5 Business Trends to Look Out for in 2021
This article was written by BlogHer and sponsored by Philip Morris International.
It’s no secret that small businesses have been hit hard by this pandemic. One study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that women-owned small businesses suffered a 25% drop in active business revenue, and Black and Latinx owned businesses a 26% drop and a 19% drop respectively as a result of stay-at-home orders. Many of these beloved restaurants and shops were already in precarious positions before the pandemic began, but with little respite from the slow of sales and little to no financial aid, some have had to close their doors forever, while others are struggling to keep their doors open. As winter arrives and temperatures drop, outdoor dining and other distancing precautions will become less pleasant. With so much uncertainty hanging in the air, it’s best to remain informed and hopeful.
Though 2021 has yet to arrive, it already feels like a sigh of relief. As for what creators and small business owners can expect, the forecast is reassuring. Marian Salzman, leading global trend spotter and SVP of Global Communications for Philip Morris International, released her highly-anticipated 2020 “Zoomsday” trend report. From the continued rise of localism to redefining how we spend our time, her predictions feel spot-on, even though they technically haven’t happened yet. Read on to learn what the globally-recognized changemaker says is on the horizon, and be sure to check out her full Zoomsday Predictions report, too.
1. Zooming In (and Out)
For Marian, “zooming” is not (necessarily) a reference to everyone’s go-to video chat platform, but rather about shifting our collective perspective. We’ve zoomed in on the idea of localism, with even gigantic corporations encouraging consumers to shop local. While the localism trend is not necessarily new, it has clearly evolved. As Marian says, “we can expect to see more community-wide efforts as people and companies join forces to help each other through the financial crisis.” Community has become precious, and as a collective, we’ve become much more committed to uplifting and celebrating it in all forms.
We’ve “zoomed out” in the sense that we’re seeing the masses become more intensely attuned to our changing environment, systemic injustices, and the role we all can play in being the change we wish to see in the world.
If you’re a small business owner, call upon your community for support. If the out-pouring of local love and the many community-oriented initiatives cited in Marian’s trend report are any indication, your call to action might give you the Q4 boost you’ve been hoping for after a rough year.
2. Scrambling Time and Space
The impact of burn-out and a rigid, five day work week on our collective mental health is more apparent than ever. This year taught us that flexibility and forgiveness are absolute necessities in the workplace, especially for those forced to redefine boundaries while working from home. According to Marian’s report, we can expect to see more companies enacting policies that evolve beyond the outdated parameters related to time and place. Specifically, she suggests we may soon be looking at the implementation of a four-day workweek, and (don’t freak out) experimentation with a possible 24/7 workweek.
As scary as a 24/7 workweek sounds on paper, it might just be the solace those of us working from home have been waiting for. It refers to employees setting their own agendas and working hours outside of the classic 9-5, allowing you to work when it works for you. This new system could be hugely beneficial in avoiding aforementioned mental burn-out, improve overall mental health, and not to mention, might mean a gamechanger for folks with small kids at home who find themselves without childcare.
3. Corporations as Change Agents
When it comes to financial relief, social change, and worker benefits, corporations have the drive and resources to enact change on a large scale. The pressure of the pandemic has proven that corporations and businesses, who rely on being in good standing with their consumers, will go the extra mile to use their resources for good. Marian’s trend report underscored this fact: “where some governments and public health institutions were accused of being slow to act and ineffective… businesses large and small stepped in (and up) to produce ventilators and personal protective equipment.”
Marian’s prediction? Our reliance on big businesses to intervene where our public institutions fail us will only continue. “Corporations are shaping up to be potentially our best hope for devising solutions to life-and-death issues such as climate change, pandemics, and the global healthcare crisis.”
4. Redefining What’s Essential
What seemed essential in 2019 may have morphed into luxury this year. Where will that put us in 2021? How will that list of must-haves continue to shift as the pandemic itself continues?
Marian suggests that our future priorities will center on the collective good and that if successful, our society will be ushering in a new era of not just surviving but thriving:
“The existential threat of the pandemic and the enforced downtime that so many have experienced has whetted an appetite for change and increased people’s willingness to challenge the status quo… disparities we were able to dismiss or ignore in “normal” times have risen to the surface, and more people are coalescing around the notion that society as we have created it is no longer working for many.”
So, what does this mean for businesses? Marian says to watch for the rise of cooperative business models, increased support for resource sharing, more-equitable taxation, and a long-awaited increase in diversity in businesses, entertainment, politics, and beyond.
5. A Return to We
Pre-pandemic, our society was largely focused on the individual, and social media certainly didn’t help. But now that get-togethers are mostly off the table, we’ve witnessed a renewed emphasis on community, collective support, and gravitation towards shared experiences and goals. Businesses are no exception.
Marian cites “new emphasis on togetherness via Zoom, Teams, and other platforms.” Additionally, she stresses that while working from home has its perks, many employees miss the camaraderie of the office and “in-person interactions of a shared physical space.” We’ll likely continue to witness large companies and small businesses alike making continued efforts to foster community both internally, among employees, and at a larger community level.
We’re grateful to Marian and her insights for helping us find some perspective and understanding in these difficult times when so many are grieving and suffering. It’s truly uplifting to hear that no matter what else 2020 throws at us in these last few weeks, the community mindset is here to stay.
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