Economies have scant seen as much turmoil and change as they did through 2020, and quick thinking, rapid adaptation and reactive working practices have arguably delivered business survival throughout the last 12 months. In every industry, across companies of all shapes and sizes, business has changed – and with the advent of the ‘new normal’ upon us, the year ahead will continue to see businesses need to sail a steady ship through tumultuous waters.
Of course, no financial commentators could quite have predicted the storm a global pandemic would bring to society, but as the world adjusts, there are some trends we can reasonably expect to see through business, and these make it clear that in order for survival, only those firms ready and willing to revise and re-adjust will make the grade.
Remote Working Will Stay For The Long Haul
Coronavirus restrictions saw millions of workers worldwide forced to adapt to remote working from their homes; whether they had done so before or not, and whether they had adequate provision to do so or not. Once initial issues were ironed out, many businesses embraced this change and saw a welcome decrease in expenditure on office premises and equipment as well as a widened talent pool due to increased flexibility in working practices. The likes of Twitter, Shopify and Upwork all announced permanent moves to remote working as a primary practice in 2020, and as more firms understand the cost-saving benefits, it is likely more will make the move in 2021.
Further Automation Will Be Adopted And Only Value Adding Activities Included
For a large number of businesses, 2020 involved a lot of reactivity to survive. In 2021, as business leaders are granted more time to reflect, it seems increasingly likely that processes, procedures and practices will be re-evaluated and overhauled. Anything that does not add sufficient value to the business must be changed and improved, and transformation made. Customer experience will be key to differentiating businesses from their competitors, and as a report into recent CX trends published by Feefo highlights, “brands in 2021 will have to experiment with protocol and enforce actions that bring solutions in the eyes of the customer”. For many consumer-focused businesses, their customer pools are shallower than before due to the public’s changing circumstances, so anything they can do to gain trust and loyalty will be crucial to retaining and gaining market share.
Finance Will Decentralise And Income Streams Will Diversify
Something small businesses were able to adapt to early on in the pandemic was diversification; and the ability to increase or change their income streams with different products, services and offerings. Any business who thrived through 2020 did so because of rapid action and agility. This financial creativity will continue in 2021 as well as with fiscal options for capital raising or business development. Capital markets continue to be unsteady so the year ahead will see an increase in crowdfunding, blockchain tech and other decentralised finance options.
More Focus Will Be Made On Sustainability
Businesses who found tumultuous trading conditions a shock to the system will continue to focus on their survival – which will result in an increased turn to sustainability focus. The mainstream considerations of how better a business can operate in the environment they function within will shift and take on a wider picture of all of the aspects that could affect them in the future. Those businesses that have remained behind-the-curve with corporate social responsibility will now to shed its image as a ‘nice-to-have’ policy and work toward tangible, positive change.
Government Business Support Will Change
Whilst some sectors have seen unprecedented level of support from government agencies – financial and otherwise – the sheer amount of lending and support packages are unsustainable in the long term. Governments and other relevant authorities will move to lessen and withdraw support as restrictions ease and economies stabilise, and so businesses will have to work to remove their reliance on such schemes. This changing climate of business support comes aside from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, new data laws and differing trade conditions, so it remains critical that businesses are able to access support as and when needed from a variety of parties. Banks and trade bodies will be expected to step up to the plate to offer further advice, but those operating outside of regulated industries may find their options limited.
Exactly what 2021 will bring has yet to be seen, and no doubt analysts will be more cautious than ever with their predictions for trends ahead. One thing does remain certain though, and that is that businesses need to remain agile, sharp and willing to adapt. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that ‘muddling through’ only works for so long; but genuine business change and innovation can ensure survival.