2020 was an incredibly challenging year for Australian small businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic meant small business owners found themselves in an entirely unfamiliar operating environment, with forced closures, operational and staffing challenges, social distancing requirements and other restrictions to navigate.
A shift to online was one of the most pronounced business trends during the past year. For many retailers, this prompted a move to launch or enhance their online presence and offer more diverse delivery options. Restaurants and other hospitality businesses embraced the trend by streamlining their menus, offering curbside pickup and local delivery, and working with online restaurant marketplaces like Providoor and third-party delivery partners including UberEats and Deliveroo.
Following a tough year, businesses of all shapes, styles and sizes are looking to make the most of 2021. So, what are some of the business trends for 2021?
1. Ecommerce is here to stay.
November 2020 was the biggest month in Australian online shopping history, with more than 5.5 million households shopping online, up 28% on the previous year. Of these online shoppers, almost a third bought products online more than once a week.
COVID-19 drove shoppers online – and they’re expected to stay there. Lockdowns, widespread work-from-home orders and growing support for contactless and cashless transactions created an environment where online shopping was embraced as a fast, safe and convenient option – even by those who had previously avoided it.
Similarly, many businesses that had focused on face-to-face transactions created online sales channels to allow them to recapture some of the revenue lost due to closure or reduced foot traffic. From local high street boutiques to huge brands like Bunnings, agile businesses launched ecommerce websites, streamlined their online shopping experience and expanded delivery options to include contactless choices like click and collect.
With more customers buying products online than ever before, having a comprehensive online presence is a no-brainer for small businesses in 2021. Even if you’re a service-based business that can’t deliver your product online, it’s worth investing in a website and social media to give your brand a strong digital presence and capitalise on the exponential growth of the eCommerce market.
2. Mobile marketing is big business.
Mobile marketing is an emerging small business trend, driven by the pervasive use of smartphones and tablets. Mobile sales are expected to hit more than US$3.5 trillion in 2021, accounting for more than 70% of total ecommerce sales.
To capitalise on this huge potential, savvy business owners are making mobile marketing a key focus area for 2021. Tools like Square Online make it quick and easy to launch a free online store that looks great and works well on any device, with no coding knowledge required. Square’s flexible website templates are attractive, easy-to-use, and simple to customise with your logo, branding, imagery and more.
Great mobile marketing requires more than just a website, however. Trends for 2021 include using SMS to promote special events, offers and sales, and location-based targeting to reach potential customers in specific geographical locations via their mobile devices.
3. Buyers are looking to shop local.
With most of us spending more time at home than ever before, there’s been a renewed focus on our neighbourhood and local community, and a desire to buy local where we can.
A survey by NBN Co found that 70% of online shoppers made a conscious effort to support local business during the COVID-19 crisis. Campaigns like Go Local First reinforce this trend, championing the vital role small business plays in the national economy and local communities. You can order Go Local First marketing collateral at www.golocalfirst.com.au.
Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar store or an online-only business, 2021 is the year to fly your flag in your community. Be visible as a local business, look for opportunities to contribute to neighbourhood sporting clubs and schools, and build relationships with buyers, other local businesses and community groups to strengthen both your brand and the community that you operate within.
4. The nature of work has changed.
Working remotely – or a version of remote work – will be a key business trend for 2021. Forrester predicts that while the number of employees working remotely post-pandemic will decrease, remote work will eventually stabilise at around 300% of pre-pandemic levels.
With workplaces asking employees to work from home where possible throughout much of 2020, people discovered numerous pros and cons to remote working. Employees generally enjoyed the ability to work more flexibly and avoid their daily commute. However, as restrictions and lockdowns were extended in many areas, some found maintaining a work-life balance difficult and missed the workplace’s social aspect.
Motivating staff and maintaining a sense of connectedness requires a different approach when your workforce is working remotely – check out our handy tips to keep employees motivated.
5. Sustainability and social responsibility are key focus areas.
With the pandemic driving widespread disruption to business-as-usual operations, both consumers and businesses are reconsidering what’s important to them as the world transitions to a COVID-normal existence. 72% of consumers across 20 countries said companies behaving sustainably was more important to them because of COVID-19.
Most businesses have had sustainability and social responsibility on their radars for a while, but with COVID-19 forcing them to rethink aspects including their supply chains, products and ways of working, many are looking at this “reset” as an opportunity to seriously consider their environmental impact and look for ways to operate more sustainably.
With small business owners looking forward to starting fresh in the new year, understanding 2021’s business trends and how they might apply to your business is key. Whether you own a restaurant, online store, service-based business or shopfront, responding to these trends will allow you to differentiate your brand and position yourself for a successful 2021.