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Small Business Trends to Watch For [In 2021]

January 14, 2021 | Small business
Small business trends blog photo

2020 was an unpredictable year filled with many new small business trends and unexpected transitions. Small business owners were forced to pivot and adapt to new trends to stay resilient through all the changes. 

There are some predictable trends that arose such as working virtually… but what about other small business trends that aren’t as obvious such as empathy and SEO?

To help the success of your business, we have put together a list of the 9 small business trends to be aware of in the coming year – many of which you can get started on today. 

Take a close look and identify which of these small business trends need to be part of your business strategy for 2021 and beyond. 

 

1. Shopping small 

Shopping small and supporting local businesses has always been important, but the pandemic has shown it is necessary not only for the livelihood of business owners but also for local economic growth. 

In 2021 we will see small business trends of consumers changing their habits and choosing to shop from small businesses rather than large corporations.

Although it has been a challenge for the small business community, the national focus on shopping small is an opportunity for business owners to seize.

Our Senior Business Advisor Rich Kraus says “small businesses are our businesses.

Our neighbors own them, our family members work there and our memories are made there. We need to use them now IF we want them to be there for us later. Shop small it helps us all.”

While many people love Amazon and other online retailers, lots of people want to shop small — you’ve just gotta make it easy for them to do so!

Business owners can take advantage of this small business trend by increasing exposure to your community through marketing efforts and more online offerings. You can also increase social media presence through campaigns and local hashtags, or even virtual events. 

If you are looking for ways to support your local small businesses click here

 

2. Video 

If your business is not already incorporating video into your marketing strategy, now is the time to start.  And if you use video, it’s a great time to amp up the efforts.

Video marketing is as relevant as ever and is only growing in popularity. In fact, in their 2020 report, Wyzowl found that 89% of marketers said that video gives them great ROI, and 80% said that video has directly increased their sales. 

Our Multimedia specialist David Dobreski says “your video doesn’t have to have a high quality production in order to be effective.” Google found that viewers prioritize the relevancy of a video to their interests and passions far above production quality. 

The small business trend of video is not going away, it is better to embrace it. 

If you are equipped with a smartphone or a cheap camera, you can start creating effective videos right away. 

“Two of the most important aspects to dial in are audio and stabilization, without both of these dialed in your watch time will go down,” says David. Here is a good starting point for audio and stabilization, regardless of your setup.  

To get all of David’s tips in one place see his 5 Quick Tips on Creating Better Small Business Videos and Photos

 

3. Digital offerings – expanding virtual and digital footprint

This past year many small businesses were forced to extend their operations digitally to continue serving their customers. However, in 2021 the need for a solid digital footprint will be much higher. 

It is clear that having a strong presence online is no longer just an option – it is a necessity. This small business trend is here to stay.

Customers are now going to expect a strong online presence as well as one that is very streamlined and user friendly. 

Here are some tips on expanding your digital footprint:

 

E-Commerce

E-commerce has been constantly rising as a small business trend for years, however this past year has shown it is more important than ever.

Many small businesses were forced to move their operations online and focus on creating an e-commerce website to sell their products. 

In many cases creating an e-commerce store for your small business can help improve your sales and operations and add an additional revenue stream. 

Here are some initial things to consider for a successful e-commerce store: 

 

Mobile

Communication with employees, customers and more is now almost all mobile. Business owners must see how they can make their business operations mobile-friendly to keep up with the current small business trends.

Many customers now expect to have an easy and user friendly experience when interacting with businesses digitally, and especially from their phone. 

Here are some mobile trends that can help keep your customers and employees satisfied in 2021:

 

4. Marketing Small Business Trends

Although the importance of having a good marketing strategy has been present for years, it has become even more of a necessity since the pandemic hit. 

Small business owners were forced to strategize and come up with a marketing plan to stay top of mind with their customers. Click here for our sales + marketing guide to relief and recovery.

Here are a few of the small business trends that will be seen in 2021 for marketing:

 

Social Media Growth

Social media has been a marketing fundamental for many businesses.  During the pandemic it was an even more critical and powerful tool. 

Small businesses were able to quickly connect to their customers and inform them of any new updates or changes. Customers were able to reach out directly with questions and get timely responses.

Growing your social media presence is a must if you are looking to create more awareness and gain more customers.  

Our Marketing Specialist Lauren Layman says “social media remains a crucial avenue for small businesses to reach and build trust with their ideal audience. Consumers want authentic, thoughtful and snackable content, think less is more.”

Start by identifying where you have the greatest opportunities and from there you can create a game plan to boost your social media presence and generate leads.  

 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Out of many small business trends SEO is often looked over, however it is something all businesses with a website can be using to their advantage. 

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it essentially helps the right customers and audience find your website organically via an online search. 

It is a way of upleveling your website content to attract both humans and search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. 

SEO is driven by everything from keywords to Google reviews to customer-centric content that answers the questions your audience is asking.

Our Marketing Coordinator Capree Waters says, “navigating SEO for your small business website can seem intimidating. One place to start is focusing on Google reviews. Once you create a Google My Business account for your website you can interact with online reviews. Users today are more likely to trust and choose a business who has strong reviews.”

Our borrower, Wash My Dog, took advantage of reviews during the pandemic and saw a boost in business. Check out their story here.

If you’re a small business new to SEO, take some small steps to ensure your site is getting some traffic. 

Here are a few resources online for small businesses looking to begin SEO.

 

Growing an Online Community

One significant trend seen as a result of the pandemic was online communities. Whether it was weekly zoom sessions with family or friends, online book clubs, or even online yoga, people came together to stay connected to their communities. 

Many small businesses can benefit from growing an online community around their brand. You can establish yourself as an expert in your industry and gain the trust of your customers and audience. 

That’s what our borrower South L.A. Cafe did and they grew their community to 32,000 Instagram followers. They were able to put out an SOS to their audience to help them keep their doors open and sponsor boxes of groceries for neighbors in need. Click here to see their story. 

One way to take advantage of this small business trend is consistently sharing valuable content. This can be in the form of webinars, online presentations, creating short videos, live streaming on social media, or even a live Q&A session.

Creating a blog can help grow your community by sharing ideas and updates in your field. Each blog can be shared across social media to your audience and can attract others to join. 

If you have an email list or create a blog subscription forum, you can then create a newsletter for your small business. This can be used to keep your community up to date on any sales, new products, events or offers. 

 

5. Empathy

As many have experienced stress and weariness in these uncertain times, more people are looking for compassion and empathy. 

This goes for businesses as well. Customers are looking for more than just a business selling products and services – they want a brand that is caring and has a vision and a purpose. 

It is important to build trust with your customers to help create brand loyalty and connect with them on a deeper level. Customer connection will foster the success and future of your business.

To do this, you may have to assess your messaging to make sure you are presenting authenticity and compassion. 

Empathy can also be applied to your employees as well. Employee happiness is crucial to their productivity levels and boosts company morale. 

The trend of focusing on employee happiness and engagement is one that will stay as it is critical to retaining good people.

 

6. Remote work is here to stay

The pandemic has cemented remote work as not only viable but a productive, successful and often cost-effective way to work. 

Many small businesses shifted to part-time or full-time remote work due to local ordinances. 

Now, depending on your type of business, you may need to implement remote work offerings to compete for talented employees in 2021 and beyond. 

Many business owners are looking to invest into technology and software solutions that help employees work remotely. 

If your business is remote, remember to take the time to socialize virtually with your team though programs like Slack, Zoom or Google Meets. Company culture, which remains critical to success, can still be fostered remotely to help your staff feel supported.  

 

7. Be Adaptable: 3 Critical Small Business Trends

One of the important small business trends that will be prevalent in the new year is being adaptable. Small businesses need to be ready to pivot as needed.

We asked our small business experts for their voice on this, here is what they had to say:

 

Chuck Sinks, Director of Small Business Advising:

“For 2021 it is good to focus on the important things that move your business forward. Prioritize those activities that…make money, save money, save time.” 

 

Eddie Landeros, Senior Business Advisor:

“It is imperative for any small business to always be prepared for change as many factors in the industry and the market occur on an on-going basis.

The most recent COVID-19 crisis was a “life or death” test for many business owners and those that survived, are businesses that were conservative, accepted change and knew how to adapt and diversify in these challenging times.

Restaurants that have survived, as an example, have explored online and carry out/curbside pick up options, outdoor dining, government loans, food assistance programs etc. 

The key is to find ways to adapt and continue to operate and weather the storm. Those that will be left standing, will find a market full of opportunity with a lot less competition, unfortunately.” 

 

Ray Hivoral, Senior Business Advisor:

“Seek and exercise multiple channels to generate sales: online, takeout, curbside, outside eating, catering, re-engineer your menu items that are easy to cook, are highly profitable and easy to deliver, etc. Then, monitor what’s selling and what’s not. 

For financing, seeking out financing from small business loans (low-interest rates), refinancing, grants, etc. backed by the Federal government, state, county, city/municipality, or corporate groups offering loans and grants. Tune into the social media, news, and channels such as LinkedIn, word of mouth network, or search the internet for legitimate sources of small business loans (low interest) or grants.

Don’t get stuck driving in the same lane on the freeway, adapt to the traffic congestion, hazards of the road, etc, and change lanes…for Covid19 change lanes as best as you can.” – 

 

8. Eco friendly/ Socially responsible

Consumers of today are looking to support companies that make a stance or show support for social and environmental issues. 

Owners can play a part in these small business trends by improving work culture, donating to causes that matter to them, supporting causes on social media, and becoming more eco-friendly/sustainable within their own operations. 

Some of these moves may be cutting down on waste to be more sustainable or diversifying your workforce. If your business starts taking steps towards this, be sure to notify your audience on social media or post on your website. 

Many American small businesses are already on board with going green as there are tax credits and incentives on a state level for companies that use solar and renewable energy. 

It is important to remember that customers are worried about the environment and social issues, and your brand’s impact matters. Gain more customers in 2021 and start making changes now

 

9. Data: Small Business Trend to Understand Your Customer

There is a small business trend of becoming more aware of how data-driven strategies can help businesses adapt to consumers’ changed habits and other shifts due to the pandemic. 

Our SVP of Brand Marketing, Penina Goodman says, “Taking the time to get to know your customer’s needs and lifestyle, whether through surveys, phone interviews, social media campaigns, contests or focus groups, is time well spent.  You will likely uncover multiple opportunities, from process efficiencies to product improvements to more effective messaging.  Being customer-centric builds trust and attracts more business.  Make customer data your best friend.” 

Customers now expect a more personalized experience, so small business owners must understand their exact wants and needs. 

Using data to understand your customers can help you make well-informed decisions and create a better customer experience. It can also help you tailor your messaging so it reaches the right audience at the right time to generate more sales. 


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