Small Business Trends for 2021
It's no secret that small businesses are facing one of the toughest periods in decades. The COVID-19 pandemic and many other issues have made them change the way they approach operations, sales, and other aspects of their businesses. Today, they need to explore more strategies that can support customers who also have had to adapt. Today, we’ll talk about a couple of the trends we expect to see in IT in 2021.
In a world where you are literally taking a risk when you come into contact with someone, solutions that allow people to steer clear of one another tend to be popular. One method that has been used to expand an organization's reach has been ecommerce, but with the world as it is today, companies that traditionally didn’t embrace that strategy are now on board with it. If your organization would like to bring your business online, here are some tips:
- Use a powerful backend system - Setting up e-commerce may not be the monumental task you’ve built it up to be, but it is involved. The first thing you need to ask yourself is “do I have the right tools to make this work?” Just like any other job, if you don’t have the tools you need, you will be trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. You will need a secure platform that allows you to get the data that will allow you to make fast and reliable decisions. A backend platform that provides analytics, conversion stats, revenue management, customer retention strategies and more will put you in a position to succeed.
- Make a good impression - For companies with little to no online presence, one of the cardinal rules when moving your business online is to engage potential customers immediately. If your website looks dated, is clunky with broken links, and doesn’t provide the ease of use (for browsing, purchasing, and support) you are likely going to find e-commerce to be more of a headache than a benefit to your business.
- Make it mobile-friendly - A majority of the people that are going to be coming to, and interacting with, your website will be doing so from their smartphone. That’s just a fact. If your website and store doesn’t support mobile customers, your business will have a hard time finding its footing online.
- Use social media - Obviously, once you commit to an e-commerce business, you need to create engagement. Nowhere is that easier than on social media. With social media platforms you can do about anything as far as getting people to take notice of your business and the more that you invest time and resources into social media engagement, the more noticeable your brand and your business will be.
Ultimately, if your business is just beginning a new strategy because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or if yours is a new business, e-commerce is going to be extremely important for you for the foreseeable future.
Supporting Remote Work
For a decade you’d hear stories of companies attempting to go remote and then pulling the plug after a few months because of a lack of productivity, a lack of control, or both. As 2020 progressed, however, it became obvious to many business owners that their fear was unfounded. For the first couple of months after the stay-at-home orders came down, productivity seemed to be down significantly, but as the summer wore on it became evident that businesses could benefit from supporting remote workers.
Now that around two-fifths of the workforce works from home full-time, companies can rest assured that if you wanted to cut the brick and mortar costs, you could and still have a productive workforce. Studies keep reinforcing the notion that remote workers are happier and often more productive than people that are required to go to an office. In fact, 60 percent of knowledge workers now work remotely.
In order to make this work, businesses obviously needed to shift the way they think about their technology investments. They need to provide secure remote access to data and applications. As a result, many of them have decided to forgo their planned technology investments and utilize computing resources delivered through public cloud platforms. While this admittedly removes some of the control they have over their computing infrastructure, it does allow them to easily identify costs, while passing off some of the issues they would have attempting to set up remote access with platforms that have that functionality baked right into the solution.
With a vaccine on the horizon, it will be interesting to see how many people--who have proven they can be productive working remotely--are going to be given more flexibility to continue working from home. Only time will tell, but after changing strategies to support their remote team, it would be a safe bet that remote work will no longer have the stigma it did before the pandemic.
Prioritizing Data Privacy
This isn't so much of a technology trend, as it is a user trend. Public awareness of digital privacy rights is growing rapidly. More data privacy bills are up for vote in the US now than at any time before because it’s important for people to have control over the data they create; and, people create a lot of data. This is going to have a marked effect on the way businesses need to approach their data collection.
We already know just how devastating data breaches can be, but rarely does anyone mention the cost of collecting data. That’s because up until recently, people would give it over, effectively marginalizing the cost somewhat. With new privacy laws popping up pretty regularly, and, with users taking more care with their personal data, costs of data will rise. More regulations means more compliance and compliance is typically always costly.
For this reason, one of the biggest trends in data is that companies will actually collect less of it, on purpose. After all, storing a lot of data can get costly and can be a massive liability if it were to be ripped from your network. You will see organizations doing some very strategic assessments of what data they need to collect and what data they really don’t need and make the necessary adjustments to their analytics processes.
2021 will probably see some things return to normal, but it probably won’t be for a while. If you would like to consult with one of our IT experts about how your organization uses technology, and how we can help you design your business’ technology to prioritize profitability, reach out today at 607.433.2200.