6 small business trends that will take us through 2021
Small businesses are used to being flexible, agile and ready for anything. It’s part of what makes them successful. But the changes thrust on the sector during 2020 were unprecedented and enormously challenging.
Last year brought with it a global pandemic and constant uncertainty. And while 2021 is rather more optimistic thanks to vaccination programmes being rolled out around the world, what trends will impact small businesses this year?
6 small business trends that will continue throughout 2021
- Consumer support for small businesses will continue to grow
In 2020, according to Google, searches on how best to support small businesses doubled compared with the year before. In March 2020, at the very start of the first lockdown, searches regarding supporting small businesses increased tenfold. And while they have dropped since then, they still remain consistently higher than 2019 search levels.
Similarly, on Pinterest, searches for supporting small businesses increased by 350% between February and March 2020. This clearly underlines the mood of the UK as lockdown hit – to shop local and support independent businesses wherever possible. This consumer support will undoubtedly continue to increase as the country finally moves out of lockdown.
- Flexible working will continue
Last year became the biggest experiment in history in terms of working from home. Every business sector had to accommodate remote working, at least partly. Millions of people across the country are now fully entrenched in this way of working.
And it seems there are benefits to remote working for both employers and employees. A recent home working report suggests that people of all ages and abilities are more productive when they work at home. For employers, there are obvious cost saving benefits with far less office space necessary.
Small businesses will be considering their options as lockdowns are lifted. It’s likely that most will adapt to this new working model and invest in the tech necessary for it to be permanent. Others will formulate flexible working patterns that combine remote and in-office hours. Either way, it’s unlikely that small businesses will try to return to pre-pandemic work patterns.
There is also the added benefit for small business owners of being able to access a much wider talent pool. Employees who previously wouldn’t have been suitable due to distance will now be able to work remotely. Small businesses are likely to find that this mixed working model works best all round in the post-pandemic world.
- Consumer interest in plant-based products will continue to increase
From packaging to food, plant-based solutions are increasingly demanded by a consumer base no longer willing to compromise. In the food and beverage sector, the trends for plant-based ingredients and products based on gut health, steadily grew in 2020. This will continue throughout this year and beyond, with the global probiotics sector set to grow by more than 7% each year until 2026.
- Availability of small business advice will increase
Small businesses must get the advice, support and assistance they desperately need. The Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) released the State of Small Business Britain 2020 recently. The report emphasises the urgent need for the correct kind of advice and how it can make a difference to small businesses and improve their productivity.
The report also highlights the overly complex nature of the business support network in the UK and says that much more must be done to simplify for the small business sector. Small businesses are the backbone of the UK’s economy, and they’re facing an unpredictable time due to the pandemic. Government and private business support must ramp up throughout 2021 to help the sector get back on its feet and turn towards a brighter future.
4. Continued upturn in demand for natural products
Natural, sustainable and plant-based products are increasingly in demand across just about every sector. This is a particularly strong trend within the cosmetics and beauty industry. Even the biggest and most well-established brands are switching to ethical, sustainable ingredients to meet consumer demand.
According to Rebecca Saunders, the founder of Seekology, a platform that champions small beauty brands, the consumer base now fully expects naturally derived products to work as well as non-natural products. They are also expecting premium products from natural ingredients, which is a marked shift for a sector that used to be considered niche.
5. Small businesses will continue to be adaptable and flexible
The pandemic brought out the best in small businesses. So many have stepped up to the challenge of adapting business models and, in some cases, entire product lines. Cheeringly, 20% of SMEs say they are taking something positive from the 2020 experience, citing taking new opportunities as they present themselves as a successful strategy.
It’s likely that SMEs will also be better placed to land the investment they need as they adapt to new business models. For the long-term, there’s no doubt that small businesses will survive or die based on how innovative and flexible they are to sudden change.