Adapt to survive is the order of the day in the business world, but knowing how to maximise the benefits of any commercial change can be difficult. In today’s fast paced world, business owners need to keep tabs on new technology and consumer trends all whilst trying to balance their day to day operations.
With these challenges only compounded by the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses need all the help that they can get to weather the storm and use the global health crisis to pivot towards success. Being prepared pays and in that vein, here are some of the top trends to look out for as we speed towards 2021.
1. More of the same for employees
In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the Office for National Statistics released figures showing that 49.2% of the UK workforce were working from home. Although this sudden exodus from the office was made necessary by the health restrictions surrounding COVID-19, many companies have now found that the ‘new normal’ actually works quite well.
A survey conducted by the Institute of Directors (IoD) now shows that 74% of businesses now intend to sustain their increased level of home working. The reasons given for this were varied, but included a more effective approach to work, along with the increased speed with which businesses have now adapted to technological advancements. Whilst firms were already using VoIP software such as Zoom and Skype, the pandemic has shown them the value of remaining connected beyond the confines of the office whilst driving home the huge importance of reliable and robust cloud infrastructure.
Even as we move into 2021 and hopefully away from lockdown measures, more of the same can be expected when it comes to working patterns. For one thing, keeping employees away from the office could lead to reduced overhead costs for facilities without sacrificing on productivity. Provided that businesses can come to terms with an arm’s length workforce, it’s hard to imagine a future that doesn’t include more people working from home.
2. Virtual events will gather more interest
The need for social distancing has seen a great many events cancelled throughout 2020, from music festivals through to film awards ceremonies and other public gatherings. Even the London New Years’ Eve fireworks display has been put on ice to protect people against the transmission of coronavirus.
With an empty space where public entertainment used to be, virtual events have stepped up to the challenge and are set to grow in popularity well into 2021. Even credit card provider American Express are offering their customers the chance to exchange their cashback rewards for access to digital events such as an exclusive online take on the Coachella festival, sporting events and productions from the National Theatre.
It’s almost impossible to predict when it will be safe to once again welcome the public into large events spaces, but in the meantime it’s safe to say that virtual events will continue to fill the void.
3. 5G will hit the mainstream
It feels like 5G has been in the press for years, but 2021 could be the year that we finally see mainstream rollout. As businesses continue to work remotely and rely more heavily on videoconferencing and digital collaboration, the need for rapid and reliable connectivity becomes ever more present.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted some plans to deploy a UK 5G network, handset providers have continued to equip their latest flagship, mobile phone models, with network capabilities. All of this means that businesses could soon look forward to high-speed connections that work across the UK, making it easier to get online and work from wherever.
4. E-commerce will continue to grow and diversify
Online sales have been climbing for years, but the closure of shops due to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen an ecommerce boom. In March 2020 alone, the Office for National Statistics recorded that 22.3% of all sales were made online marking the best month for ecommerce to date.
It’s hard to know how shopping trends will evolve into 2021, but if one thing’s for certain it’s that no business can afford to be left behind. With people working from home and spending less time on our high streets, firms need to adapt to ensure that their sales channels reflect the current state of affairs rather than an idealised and nostalgic view of shopping. There’s no reason why you can’t keep your business earning from card payments by using a secure and dependable eCommerce payment gateway such as those provided by UTP Group. For businesses using a seamless payment solution, the potential of ecommerce knows no bounds and 2021 could be the year that your brand finds a truly global audience.
5. Marketing will evolve
Outside of overtly revenue-generating factors, 2021 is also likely to see a change in the way businesses approach advertising. Whilst traditional marketing is still a worthwhile endeavor, it’s important to move with the times and that means exploring digital solutions.
People are spending more time than ever online, and in many cases, this means checking news websites to find out about COVID alert levels and the like. In this sense, this next year could see businesses racing to get their hands on advertising space provided by the most credible news websites. Social media also looks set to become a new battleground as the major networks attempt to harness their user data in new and innovative ways. It’s now known that algorithms risk making social networks a vacuum for individual views, so how businesses will go about attracting new custom remains to be seen.
The outlook for 2021
2020 has been a difficult year, and many by-products of the pandemic have yet to surface. Whilst not all of these will be good, 2021 brings with it the promise of a fresh start and all businesses should start looking to the future for new opportunities – and maybe even a return to relative