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Top 6 Small Business Trends to Know for 2021

customer using a card to purchase online

Throughout 2020, many small businesses endured extraordinary hardships to keep their doors open. With all its challenges — the COVID-19 pandemic, the turmoil over nationwide social justice protests, an acrid and divisive election cycle, and numerous natural disasters — 2020 was one of the most difficult years for small businesses in history.

The year's disruptions led many business owners to adapt to the times and operate with impressive levels of flexibility. As 2021 gathers momentum, new small business trends are both anticipated and expected. Understanding these upcoming business trends can help small businesses prepare for new challenges while accepting that the employee and customer landscape has likely been permanently altered. Here are six small business trends to know about for 2021.

Notable small business trends in 2021

While the larger societal issues impacted the business environment in dramatic ways, six distinct business trends emerged in the workplace and among customers. These are:

  1. E-commerce will be a major focus
  2. Alternative payment options will be sought after
  3. Customer service will need to be personalized and empathetic
  4. Businesses with virtual and digital services will continue to be in demand
  5. Remote work will continue
  6. Consumers will support small businesses

1) E-Commerce will be a major focus

The pandemic has accelerated a shift from brick-and-mortar stores to digital shopping. From groceries to clothing and other consumer goods, shopping entirely online with the option of home delivery or curbside pickup gives customers convenience, efficiency, and increased peace of mind over personal safety. It turns out that many consumers like shopping digitally. To ensure success, small business owners should make sure they have a mobile-friendly, easy-to-navigate website with e-commerce options that allow consumers to quickly find what they want and purchase products or services from their mobile devices.

2) Alternative payment options will be sought after

When it comes to how people pay for goods and services, the pandemic has been both a disrupter and a catalyst in how money is exchanged. In 2020, businesses have moved toward alternative payment options (e.g., mobile pay applications, contactless credit and debit cards). Contactless payment options will not be going away in 2021. In fact, small business owners should be prepared for the demand to increase in the form of applications and cryptocurrencies. If they haven't already done so, it's critical that small businesses research contactless payment options.

3) Customer service will need to be personalized and empathetic

In many ways, the stresses of 2020 have been a shared experience across the nation and world. Many people have found the need for increased compassion and understanding as they cope with the anxiety caused by the events of 2020. When it comes to choosing where to spend their money, consumers are prioritizing an empathetic, personalized experience in addition to high-quality products and services. Empathy comes from understanding your customer and speaking directly to their needs and concerns, while being clear about your business's purpose and vision across all forms of operations and communications.

4) Businesses with virtual and digital services will continue to be in demand

Not only were many people sequestered at home for long periods of time during 2020, but offices, stores, gymnasiums, restaurants, and entertainment venues found they were required to either halt or dramatically reduce in-person service. As a result, demand for technology and virtual offerings soared. Businesses that were in particularly high demand included:

  • At-home fitness
  • Cyber security
  • Food delivery
  • Gaming
  • Remote work software
  • Virtual events

The demand for digital services and digital innovation is sure to continue even after the pandemic subsides. Small business owners and entrepreneurs stand to benefit by either pivoting their current practices, expanding their existing business, or launching a new one in one of these in-demand fields.

5) Remote work will continue

Within days, the pandemic transformed mobile workforces from being an emerging trend to a critical organizational practice that enabled businesses to keep their workers employed and revenue flowing. Employees have long expressed interest in working remotely and have proven to be happier and more productive when given the opportunity to do so. Many business owners have embraced this, and small- to medium-sized business owners may plan to continue offering long-term remote work options.. Business owners have much to gain from incorporating remote work options. Their ability to retain talent and compete for top talent in the future depends on it. How to incorporate and manage a remote workforce for the long-term continues to evolve, and will require small business owners to invest in additional technology and software solutions moving forward.

6) Consumers will support small businesses

Despite their resiliency and determination throughout the pandemic, many local businesses struggled to stay afloat. Customers noticed and made concerted efforts to channel their spending power to help support their local small businesses. To capitalize on this trend, small business owners should consider adapting a local marketing strategy and boosting their social media presence to communicate the business's purpose and values along with its high-quality service and products.


Small- and medium-sized businesses have demonstrated their fortitude and remarkable ability to adapt as necessary under extraordinary circumstances. Businesses looking to rebound after the pandemic should consider emerging small business trends that are likely to continue. To meet this imperative, small business owners may be able to outsource many of the duties that require valuable time and resources, such as HR administrationpayroll, and assistance with regulatory compliance. Having this type of assistance may help your business break free from survival mode and re-focus on a bright, healthy, and successful future.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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