Top Small Business Trends for 2021

5 min read · 1 year ago


Running a small business is never easy. Yet, small businesses faced new challenges in 2020. The global pandemic forced business owners to pivot and adapt to frequent changes. Now, we’re all looking for a fresh start. This article shares the top small business trends to help you thrive in the new year.

Your business had to be particularly flexible in 2020. Your customers did too. One good thing to come out of 2020? Consumers recognized the role they play in helping local businesses thrive during COVID-19. According to Salesforce, “56% of consumers—and 62% of millennials, the largest consumer segment—say they spend more at small businesses now than they did last year.”

They plan to continue to shop small and local too. Per Salesforce, “sixty-seven percent of consumers—and 72% of millennials—say they’re committed to supporting small businesses more than they did pre-pandemic.”

So, looking forward, what does your business need to know? This article will round up several small business trends to know, includes small business opportunities around:


#1 Online Presence

The pandemic has prompted us to spend even more time online. This makes a professional internet presence even more important for a business. “An excellent digital footprint and visibility will be a must for the small business next year,” said Forbes Coaches Council member Izabela Lundberg.

A business website is your primary means of making an impression on customers in 2021. Consumers expect a seamless digital experience. In Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 68% of customers surveyed said COVID-19 raised their expectations for a business’s digital capabilities. Plus, all generations prioritize convenience over a brand.

Small businesses might take action around these findings by:

  • Developing an app
  • Creating a self-service account portal
  • Adding a customer service chatbot
  • Allowing online scheduling

Find out about Top Business Website Design Trends for 2021.



#2 Customer Connection

This is likely to be on lists of small business trends to watch for years to come. We’ve been saying for decades already, “The customer is king.” Yet, how will businesses keep connected to their customers in 2021?

Local network. Think of the Salesforce data above. People want to support small and local. That means the business needs to get out and spread the word. You want to encourage your existing customers to share their experiences with their friends and family.

The small business also needs to encourage customer reviews. Amid the pandemic, people are doing more buying research online. Positive customer reviews provide a local company with greater credibility and go a long way to sway decisions.

In communicating with customers and prospects, don’t overlook the importance of empathy. There has been a lot of stress and uncertainty. Build trust with customers by clearly sharing your company vision and values. 



#3 Ecommerce

Last year saw many businesses expediting their embrace of ecommerce. They might even have adapted to offer new products and services online. 

According to Shopify, ecommerce “sales are at an all-time high.” In fact, “At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 10 years of ecommerce growth happened in just 90 days.”

 Convenience and immediacy are top priorities. Fulfillment is an area of competitive differentiation. Plus, Shopify also suggested future retail success relies on “offline-online innovation that allows consumers to buy anywhere they shop.”

A significant advantage of the ecommerce shift? More data. Your business can use ecommerce insights to better understand your buyers, identify new product or service opportunities, and tweak marketing efforts.

Read our 7 Best Practices for Updating Your E-commerce Website.


#4 Contactless Payment

Contactless payment is sure to gain momentum too. Research released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) in August 2020 showed a significant increase in the “use of mobile payments and contactless credit or debit cards.”

“The pandemic has clearly driven consumers to change their behavior and retailers to accelerate their adoption of the technology,” stated NRF Vice President for Government Relations, Banking and Financial Services Leon Buck. ”Touchless payment methods are an important part of ensuring the health of retail workers and consumers.”

Some 67 percent of retailers surveyed now accept some form of no-touch payment. Over the first seven months of 2020, no-touch payments increased for 69 percent of the retailers surveyed. Still, the NRF cautioned touchless payment security requires continued attention. 

In addition to contactless payment, retailers were also pivoting to “allow customers to pay online or over the phone and then pick up merchandise in-store or at curbside, avoiding the need to touch card readers, sign for transactions, or enter a PIN.”

Consumers are adapting to the change too. Forrester reports that among first-time digital payment users, “67 percent said they were satisfied with the experience while 57 percent would likely continue once the pandemic has subsided.”



#5 Remote Work

Among the top business trends for 2021, this one may come as the least surprise. The call for continued social distancing affects how you do business and what your customers are looking for from your company. 

It can help to review hot, new business ideas for cultivating workplace culture while working remotely from a business perspective. You’ll also want to ensure you’re investing in the best technology to drive efficiency and secure your remote work. One survey found “54% of small business owners spent more on software solutions in 2020 than in 2019.” Further, 75% expect that spending to increase next year.

Consider also how you can better meet your customers’ needs who are also continuing to work, learn and live more virtually thanks to the coronavirus. Businesses that can shift to offer virtual services will continue to be in high demand in 2021.

Offering a do-it-yourself online course could be one good way to engage with customers and provide your business with a passive income source.


#6 Process Optimization

With restrictions continuing into 2021, businesses will remain focused on streamlining operations to optimize profit. As businesses recover, the perspective will remain conservative rather than growth-focused, suggested Diane Davidson of Clever Fox Advisory, an independent financial advisory firm. Her client companies are “focusing on their operations and taking stock of where they can optimize processes to save money.” 

That process optimization is being mainly achieved with digitization. Businesses are gaining agility and improving productivity by leveraging technology to automate routine or tedious tasks and consolidate systems in a single platform



Small businesses have the nimbleness needed to take these important small business trends in stride. Business in 2021 can build on what was learned throughout 2020. Taking the best business ideas from these trends and moving your company forward can help you survive and thrive this year and into the future.