Last year provided a lot of hard lessons to learn. Stores were often temporarily closed or could only offer pick-up services, and some had to shut down completely. There was a great deal of uncertainty and uneasiness about what the future would hold.
As we head into 2021, small businesses continue to hold these hard lessons close to their hearts. That’s why, in today’s article, we're diving into some of the common trends happening in the area and across the country as the year unfolds.
How are small businesses keeping themselves afloat and looking forward to the year ahead? And what have they learned from the tough times that they plan to carry forward? These are the questions we will be answering today.
Trend #1: Going Digital
In the second quarter of 2020, e-commerce sales increased about 31.9% from the previous quarter, bringing total retail sales to $210 billion. As stores shut down, consumers were more interested in online shopping options, forcing many companies to begin opening e-commerce stores.
This isn’t a trend that will go away. Even as stores begin to reopen to maximum capacity, customers have enjoyed being able to place orders from the comfort of their homes. This is the future of business, even for small businesses who have traditionally relied on foot traffic and word of mouth for sales.
Social media alone is not enough these days. A website to house your content and products, combined with social media channels to promote and connect with customers, is the way to keep up in today’s competitive market.
Trend #2: Video Marketing
As businesses closed their doors and employees were required to start working from home, some people began craving face-to-face, human interaction. This is evidenced by the sharp rise in video marketing on social media and websites during 2020.
Instagram saw a 70% bump in live-streaming throughout the year as influencers and brands tried to connect with their communities. And 70% of events that had been scheduled were moved to a webinar format. Twitch, an online streaming platform, saw memberships go up by 31%.
Plus, the great thing about creating video in the social media era we're living in is that it doesn’t have to be extremely polished. Most brands today use smartphones to create content and upload with minimal edits. Viewers on social media tend to be more interested in what you’re saying and doing rather than the video quality.
There are also plenty of free animation and video editing programs available, like Moovly, if you want to go in that direction.
Trend #3: Mobile and Cashless Pay Options
Both the rise of e-commerce and the rise of the pandemic made individuals interested in online payment options. Not many people can or want to exchange paper dollars anymore. They want the convenience of being able to pay ahead of the transaction, or simply tap their card or phone while they're in a store.
Even before the rise of COVID-19, only about 4 in 10 people carried cash on a normal basis. This trend has been several years in the making. The pandemic sped the process up considerably, and now customers expect businesses to catch up to the trend.
There are many ways to implement cashless payment, most of which are extremely affordable. Also, consider offering things like gift certificates and loyalty cards that take cash out of the equation altogether. Your customers will thank you for adapting to fit their needs, and it will ultimately give your store a boost in security.
Trend #4: Mobile Employee Communication
Due to many work from home transitions, employees have been forced to communicate using tools like Slack, Rocket.Chat, Zoom, Skype, and others. In many ways, long email chains between employees trying to solve one issue have become a thing of the past.
As people have juggled convenience with work-life balance and continue to complete assignments from home, they have appreciated the fast-paced responses that come from instant messaging. However, they are able to keep their work separate by creating dedicated business and company channels to communicate in.
The work-from-home trend does not appear to be going away quickly. In fact, large companies like Adobe and Amazon have transitioned several of their teams to be in long-term remote positions. For industries in which this is a possibility, it has saved money on renting offices and any benefits that go along supporting commuters.
If you’ve been relying on text messages and emails to stay in touch with employees, consider setting up a mobile communication channel. It will make life easier not just for you, but for your employees as well.
There’s no doubt that the pandemic caused a lot of immediate changes to how businesses operate. But, we’re hoping that we can go through 2021 feeling a bit more prepared. Between the struggles, there was a lot of perseverance from small businesses in the Central New York area. We at Vervology find that inspiring and want those small businesses to know that they aren’t alone.
Our Team specializes in helping small businesses as they transition into the online space. We want to partner with you and help set up your e-commerce store, guide your video marketing, and make communication between employees a breeze. Get in touch for a free consultation.