Business growth consultant Daniel Groves offers Finance Monthly an insight into the business trends which will define post-pandemic life.
2021 is expected to be a year of change, with businesses around the world optimistic that the months ahead will be brighter than what 2020 dealt us. Many of the micro trends that companies thought would be temporary measures throughout the pandemic have become macro trends that are here to stay. These are a few of the trends that small businesses and entrepreneurs should be watchful of in order to maximise their efforts and enhance the likelihood of success.
Digitisation will become the focus
The way we shop and interact with businesses has changed and it’s unlikely that we’ll return to the old way of engaging with companies. Businesses have had to adapt swiftly and boost their online presence, including digitising their operations to meet the demand for online services. There’s been a huge shift to online shopping, forcing companies to rethink their strategies, owing to the desertion of the high street.
An online presence is vital in today’s digital world to compete, and companies need to have a strong digital footprint to engage with customers. But in the next normal, the focus will be on online experiences over in-person alternatives. The future of business will centre around digital offerings and solutions, from the increase in remote working tools to experiential shopping experiences that make use of artificial intelligence and data-driven innovation, including live streaming eCommerce.
Convenience is key
A study by PwC discovered that customers expect efficiency, convenience, and a welcoming service from businesses, and they would pay more for these elements. All of these features are achieved through a blend of technology and the human touch, so, companies need to focus on digitisation going forward to stay competitive. There are various ways that businesses will create a more convenient experience for customers, from subscription models and delivery to reducing friction with cashless payments. Contact-free payments, like QR codes, are a flexible way to accept contactless payments, creating a new kind of convenience for customers while also streamlining processes for staff. QR codes are faster and versatile for a host of industries, but they are also incredibly accessible and easy for customers to use, making them a frictionless solution.
Automation will increase
Automation will be a top business trend in the next normal, as businesses return to normal, albeit with a larger remote workforce than pre-pandemic. Many businesses are seeking efficiency, in many cases because their workforce has diminished as a result of the pandemic, which has meant a greater reliance on automation. Automation tools can help businesses build greater resilience and agility to adapt when situations call for it. Here are a few of our favourite automation tools for UK businesses:
- Hubspot – CRM system for small businesses
- Buffer – free social media scheduling platform
- Zapier – custom automated actions between essential applications
- Calendly – automatically book meeting slots depending on your availability
- Trello – free visual project management tool for teams
Automated interfaces such as chatbots are helping businesses to deal with customer service and are delivering a better customer experience. While simplicity was important during lockdowns, automation isn’t going anywhere now that lockdowns are lifting.
In fact, in the next normal, we’re likely to see more automation as businesses look to technology to streamline their operations, deliver more consistent services and manage workloads. From smart devices used in healthcare to monitor patient’s vitals to using it for administrative tasks, automation is here to stay.
A redefined workforce
The pandemic forced businesses to adapt to a distributed workforce, but many business owners have been pleased with the results and don’t want to return to the old way of doing things. There’s no doubt that there are challenges to working remotely, for some industries more than others, whether it’s data security, fostering effective engagement, or maintaining efficiency.
But the benefits have outweighed the difficulties to make remote working a staple feature of businesses going forward. Remote working offers productivity benefits, cost-saving measures, and a better work-life balance for staff, making it an appealing option for many companies who will be seeking solutions to the challenges they’ve faced over the past year to improve operations in the future.
The way businesses operate has changed indefinitely. SMEs can begin making tactical adjustments to adapt accordingly while also growing. There are many ways to adopt these trends going forward but staying flexible and prioritising digital transformation are at the heart of them all. Companies that can integrate digital practices into their existing processes with agility will increase their successes in the long term.