Even if you’ve had your business plans for 2021 locked down for a while, it’s always helpful to know what ideas and technologies are doing the rounds and which coat-tails could be the most useful to ride on.

So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 list of small business trends I think will make a splash in the months to come:

1 The rise and rise of e-commerce

The Covid-19 pandemic speeded up the move from bricks and mortar stores to online shopping by around five years, while the e-commerce sector is expected to have grown by a total 20% last year, according to a report by IBM.

That presents a juicy opportunity to attract and engage a wider audience by exploring new ways of marketing, whether it’s via email, remarketing or social media, ensuring your resources are focused on the best ways to increase growth and stay one step ahead of rivals.

2) Explore the data

I’ve written before about the importance of data when it comes to keeping track of how a business is performing, but it’s going to take on a whole new meaning in 2021.

The virus brought into sharp relief how data analytics can help surprise and engage customers, yet around 80% of small businesses don’t do anything with that information.

There are lots of marketing tools for firms out there, Hubspot, Hootsuite and Kissmetrics to name but three. If you’re spoiled for choice or if it’s an area you feel you or your company aren’t as savvy as you’d like, it would be a good idea to seek out data literacy training. Then you can learn how to apply this crucial analysis to your marketing and business planning. Views are vanity, clicks are sanity after all!

3) From global to local

Another trend for the new year driven by the events of the last is the switch from global supply chains to local ones. The vulnerability of these global connections became painfully clear for some businesses as the shutdowns bit around the world, and it’s one area where it pays to keep a close eye on who the Jones’ are doing business with.

It’s worth finding out whether there are companies in your region that can reliably supply you with products or services, providing an alternative that not only supports your local community but could also enhance your reputation in the eyes of customers.

4) Business model innovation

Hundreds of thousands of small business owners and entrepreneurs – myself included – responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by pivoting to offer new services or products, changing their business models on a dime.

It’s a trend that’s set to continue into 2021 as companies seek to get the best out of new opportunities. Having an innovative, flexible business model, backed by a simple website that puts your product front and centre, will enable a firm to be nimble and make changes quickly and effectively.

5) Digital technology

Around 77% of small business owners use digital technology to shop online, according to a study by Deloitte, but 40% think digital tools are irrelevant to their business and 41% think they’re too expensive to implement. They may well change their minds come 2021.

Altering the perceptions of digital technology and understanding what benefits it can bring to a small business can be challenging but the results for some can definitely be worth it. As well as making the most of your valuable time and resources, increasing efficiency and reducing cost, digitisation could also open up previously unexplored avenues for your business.

6) Sustainability

Climate change has been in the news for several years now, but probably hasn’t made it to some entrepreneurs’ radar. Brace yourselves for that to change in 2021. Growing numbers of consumers are looking for environmentally friendly products and services, and companies are being increasingly pushed to prove their green credentials.

Putting your business at the forefront of this important trend by putting sustainability front and centre in your marketing could not only enhance your reputation among clients, it may also open up new opportunities as the world focuses on a green economic recovery.

7) Social media engagement

Any entrepreneur worth their salt understands the important role social media has to play in a business strategy. It’s a direct means of communication with customers and a great way to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing.

But 2021 is set to see a shift in social media marketing, as businesses present themselves in a more authentic manner. LinkedIn Stories could be a big driver of this trend, as it offers entrepreneurs and influencers a chance to show off the personalities behind their firms. Ready for your close-up?

8) Is the future cashless?

Another trend for the new year that accelerated during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic was the massive uptake of contactless and digital payment technologies. The UK is the world’s fifth near-cashless economy, according to Tech Tales, and it’s a bandwagon growing numbers of businesses across sectors are happy to jump on.

While going cashless might seem like a great idea, you need to find the right payment gateway tool to begin with – it needs to marry with your audience. Also, make sure you continue to offer flexible payment options for customers, some of whom may have never heard of PayPal or Apple Pay.

9) Embrace flexible talent

Small business owners are adept at wearing several hats, particularly in the early years of getting things up and running. But it’s worth remembering there’s a vast market of freelance professionals with valuable skills that can support you in a myriad of ways.

Tapping into the flexible talents of virtual assistants, graphic designers or copywriters on a regular or ad hoc basis will allow you to enhance your business without the drain of a fixed overhead, keeping you agile and productive. They’re relatively easy to find too, either by searching on LinkedIn or via portals such as redwigwam or Fiverr.

10) Ad spending rebounds

Many industry experts are predicting a return to advertising growth in 2021, driven by a boom in online media consumption, and it’s a golden opportunity for small business owners to get the most out of this captive audience.

Advertising on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn includes access to a slew of tools that can help quickly and easily measure ad performance. It’s invaluable to the growing numbers of small businesses who are increasing their reach through personalised, engaging social media content that includes an all-important call to action, whether it’s clicking a link or watching a short video.

Looking at Instagram alone, 81% of people use it to research goods and services, according to eMarketer, while two thirds said it helps build relationships with brands. Its advertising reach increased by 7.1% between July and September 2020, and who doesn’t want a slice of that pie?

So there you are – my top 10 business trends for small businesses in 2021. Contact me to find out how I can help incorporate them into your marketing strategies: https://www.agnesmarketing.co.uk/support/