It is no secret that 2020 was a rough year for everyone, especially small business owners. But if you have made it through the beginnings of COVID-19 then what is next? Start fresh in 2021 and make this year count. You have already done so well to get through the toughest slog for small business this century, so do not let anything stand in your way. Just as in 2020, business is turning more towards online rather than in-person shopping. This means that we will have to be especially savvy with social media marketing, online stores and website development. Below I have compiled the top 5 small business trends for this year, and what you should be looking at to expand your business.
#1- Expanding e-commerce
E-commerce has become a regular part of our small businesses since the first wave of COVID. This is one of the only industries that grew in 2020. As a small business, we need to think about expanding online so that we can reach more customers safely and prepare for new struggles that may come with the occurrence of COVID-19, especially as winter approaches.
This is by far a safer and easier option for many people these days. If you do not provide physical goods then think about what services you can allow clients to access online and replace your in-store options. You can supplement or replace them completely with services offered online.
It is important to sell products that your customers will appreciate that relate to your industry. You can expand your offers to helpful information in the way of e-books and reports made available on your social media or website. You could also consider an affiliate marketing program where if you do not stock your physical products you can advertise to others and earn a percentage of sales derived from your website.
A strong online presence is important as it helps to shield you from the drastic loss of business should we experience another lockdown, or ups and downs in the local economy. It also gives access to a much larger customer base.
#2- Online-Offline options
Along with the growth of e-commerce, it is beneficial to improve your online-offline options too! Continuing from 2020, we have seen a rise in these hybrid business models over the last year. This is of course referring to the option to purchase online and pick up in-store, such as the ‘click and collect’ that you see in many bigger retailers around the country. There is no reason that our small businesses can not offer the same type of service.
Restaurants were forced to change the way that they operate from dine-in to deliveries and pick up when COVID-19 hit, and online apps have certainly helped in this regard. These include Uber Eats, Menulog and Deliveroo. Other businesses can also take advantage of this and offer similar options. Even now that regular shopping is permitted, some customers have had their eyes opened to the convenience of online purchases and it is something that you should take full advantage of.
Very small businesses can handle many hybrid orders manually. This means that when a customer’s calls or orders online it is easy to arrange a convenient pick-up time. You can scale this up by making the process as automated as possible. Make this a visible option at the checkout on your website, add the information to your social media pages and inside your in-store locations.
#3- Focus on retaining existing customers
It is always important to retain customers, but this is especially true in these uncertain times. One way that this can be achieved is by signing customers up for ongoing products and services. This can be done in several ways.
The introduction of a loyalty program or memberships that deliver digital products. You can add a subscription service for your products, which are now available for anything from wine to hair care. You can offer ongoing personal or home services, this is a good option for businesses that provide services like landscaping or cleaning.
#4- Preparation for the unexpected
We all learned from last year that we must always be prepared for things to go wrong or unexpected events to occur that could affect business drastically. The best way to do this is to be flexible. Ready to change direction at a moments notice. No one can predict the future, so you need to rethink how you can play your cards in a situation where you may find yourself struggling. This is where online structures come in handy as even if you need to close your doors you can continue trading.
#5- Flexible employee policies
In 2020 it was a tough year for employees in a vast array of businesses. They were hit especially hard by shutdowns and reduced hours of operation at many stores. These events combined with the long standing trends such as increased offers of flexitime and the hiring of independent contractors through many businesses made it hard to maintain a good relationship with employees. Many were even switched from full-time to part-time or casual positions with reduced benefits.
Some ways that you can boost employee morale and confidence in your business is by offering remote work as much as possible. Rethink the benefits for employees that you are currently offering to make it easier and safer for them financially. Paid time off is very important. Flexible hours could also be beneficial. People are more likely to be juggling multiple jobs in this climate. Finally, you must keep an open line of communication so that they are comfortable approaching you if something is not working or you could improve.
With all of these current trends in mind, you are ready to jump into this crazy year and make it the best under COVID-19 restrictions. Be prepared for what is to come and you will find that your business will grow rather than take a hit as you may have last year. Time to make 2021 the best year yet for the growth and expansion of your possibilities!