Date published 7th January 2021

Top 3 2020 Business Trends and What We Predict for 2021 

In 2020, our mentalities changed along with our habits, both as consumers and employees, so we have taken the time at the end of the year to reflect on the most profound business trends that have emerged – as well as those we see coming in 2021. 

1. How employees work 

Office jobs are no longer the norm for many companies who previously depended on employees physically coming in and sitting together in the same building. This change has had many positive outcomes, both for employers and workers, as the absence of long commutes and traditional workspaces have resulted in higher productivity for many. 

Remote working has been something companies have adapted to surprisingly quickly, however, this mode of working will require more investment and consideration if it is to become a permanent solution. Better IT, efficient collaboration tools and effective security solutions will all be needed if the shift to remote work is to be a success – some businesses may even be able to reallocate budget from physical office spaces into virtual working.  

As with the financial crisis in 2008, more people than ever have found themselves without full-time work, which has caused the gig economy to flourish with sites like TaskRabbit allowing people to pick up odd jobs. This may be particularly prevalent as companies recover and before they begin to employ people again, however, it has already altered the way in which we work to such an extent that a recent report suggests that, by 2027, gig workers will outnumber traditional employees. 

2. Building resilient business models 

Darwin taught us all that life is all about survival of the fittest – and that the fittest often doesn’t mean the strongest or the cleverest, but the ones able to best adapt to change. 2020 has proven that absolutely, with businesses pivoting and finding new revenue streams to keep them afloat. Breweries have started producing hand sanitiser, fashion brands have manufactured PPE and flights meant to transport tourists have instead been freighting cargo.  

Although all these responses were reactions to a crisis, they have highlighted something more important for the long-term survival of companies: a resilient business model with several diverse revenue streams. As physical gym subscriptions turn into online class purchases and restaurants offer grocery delivery services, thinking creatively about resilience will be something that remains crucial to businesses from now on. 

3. Welcome Gen Z 

Although millennials are still an important market, the demographic known as Gen Z (those born between 1995 and 2015) are making their presence known, both as consumers and new additions to the workforce. In fact, Gen Z as a market already has an incredible spending power of around $143 billion. 

So, how do they differ from their mature counterparts? Firstly, and most importantly, Gen Z has had the internet from birth. They are digital natives who grew up with screens, apps and smartphones – as LinkedIn puts it, “They grew up learning online etiquette in the same way that previous generations learned table manners”They expect a level of personalisation that brands must consider when designing UX, as a more generalised or traditional experience just won’t cut it.  

There is also a value shift; Gen Z wants to know “why”, not just “what”. They value passion, storytelling and community, and are often looking to make an impact. This has been reflected by brands who have aligned themselves with causes and movements in 2020, such as Ben & Jerry’s response to Black Lives Matter and Burger King’s choice to start promoting independent competitors over themselves. Both as consumers and employees, Gen Z are asking for real accountability and companies have started to take note. 

The year ahead

2020 was a year that taught companies that, although useful in many ways, projections and predictions can all be completely derailed on a global scale. Even so, businesses have learnt a lot from this year and there are a few lessons that are likely to be taken into 2021: 

  1. Customer service and customer convenience. This has always been a priority, but it only becomes more important as time goes on, as one recent survey demonstrates, with 96% of people saying they would leave for bad customer service. Convenience is also crucial, people want what they want now, and with fewer people able to physically go into shops, 2021 will be the year for investing in remote customer service and convenience 
  2. Working remotely. For some businesses, 2020 meant the end of the office; however, for most, the reality seems like it will be a mixture of both, a physical space in which to hold meetings and work sometimes, and a more flexible remote working policy 
  3. Automation and digitisation. When COVID-19 swept the globe, an incredible strain was placed on many companies that suddenly faced huge demand. The answer was hasty digitisation and automation, something that has impacted the job market and will need to be monitored to prevent fallout in for future employment. 2021 will potentially see the need to reskill and retrain employees to make sure the introduction of automation is balanced by new opportunities for workers 

In 2020, adaptation has been key, and one thing is for sure: it will continue to force innovation and push businesses to be creative for years to come. This year, the business world will undoubtedly face new and unique challenges, however, these are also likely to provide opportunities for organisations and companies throughout the world. 

Interested in learning more about business and the climate in which companies operate? Visit our BA (Hons) in Business Management page to find out more or contact us here for further information about our business courses.