What will business look like in 2021?

Simple answer; no one knows for sure! However, if social distancing measures are kept in place, and people’s movement is reduced, we can see a clear argument for online shopping/e-commerce to become even more dominant over the coming months/years. Today, I wanted to map out some of my thoughts on what business will look like in 2021. 

Meetings & Offices 

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest news, you may have heard Google, Apple or Facebook’s approach for the rest of 2020. Work from home is the new norm. Big companies have taken a huge decision to keep as many people safe as possible and to help support those that have childcare to take care of. 

Of course, huge companies, with deep pockets will find this easier to put in to practice. Smaller businesses often rely on the personal touch, the face-to-face, meetings to help them close deals. But even small companies, that have managed to continue during this time of crisis, will have to acknowledge that working from home isn’t really an issue anymore. 

Maybe more and more companies will adopt WFH as a kind of option or maybe even a standard. Remember some truly spectacular companies embraced WFH a long time ago, and it hasn’t impeded their success. 

The likelihood is, we won’t be doing face-to-face meetings for some time. Something we all need to get used to and ready for. By now I’m sure you’re more than adept at jumping on Zoom calls, or Google Meet to catch up with colleagues, clients and even friends and family. 

Business travel for meetings has pretty much stopped altogether. The cost savings must be enormous. But gone are the days of easily jumping on a plane and travelling halfway across the world for meetings. Think the CFOs will be happy when they realise how many trips are perhaps not as necessary as once thought. The cost savings will be huge. 

So if these things play out on a longer scale, chances are we’ll be talking to our suppliers, clients and colleagues online more than ever, and we’ll be avoiding a mass congregation in the office. A real benefit of this will be the huge savings on time by not having to commute. 

Purchasing Decisions & Behaviours

Will client still be buying the same things, in the same ways, that they used to do once all of this has calmed down? Perhaps. But, as social distancing precautions make things a little tense for many, there is a likelihood to see a bigger shift towards online shopping. Don’t get me wrong, e-commerce is already a behemoth channel for many brands. But there is a sense of unease or tension going to a shop, having to queue outside and then having to keep your distance from other shoppers and pay behind some security glass. 

As M&S recently announced, over the last 2 months, they have seen significant changes in trends to what people are buying. This article, shopping may never be the same, says M&S gives some great insights. Whether it be the lack of suits or shirts for business attire, understandable given we’re all working from home. In their grocery side, where people are buying more fresh ingredients than ever before, guessing there’s more time to cook from scratch for a lot of people). It’s clear to see things are changing. 

What M&S are doing, is doubling down online. They purchased Ocado (for most of us we know that as a Waitrose brand, but it’s not). They will be able to offer more and more of their range through the Ocado online service, and they’re betting that’s going to be a bigger chunk of the market than their retail stores. 

What business will look like in 2021 for you? Have you thought about the possibility of your clients’ purchasing habits changing? Have you looked at what might change in their purchasing decisions? Think about it this way, is what you sell going to be essential, is it more luxury, and if so, how might people approach the buying decision differently with social distancing, and potentially a big recession coming our way. 

Retail vs Online in 2021

Right now, even if you have the cutest, most appealing and best-located boutique store, you’d be kidding yourself to not be considering, or already running, an online version of your store. 

For many of you reading this, you’re thinking, every retail store has an online/e-commerce store. You’d be wrong. Primark, for example, doesn’t have an e-commerce store. As a result, during these times, other brands have been able to quickly shift their focus. From little black dresses (LBDs) to pyjamas and comfy stay at home clothes. Primark, on the other hand, hasn’t made a single sale since all of this began. 

A lot of independent retail stores do have an online presence, but perhaps they haven’t really invested in it. Instead, it’s always been something they “have to have”, a bit like their social media profiles. They’re there, but they’re not a priority. It’s a shame, and I think as this situation has proved, things are starting to look very different. 

Right now, having an engaged and loyal customer base (email newsletter database) and audience (social media profiles) is an absolute game-changer. I’ve spoken with small business, retail and physical customer-facing, across Europe. Those with true fans and supporters have been asked to start selling gift vouchers so as the loyal customers can continue to support the business and find them again once all of this has changed. 

WOW, right? People asking to give you money in advance. Doesn’t happen very often. But when it does, it’s clear to see why. It’s thanks to having an engaged and real following that has been built up over time, with investment and value placed on building that community. 

What business will look like in 2021

No one knows for sure, especially not me. But it’s clear to see that change is happening. Everywhere we look, how we travel, where we go, what we do, how we shop. Everything. 

So as a business, we feel like it’s crucial to be as nimble as your organisation will allow you. Change, or evolution, is going to be necessary. As I said a couple of month’s ago, change is inevitable. Way too many businesses have already felt the impact of this crisis. But I fear the disruption from this will be felt for years to come. 

It’s time to refocus. Take a long hard look at your customer. What’s their experience been throughout this experience? What will have changed for them? What will change for everyone in the coming months/years? How will that impact the way you work going forward? 

Here are a couple of tips from me and the team here at Social INK: 

  • Communication is key! Remember to put the social back into social media, as we say. Now is the time to connect and communicate, with everyone. Clients, suppliers, colleagues, team members, everyone. 
  • Adapt, change, evolve! If you want to get through this and come out the other side, it’s time to accept that you’re going to need to change. Every day will be challenging. A lot of organisations don’t like change. But it’s going to be essential these coming months/years. 
  • Re-Work or create a new strategy! Your clients’ lives have changed. Their experiences, they’re buying decisions, it’s time to look at how that affects everyone in the buying cycle. You included. 
  • Support & Help! If you can help or support your clients in some way, be it paid or unpaid, you should be looking at all the options. This is one way to bring massive value. We’ve had free strategy sessions with more than 40 companies in the last 2 months. 

We’re trying something new (yep, that’s right, we’re following our own advice as laid out above). We want to help as many people as possible, in a way that massively impacts their business, but doesn’t empty their resources. 

As a result, we’ve created our Digital Marketing Sessions offering. The premise is simple. You can sign up for your first session completely free. If you find it useful and you want help going forward, you can purchase a pack of sessions to suit your needs. 

All sessions are 1-2-1, I’ll be hosting them at the beginning, to help everyone to identify the right strategy, plans and most importantly where to invest your time and efforts to maximise the effectiveness of your digital marketing. 

If you’d like to book in for your first free session, you can do so using the calendar below: 


Chris Bruno
Chris Bruno

Chris, founder and CEO of Social INK, has devised and consulted on more digital marketing and social media marketing campaigns than you can shake a stick at. He’s also got a bit of a thing for online advertising and social media advertising.