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ANNOUNCEMENT: What we are doing during the COVID-19 Crisis

Small Business Trends 2021

Lennie Appelquist

The Year We Stayed Home

What We Learned and How it Will Change the Way We Do Business

2020 was the year we learned many new skills. How to homeschool our kids, how to bake bread, cook, make beer. We read a lot. Our computer skills improved. We learned how to “Zoom.” We learned that if you order something from Amazon on Saturday, there is a good chance you’d get the delivery on Sunday. These are the Small Business Trends of 2021 that we think will impact businesses across the country.

With the pandemic raging across the U.S., we learned how to cope with the darkest parts of this year, oftentimes, alone. We could talk about all of these things, but that’s not the purpose of this post.

2020, the year we stayed home, taught us how to work remotely.

At Cider House we’ve had some team members working remotely for over 10 years, so we figured that we could easily transition the whole team to remote work. We figured, “no big deal”, we already had many of the tools in place.

Well, not exactly. Disruption is disruption no matter how you slice it. We all had to learn new skills: time management, self-discipline, and life-work balance in a whole new way.

But now, after nearly a year of working from home, away from other team members, many businesses have seen the advantages and opportunities of remote work. In fact, it seems that many businesses that can, will continue to keep some or all of their team working remotely.

If you’re a small business and you can use freelancers and remote workers there are several ways to keep the work environment professional even if everyone is not working in the same room.

It has become far easier for remote teams to stay in touch with the help of communication platforms like Slack, Zoom, Google and others.

As a small agency that specializes in working with small businesses, especially community based “main street” businesses, we decided to share some of the insights we’ve learned over the last (almost) year, and make a few observations on some of the small business trends of 2021 that we think we’ll see more of in the coming year.

1. Businesses Will Continue to Evolve

When the entire world is disrupted, it forces change and adaptability, and the change has to happen fast. Being nimble matters. In the past year we have seen all sorts of businesses, from restaurants to retailers offer curbside pick up and delivery. We have seen some businesses completely change their business model to quickly adapt to a new world.

There are distilleries manufacturing hand sanitizer (some got dinged by unknown fees), The Mercedes Formula 1 team produced ventilators. Hotels have offered “work-from-home” day-rate rooms. Businesses this year have had to get creative and pivot to survive. The end result is that many merchants are taking a serious look at their business models and seeking ways to build resilience and flexibility into their operations.

For some, this means opening diverse new revenue streams. Restaurants, like Scopa, by celebrity chef Antonia Lafaso, started offering complete cook at home meal kits and groceries, bakeries started to sell bake-at-home kits with ingredients and recipes to keep customers happy during quarantine periods. A Utah events company started offering floral arrangements for delivery to help keep their team employed and generate revenue while conferences and other events shifted online.

2. Everything Simplified

It’s already happening. Conferences, meetings, social gatherings of all kinds have gotten smaller. And now that we are spending so much of our time working digitally and remotely, our patience for things that require a large time commitment (or any time commitment at all) is shrinking. We like the ease of Zoom meetings, Slack for quick check-ins and communication, 60-second Tic Toc videos, and overnight delivery from Amazon.

Even colors and styles are becoming simpler. We talked about this in our web design trends for 2021 post. Big bold headlines on webpages, muted colors, simpler navigation.

We feel that over the coming year and beyond, businesses will continue to streamline their operations. And employees will continue to move toward less complicated ways of doing their jobs.

3. Business Communication
Gets Personal

For the last year, we have been communicating with our colleagues, peers, and other business contacts from the friendly confines of our own homes. Bedrooms, dining rooms, kitchens have become our new offices. We have bad hair days, kids who need help with their homework, and pets that are thrilled that we are home all the time. And the best part? We have all of these while in meetings on Zoom. By inviting others into our homes with every new meeting, business has gotten much more personal and so have we.

Here’s our take. We are all in the same boat. After a year operating remotely, social distancing, and having sparse contact with people (generally speaking), we get it. We are all trying to navigate this new normal together. We are all learning together. All of us understand, that chances are that someone’s home-schooling child is going to get frustrated and is going to need some help. Zoom meeting be damned.

We’ll forgive this, the attention-craving pets (actually, we really enjoy those), and any other minor interruptions that might occur.

We are getting used to this and we think we will see this trend continue as the remote workforce keeps expanding

Business to business communication has become more intimate and personal. That should drive people’s desire to keep things more personal.

4. Let’s get local

Local businesses, you know the ones, they’re the ones on “main street” that make big differences in their communities have always been a focus for the team here at Cider House. These are the businesses we love to work with. They matter. They’re our friends.

2020 gave us the opportunity to come together as communities and support our local economies. It didn’t just become cool, it became necessary. Shopping locally really does help our local economies. In fact, according to mass.gov, “For every $100 you spend at local businesses, $68 will stay in the community.”

According to a 2019 Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report, 59% of consumers surveyed would rather buy from small businesses than large corporations. Consumers have the power to shift their local economies. This report is pre-pandemic, which means that the numbers are probably even greater now.

In 2020, communities saw dozens of their favorite local businesses struggle to survive and some that had to close their doors. According to a survey by ZypMedia, consumers want to support their local economy by supporting local businesses. A majority of consumers surveyed said they made efforts to buy locally and 68% of them said they will continue to make purchases at local businesses when the pandemic is over.

We believe that this trend will continue. As much as we love the ease of ordering from Amazon, we think that more and more of us will go out of our way to support the local businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities.

This is one of the most pro-active small business trends. By being a local player, ready to serve your community, you make it easier for your customers to decide to buy from you. When they buy local, everybody wins.

5. Customer reviews

Now that more and more consumers are spending a greater amount of time online, customer reviews will be key.

There is real power in customer reviews both for the consumer and the business. For the consumer, they get the benefit of reading reviews from people who have had experience with the product they’re looking to buy. And for businesses, positive reviews are social proof to the customer that what you’re selling is good.

Here just a few statistics:

  • About 95% of customers will read reviews before they make a purchase.
  • 93% of customers will read reviews of local businesses to determine their quality.
  • 72% of customers won’t take any buying action until they have read reviews.
  • And here is a great one: when a product gets five reviews the likelihood of someone buying increases by 270%!

It’s OK to ask your customers for reviews. In fact, don’t just ask them, send them links to the places that you would like to have them place their reviews, like Google, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, BBB, wherever most of your potential customers will see them.

6. Mobile-friendly websites

If you know us, you know that we design and build websites. We have been building mobile responsive websites for almost 10 years. In 2021, your website needs to be more than just mobile-ready, it needs to be mobile-friendly. In our web design trends of 2021 blog post we talked about “mobile-first, website development. This means that the focus starts on how mobile users will interact with the site. We do this before looking at how desktop users will navigate the same site.

In 2021, we are a society that lives on our mobile devices, whether it’s checking out social media or surfing the web, or placing our dinner orders at a local restaurant. We use our phones.

Now more than ever businesses, and especially those businesses serving your local communities, need to have super user-friendly mobile websites.

Having a mobile-ready website is probably one of the most important small business trends of the year. Businesses will need to put a greater emphasis on how their website works for a mobile visitor. Your customer will have no interest in resizing their mobile screen to read your menu or services content. And when they’re gone, they are probably gone for good.

How big a deal is the idea of Mobile-first? Google started switching to mobile-first indexing for all websites in September 2020.

7. Social Media

Social media was the comeback kid of 2020 when it comes to marketing. It makes sense, right? We had to stay apart, we couldn’t go out, couldn’t socialize, couldn’t travel to see family and friends, so we turned again to social media. These platforms helped keep us connected to our friends, family, and the businesses we love.

Love it or hate it, social media marketing is critical. If your business isn’t active on social media, you are not showing up in the places that your customers hang out. And if you’re not in front of your potential customers, your competitors will be.

We feel that 2021 will be a year when more businesses than ever start to understand the importance of social media. We think that more businesses than ever will be posting regular updates to their social media channels. And while all that content is great, we also think we’ll see many small businesses who have never advertised online, spending money on advertising on their social media channels this year for the very first time.

What's Next?

For small businesses across America, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years in history. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, small business owners have been resilient, pivoting, and adapting their business models to navigate continually changing conditions. While it isn’t going to be a walk in the park, we believe that there are many opportunities for small businesses to retool and reorganize their businesses.  This will make them more nimble, more digitally proficient, and help them play a bigger role in their local economies. By keeping an eye on these 7 small business trends for 2021 and others, you put yourself and your business in a better position to not just get through, but thrive during the coming year.

Are You Ready For 2021?

The Cider House digital team can make sure the year doesn't pass you by.

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