021 is all about continued evolution.
From enhancing your digital presence to working virtually with remote work, small businesses will have adopted various strategies to stay afloat in the highly competitive market.
To set yourself up for success, in this video, we’ll go through five small business trends to watch out for this year.
1. Focus more on Retaining Customers
Rather than struggling to gain new customers, small businesses are now focusing on retaining their existing customers. Unsurprisingly, customers are now looking for more than just quality products or services- they also expect excellent customer service. Each year business trends usually highlight the importance of retaining customers.
Responding to customer feedback, re-examining customer service policies and using a more compassionate voice in marketing materials are some of the many ways to build trust with customers and create brand loyalty.
If your brand lacks empathy, vision and a strong identifiable purpose, customers won’t resonate with your goals and will actively look for competitors in the market. Other effective methods to retain customers include memberships, rewards and loyalty programs, subscriptions for products or ongoing personal and home services.
Research has shown that nearly 68% of business owners are focused on tailoring content and thoughtful messaging. It’s safe to say that investing in customer satisfaction will allow your business to not only thrive but also stay on top.
Related Video: Growth Hacking Tips For Entrepreneurs
2. Digital Presence and Social Media
Statistics reveal that up to 97% of customers research a local business online before visiting the physical store, which clearly indicates that a massive majority of consumers now use social media platforms to make purchasing decisions.
This further explains why digital marketers are investing in data-driven campaigns, such as paid ads and social media marketing, more than ever before.
Therefore, to create a convenient experience for your customers in 2021, it’s crucial to create a smoothly running, mobile-friendly website, alongside increasing customer engagement across social media platforms.
Depending on the type of small business you run, you can also build an e-commerce platform; include a variety of online payment options or digital wallets; develop an app for your business and offer contactless delivery.
3. Further e-commerce Expansion
Pivoting to e-commerce may have been optional for businesses in the past but in the current era, it’s a necessity.
With a steep increase in internet usage during the pandemic, there’s a clear opportunity for small businesses to thrive on e-commerce.
Besides the digital marketing methods mentioned earlier, your business can also benefit from further e-commerce expansion.
This includes establishing partnerships and collaborating with other local businesses, which can help supplement your product or service, bringing in greater profits at a faster rate.
Other strategies to boost your e-commerce expansion include improving conversions with multiple payment options and upgrade the overall buying experience.
Around 80% of online customers are more likely to confirm their orders if the option of same-day delivery and free shipping is available, so make sure to include that.
4. Focus on Local
Business trends leading into 2021 is the drive of consumers to support small businesses and local economic growth.
Consumers are starting to shift their priorities, especially after witnessing local establishments struggle or close their doors during the pandemic.
Recent surveys reveal that nearly 59% of customers would rather buy from a small local business than a large corporation.
Small scale business owners can use this trend to their advantage by investing in local marketing and community growth.
In addition to boosting your digital presence, consider participating in community fundraisers, local charities or partnering with nearby local suppliers.
This is how your business can thrive even more as the number of consumers opting to shop local continues to increase.
5. Work Flexibility
Unsurprisingly, remote work has become the norm this year despite many businesses having to adapt to it swiftly.
Although remote work can be challenging when it comes to communication and collaboration, it does come with its own benefits such as flexible working hours and increased productivity.
With fewer overhead costs due to closed office spaces and work-from-home opportunities, companies are able to build savings and spend more on upgrading software or increased digital marketing.
Needless to say, a permanent move toward online and remote work is one of the most important business trends for 2021.
Research has shown that more than 80% of business leaders will continue to allow work flexibility for at least some time, while 47% plan to let employees work from home permanently.
Hence, small business owners need to not only follow the remote work trend but also ensure virtual efficiency with it.
This means that virtual teams of employees working from home must be on the same page and stay in synchrony, by making use of apps and online tools.
To make the most of the brighter year ahead, take heed of these industry trends which are here to stay and will definitely help all small businesses thrive.
Let us know your thoughts on this video about business trends in the comments below!