Almost everyone has breathed a sigh of relief that the year 2020 has finally drawn to a close. For most of us, the COVID-10 pandemic had been a horrific experience and made us value many things that we had taken for granted. Businesses especially had a terrible time fighting to survive with customer demand at an all-time low in several sectors. However, like it or not, the coronavirus has changed our lives and both people and businesses have to adjust to the new normal. This requires businesses to understand what the latest trends mean for them and how to make the best of the situation and move ahead. Some of the trends and developments businesses should gear themselves up to face and deal with:
Remote Working Is A Reality:
Not so long ago the facility of remote working was a luxury that only a few employees could hope to enjoy as a special perk. However, with COVID-19 raging and making it impossible for offices to remain open by implementing social distancing norms even if the lock down was relaxed, companies had to very quickly adapt to operating with a remote workforce. With most businesses caught unprepared, it did take some time for the dust to settle, however, businesses, by and large, have reported a positive experience with remote working, observes Eric Dalius. Contrary to expectations, many companies have reported that remote working has resulted in a boost in their productivity and they were agreeable to continue in this fashion. However, many others, especially those in the manufacturing sector suffered as they were not in a position to implement remote working. Whatever be the experiences of individual companies, it is evident that all businesses are now forced to re-imagine their workplaces, the need to have offices, and provide support for employees working from home.
Data Is A Tangible Business Asset:
In recent years, all businesses have adopted technology on a massive scale in order to standardize processes, make better-informed decisions, and cater to customer demands. Accordingly, the volume of data being collected and analyzed has grown massively. It has also become very clear that it was the companies that had undertaken data-driven decision making are performing the best. High-speed internet has not only enabled businesses to operate from anywhere using cloud computing but also promises to transform our world as we know it with The Internet of Things making it possible for devices to talk to each other without any human intervention. With data becoming an invaluable and competitive asset, businesses need to be also more aware of cybersecurity issues and learn how to best protect their information systems from being infiltrated by mischievous or criminal elements. In the coming years, another big challenge for businesses will be the promotion of data literacy so that they are able to extract more valuable insights for decision-making from the data they are collecting. Of course, it follows that businesses will also need to ramp up their investment in equipment and systems for the efficient collection, processing, analysis, and storage of the data. It is also quite likely that most of this is likely to be outsourced to specialist companies.
Innovation In Business Models:
With 2020 having been one of the most tumultuous in years, businesses that have somehow weathered the storm will need to think hard on what value they are delivering to customers and how they will operate. The majority of businesses in sectors like hospitality and travel were seriously affected due to the pandemic and needed to completely transform themselves to remain relevant to customers. Businesses that managed to quickly adapt themselves to the changing environment are thriving now. For example, dine-in restaurants faced with the lack of customers quickly realized that the action had now shifted to the home and geared themselves up to take-away operations or enabled home delivery with the assistance of home delivery partners. While businesses have always had the need to spot market shift and to reinvent themselves periodically, 2021 promises to be a year that will need more businesses to innovate their business models.
Technology And Automation:
Business automation will be another top business trend this year and beyond, says Eric Dalius. More than ever, businesses will be taking a hard look at their processes to find out how they can replace people who are not adding value with business automation products. We have already seen quite a few shifts in sectors like supply chain management, warehousing, inventory control, autonomous vehicles, drones, not to speak of the ubiquitous chat-bots that take care of customer queries. In the current year, we are likely to see more automation, especially in white-collar job profiles with routine tasks being taken over by computers and robots with humans stepping in to offer specialized intervention, whenever required.
While websites and e-commerce platforms will continue to fulfill their purposes, however, social media will take over as the number one channel for increasing brand awareness and driving customer engagement. 2021 is also expected to be a year that will witness a bigger push by businesses and brands to have a more authentic presence on social networks. The content will be less polished and curated with an accent on candid behind-the-scenes videos and community engagement. Influencer marketing will assume more importance as brands will find it increasingly difficult to acquire followers in an organic manner, however, more than mega-influencers with million-dollar-plus price tags, more brands will be looking to collaborate with micro-influencers with a higher rate of engagement and credibility.
The pandemic has made it amply clear that businesses must learn to be nimble and flexible so that they can adapt quickly to the changed circumstances. Conventional processes for raising finance will give way to decentralized methods like crowd funding while blockchain technology, virtual reality, augmented reality will make a difference in how businesses interface with their customers. With many businesses forced to think and act locally due to the pandemic, local marketing has been rediscovered to a great extent. With more supply chain disruption expected due to increasing political tension between China and the rest of the world as well as Brexit, businesses are expected to find more merit in local manufacturing and selling.