Last year, COVID-19 turned the world upside down — and it hasn’t stopped yet.
When the pandemic first took hold, industries were forced to quickly pivot, giving rise to new ways of thinking, operating, and communicating. Some of these 2021 business trends are already triggering big changes, and may even transform the certain sectors permanently.
Here, six 2021 business trends that stem from the pandemic that range from the services businesses offer to how they operate.
E-commerce grows and grows.
“One of the biggest effects on businesses from the pandemic is the increase in online shopping’s popularity,” says Jim Fanara, a Marketing Manager at Yael Consulting. “Due to COVID-19, it was safer for people to shop for products online than in-person for the past year-and-a-half.” This has spurred some consumers to purchase products that they might not have considered buying online before, such as groceries, or else buying more items online, more frequently.
Overall, the e-commerce sector grew by 25% in 2020. Companies have invested in their e-commerce capabilities, using AI and chatbots to enhance customer service and offering innovative digital experiences, such as virtual fittings and live-stream shopping events.
Brick-and-mortar stores aren’t dead — they’re evolving. “Hybrid models such as buy online pickup in-store (BIOPIS) or curbside pickup will continue to meet the demands of customers and be part of the shopper experience,” says Carlos Castelán of The Navio Group, a management consulting firm. Those who shop at physical locations are likely to find contactless payment options at the checkout counter instead of the traditional cashier.
Restaurants have transitioned from physical menus to digital ones with the help of QR codes, which are now being used by half of U.S. restaurants. It’s expected that 11 million households in the U.S. alone will make payments using QR codes this year.
Technology helps diversify revenue streams.
Since for a time face-to-face service was not an option, companies had to use technology to reimagine nearly every aspect of their operations. What might have taken years to adopt was accelerated by the pandemic, according to a report from CBInsights. Nearly every sector was impacted, from manufacturing to healthcare.
Services that were primarily in-person activities are now more accessible than ever. For example, pre-pandemic, a yoga studio might have offered in-person classes. Today, however, that same studio might offer consumers the option to take a workout class in-person, stream it live, or follow along with an on-demand recording at a later time. This means a more diversified revenue stream for many businesses.
Virtual collaboration is here to stay.
Changes to the way we work continue to dominate 2021 business trends. During lockdowns, many employees worked primarily from home for a period of several months. As a result, tools that facilitate digital collaboration and project management — such as teleconferencing apps, productivity software, and even virtual reality programs — were adopted on an accelerated timeline, some becoming integrated into teams’ everyday work. Even as companies look to return to the workplace, offices of the future will likely employ the same digital technologies and tools used in the remote workspace, according to a report by Deloitte.
Employees lead a push for greater flexibility.
More than half (52%) of employees have expressed a desire for a more flexible work model than was previously the norm, according to McKinsey. Hybrid — in which teams split their week between the office and home — has become increasingly common in part because of employees’ strong preference. In fact, McKinsey also found that about 30% of employees say they are likely to look for a new position without that added flexibility, leading many companies to step up their retention efforts.
The office adapts to hybrid teams.
Now that employees are beginning to work both at home and in the office, re-opening the workplace doesn’t just mean getting the workforce back on the premises, but also rethinking its purpose and benefits. Offices are becoming more centered around fostering company culture, helping people collaborate, and encouraging team bonding — and being reimagined around these goals.