Small Business

20 Small Business Trends Your Company Needs To Know in 2021

Laura Jones
person analysing business trends from laptop

2020 was a challenging year for many small businesses. Dealing with a global pandemic, changing restrictions, and new customer expectations all at once is not an easy feat. These difficulties made many small companies reassess their business strategy in order to move forward and prosper.

If you’re looking to grow your business even further in 2021, you’ll need to stay on top of the emerging business trends and news to stay ahead of the competition. We’ve put together our top list of 20 emerging small business trends you need to know about for your business in 2021.

1. Immense Growth in eCommerce Industry

As brick-and-mortar stores were forced to shut down due to mandates and restrictions put in place during Coronavirus, customers shifted to online shopping to fulfill all of their shopping needs. In fact, online spending grew more than 44% in 2020 alone, generating more than 860 billion dollars in online sales. 

As a small business, eCommerce is a great way to sell directly to your customers and increase your profit, regardless of the industry or services you provide. With the eCommerce industry only projected to continue growing, businesses need to create a way for customers to find and purchase their products through their websites in 2021.

2. Hiring Freelancers Instead of Full-Time Employees

In 2018, there were only 67.3 million workers in the freelance world. By 2020, this number grew to 77 million. The number of freelancers in the industry is only expected to grow even more as more employees want to continue working remotely or stray away from the typical 9-5 hours. 

Incorporating freelancers into your business allows companies to find the talent they need, when they need it, instead of having to pay for a full-time employee. Small businesses can get a wide variety of services through freelancers, from content writing and graphic design to marketing and virtual assistant help, all through freelancers.

3. Remote Work Is Rising

The cost for businesses to house employees in a typical office setting is increasing every year. If your employees can do their work from a laptop, it might be time to shift to a remote working culture. Not only is it appealing for business owners who want to cut back expenses on rent, utilities, and other business expenses, it’s even popular with employees too. In fact, 61% of employees even prefer remote work due to its flexibility and benefits. Offering this option to the employees in your business or looking into the potential savings might be ideal for small companies in 2021.

4. User Reviews Are Essential

With hundreds of services and products available through the online marketplace, small businesses have to find a way to stand out. One of the biggest trends in 2021 is focusing on user reviews. People trust what other people have to say and will look for reviews before committing to your company. Consider shifting some of your marketing efforts to pull in customer reviews from your customers by offering incentives like a coupon, gift card, or freebie for their honest reviews. Having multiple positive reviews on your website, Google Business, Yelp, or TripAdvisor can generate a ton of new business for your company.

5. Personalized Customer Service

Customers are expecting more from companies in terms of customer service and personalized experiences. They only want to see advertisements and product recommendations associated with their own preferences, which means generalized advertisements are not likely to work. Small businesses can give this experience to customers by using the data they receive from customers visiting their page, orders customers have made, or other interactions with the brand. Delivering a customized experience will not only increase profits but will help retain loyalty to your brand.

6. Mobile Employee Communication

Instead of focusing on long-drawn-out meetings, phone calls, or e-mails where most employees aren’t even paying attention, it’s time to start focusing on effectively communicating through mobile methods. 

Integrating mobile communication applications like Slack or Monday is a great way to keep everyone engaged while strengthening productivity. Various features on these online applications like announcements, updates, polls, and private chats offer multiple ways to stay in touch that capture your employee’s attention.

7. Sustainability Focus

Consumers are making an effort to spend their money on brands that support sustainability and create eco-friendly products. Small businesses are jumping on this trend by shifting to products and services that support sustainability. Efforts by small businesses may include:

  • Thoroughly analyzing your supply chain for inefficiencies or waste
  • Making efforts to use sustainable materials in packaging, materials, and shipping
  • Reducing plastic usage
  • Supporting local suppliers to save energy

8. Capturing Self-Declared Data

Years ago, companies used to capture third-party data by purchasing it from an external source. However, this came with many issues because the data wasn’t always accurate and only reported on particular details about your audience, limiting how much helpful information you could find from your data. Instead, self-declared data has become very popular. Self-declared data is known as when a customer intentionally shares information with a brand, such as their preferences, dislikes, and demographics. This data helps brands create strong customer personas, build lasting customer experiences or relationships and predict future trends. 

9. No-Contact Payments

Due to Coronavirus and the work to mitigate the spread of germs, the way that customers like to pay for services and products has changed. Instead of paying with cash, customers now prefer to pay with alternative methods such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo, and Paypal. The contactless payment technology makes your services or products more accessible to potential customers while allowing both customers and employees to stay safe.

10. Mobile-First Websites

Did you know that 61% of visits to websites in 2020 were on mobile devices? Mobile phone usage keeps increasing every single year, making it one of the most popular ways for customers to connect with the businesses they love. Small companies are capitalizing on this trend by ensuring their websites are built with mobile-first technology. Mobile-first websites are built for mobile users while still being able to adapt to Desktops, iPads, tablets, or any other viewing device. Their adaptable nature ensures that every customer has a high-quality experience on your website, increasing sales and customer retention.

11. Capitalize on Digital Marketing

Small businesses need to work hard to stand out from their competitors, especially big-box retailers, who have entire marketing teams at their disposal. The way small businesses capitalize on digital marketing opportunities can make or break their success. Digital marketing includes using tactics like search engine optimization (SEO), social media, Google advertisements, or any other online marketing outlet to help your company stand out to consumers. When using digital marketing strategies the right way, your products or services are matched with the customers who need them by using the proper platforms to find your ideal audience.

12. Utilizing CRM Systems

Using CRM systems will help your business boost productivity, save your organization time and energy, and increase efficiency. Small businesses typically struggle with doing multiple roles simultaneously due to the smaller staff and capacity restraints. CRM systems help companies streamline many processes such as offering customer support, managing inventory, ordering stock, automating follow-ups or reminders, integrating chatbots, and more. All of these processes can help you deliver high-level customer service without having to hire a ton of extra support or staff.

13. Focusing on Employee Retention

Employees are expecting more from the companies they work for in 2021. Instead of working for one company their entire lives, employees are now working an average of 12 different jobs during their lifetime. In order for companies to retain talent, they need to keep their employees happy and feeling valued. This does not necessarily mean offering constant promotions or money. Employees are now expecting more from the company culture and values, such as no dress code, pet-friendly workspaces, flexible remote working policies, and generous time off.

14. Migrating to 5G networks

Speed is everything to online customers. They want faster load and download times, so optimizing the fastest networks available can create unique business opportunities and ways to stand out from your competition. 5G networks increase the download speed of 1 Gbps, which is a complete game-changer for businesses. Companies that are quick to optimize 5G networks will see the most return on investment because they’ll be able to integrate 3D, VR, and AR more effectively than others in their industry.

15. Authenticity is Essential to Branding

Customers aren’t attracted to big corporations with a faceless brand name. Instead, customers now want to connect with companies who use real people, share intimate stories, and create a connection with their audience. In 2021, we’ll see many companies shifting towards creating a voice with their branding, showcasing their style and brand in an authentic way. Customers will choose to spend money with companies they feel connected to instead of corporate entities. 

16. Voice Search is Increasing

In the last few years, many smart speakers, like Alexa and Google home, have seen a tremendous increase in popularity. In fact, in 2020, more than a third of web browsing history was through voice activation, and this number is only set to increase. It’s easier for people on the go or juggling multiple tasks at once to search using voice recognition. Due to the increase in popularity, voice search provides an excellent platform for small businesses to showcase their voice technology online. By adapting to voice technology, you can stand out among your competitors or others in your industry.

17. Gen Z Enters the Buying Market

Generation Z became the largest generation in America in 2020, passing the Millennials by more than 4 million people. The newest generation brings along some unique challenges for small businesses. Gen Z cares about personalization, quick support from businesses, along with green and social justice initiatives taken by companies. This generation is value-driven and wants a flexible work environment. Catering to the Gen Z customer and employee will be essential if businesses want to continue thriving.

18. Influencer Marketing Rises in Demand

Customers are becoming more desensitized to the constant advertisements and commercials they see every day. It’s not surprising since the average person is now encountering between 6,000 to 10,000 advertisements every single day. Customers aren’t trusting television advertisements. Instead, they’re relying on the recommendations and suggestions of their favorite influencers. This new opportunity allows businesses to find an influencer they can partner with to help increase their business reach. Not only is this way less expensive than hiring a celebrity or movie star, but it lets your company speak directly with your target audience.

19. Social Responsibility

Injustice and social justice were a big topic of discussion in 2020. This conversation has continued to be a meaningful topic during the new year. During this time, customers have turned to businesses to see what they are doing to support change for the better and how they use their influence for good. This shift in expectations has pushed companies to create policies and procedures to protect their employees and customers. Continuing to have these meaningful conversations with customers, your community, and business leaders will be important moving into 2021.

20. Virtual Shopping Experiences

As more customers turn to online shopping instead of heading to a physical store, using augmented reality is an easy way to help increase your sales. It allows customers to try out your products without having to purchase them first. This is especially important for companies that sell home improvement products, clothing, or any other tangible product. When customers can see how your products fit into their lifestyle or home, they’re likely to be more engaged and purchase your products.

Grow Your Small Business In 2021

2020 created a new wave of customer expectation and adaptation to the latest technology due to the impact of the pandemic. As a small business owner, it’s essential to stay on top of the current trends in your industry to make sure you always have a competitive edge and adapt to changing customer expectations. From integrating mobile technology to contactless payments, there are tons of new small business trends your company can implement in 2021.