Every female entrepreneur needs to reflect on what they’re offering their customers and how they will operate their business in 2021. Looking back at 2020, it was the year of evolution, not so much revolution as female entrepreneurs had to adapt to a new business reality. The pandemic completely transformed many industries in 2020, particularly the hospitality and events industry. The businesses that survived were the ones that reacted quickly and adapted to change.
Although female entrepreneurs have always had to think about the changing landscape in business, this will become even more important in 2021 as they need to continue to evolve and innovate.
Let’s look at the ten biggest business trends for 2021 everyone should prepare for.
1. Remote Work is Still Growing
2020 saw a steep increase in the number of remote workers, with 42% of the U.S. workforce currently working from home full time. According to a 2020 Stanford University report, “Many businesses have figured out how to run their companies successfully in this new paradigm, and because of this, the model will remain after COVID-19 and beyond.”
The majority of remote workers appreciate the flexibility of working from home provides even though remote work can be challenging coping with collaboration and communication.
Flexibility is top of the agenda as infrastructure and office space eat up costs. This appeals to women as they balance family and work commitments with a flexible work from home model.
2. Working Smarter with Technology
To survive, many female entrepreneurs were forced to digitize their operations and services in 2020. This is a trend expected to continue in 2021, and because of the work-from-anywhere trend, tech and culture are expected to remain at the forefront for women-owned businesses.
Female entrepreneurs need to continue to develop the skills and preferences for effective remote work, and adopt new technology to enable them to work smarter, not harder.
According to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, 68% of customers surveyed said they expect a seamless digital experience in 2021. According to the report, the majority of Millennials and Gen-Zers who were brought up in the digital age prioritize convenience over brand for 2021.
Since working 9-to-5 at the office is no longer the norm for many women, tech becomes the solution for remote workers in 2021. Apps make it easy for them to access documents securely in the cloud, send team messages, fill out forms, and checklists, keeping them productive any time throughout the day and night. Technology and video conferencing software like Zoom or Google Meet keep their employees connected. The right employee management software allows women in business to boost engagement, track time, and streamline onboarding. The upside is fewer costs, fewer manual errors, greater accuracy, and efficiency, leading to increased profitability.
3. Leveraging Data and Automation
Forbes predicts that an important business trend in 2021 will be automation. The shift towards technology that helps businesses become more efficient has led to more automated processes limiting human error, especially where humans no longer add value. We will see an increase in automation and online booking systems with chatbots taking over customer service inquiries. There has been quite a shift in this direction from warehouses, autonomous vehicles, and trucks supporting the supply chain.
Due to COVID, successful female entrepreneurs had to find a new approach to deliver service to customers who were walking into stores. This started the trend of delivering some of their services in digital form using augmented reality technology, virtual reality, and mixed reality. Entrepreneurs would use virtual avatars for women to “try” on make-up and clothes. This trend of “try before you buy” using virtual interfaces will continue into 2021 as women become more comfortable with buying online.
4. Go Local – Think Community
Leading into 2021 and the demise of many small businesses, consumers looked to support small businesses and local economic growth. Customers have shifted their priorities as they witnessed their favorite local establishments struggle or shut their doors in 2020. As a result, 59% of consumers surveyed in a Salesforce report state they would rather buy from a small business than a large corporation.
The 2020 Zeno Strength of Purpose study concludes that consumers are much more likely to recommend or buy from a business where they feel connected with their purpose, values, and business practices. This trend is expected to continue into 2021 because the businesses that did well during 2020 were those that empathized with communities by sharing human stories. By demonstrating empathy, it addressed consumer fears and needs; something women do very well. If a brand lacks empathy, purpose, and vision, today’s consumers will find it difficult to resonate with that brand.
With more people working remotely and the long term effects of the pandemic still uncertain, social platforms, websites, customer relationship management (CRM) systems are vital to keeping the community connected and for female-led businesses to maintain relationships.
5. Social Engagement
More than 77% of small businesses in the United States use social media in the sales, marketing, and customer service space. To remain relevant in 2021, businesses still need to connect with their customers using social platforms to maintain relevance with their customers. Coupled with a sense of purpose and community, in 2021, there will be a big push toward an authentic presence on social media that looks behind the scenes. We will see female entrepreneurs engaging influencers in their industry to drive conversations and engage with customers on an authentic level rather than social media being driven by bots and social media marketers.
Understanding the change in consumer behavior since the pandemic means consumers want to be seen, heard, and understood. The businesses that prioritize relationship-building with their customers and connect on a personal level are the ones most likely to thrive in 2021. Sending the same message to all customers won’t cut the mustard; personalization is the key. With more personalized messages on social media, this approach will lead female entrepreneurs to create deeper meaningful relationships, increase brand loyalty, lead to referral, and repeat business.
6. The Rise of Female Entrepreneurs
Women were the hardest hit when it came to losing their jobs in 2020; some due to layoffs, others needed to homeschool their children and care for the family. This is led to high growth in female entrepreneurs and likely to continue into 2021 as the job market continues to struggle.
The pandemic sparked an estimated 25% of corporate women to think about leaving the workforce, as the new reality did not align with their core values. They saw the toll corporate life was taking on their emotional, physical, and mental well-being. Female entrepreneurs are no longer sacrificing their needs and are unapologetically leading their businesses from who they are. Women starting businesses in 2021 will be using their sense of self to drive revenue streams that work for them.
7. Personalized Marketing and Customer Service
Despite the rise in bots and artificial intelligence, personal marketing and customer service still works better, and female entrepreneurs will take this concept through into 2021.
2021 will see the return of back to basics marketing and customer service to create a point of difference in an already crowded market place by rediscovering their unique voice. Consumers no longer want their social feeds and inboxes filled with generic marketing messages; they want to feel important and connected with who they do business with.
Providing customers with a personalized experience is the new way of conducting business to remain relevant. Customers are individuals with specific tastes and wants. Retargetting marketing campaigns with look-a-like products and services are at the forefront of a personalized marketing campaign. Why this is changing in 2021 is that previous campaigns were synonymous with copy and paste. While this approach uses once-proven sales and marketing messaging saves time, they now all read the same, whereby consumers simply gloss over the copy with no results. Consumers no longer read them, and neither do they buy.
Recognizing there is no “one path” to success; female entrepreneurs acknowledge that a one size fits all marketing and communication strategy will not set them apart in 2021. Customized strategies are what will work best.
8. E-commerce Will Still Dominate
Statista reported that e-commerce would grow to about $5 trillion globally over the next four years. IBM’s 2020 U.S. Retail Index also reported that COVID-19 accelerated the shift to digital shopping by approximately five years. As a result, females business owners with brick-and-mortar stores will be moving their storefront businesses online in 2021. This opens the door for technology to work in the business as a support and processing mechanism as opposed to the human touch of personalization and customer support. Using cutting edge technology to capture sales, process, and ship orders become relevant in an e-commerce business.
As so many shoppers had to rely on online shopping during the pandemic, those retailers who leveraged technology to combine the digital and the physical were the ones that thrived. As more and more consumers get used to shopping online, this trend will continue beyond 2021 and long into the immediate future.
9. Freelancing and Gig Work Is Growing Too
According to Gallup, approximately 36% of workers in the United States are offering their services as a freelancer which trended with the rise of working from home. Freelancing and gig work is becoming popular because women like flexibility; if working in a full-time or part-time job, it augments their income while enjoying being their own boss.
Many female entrepreneurs who own and operate a small business usually can’t afford to hire full-time employees. Hiring a freelancer and offering gig work enables them to keep their costs down and pay only for the services they need when they need them.
10. The Focus Will Shift From Growth to Profitability
As female-owned businesses look to recover the loss of revenue in 2020, many business owners will take a hard look at their budgets for 2021. By taking a conservative approach to their financials in 2021, the focus will shift from growing their business to increasing their profit. This means looking at what tasks can be automated, the consolidation of software, finding services that can be outsourced more cheaply and renegotiating contracts, all with profitability in mind. This approach allows female entrepreneurs to take a step back and analyze what products and services are the most profitable and streamline their offerings accordingly.
2021 is shaping up to be a year where female entrepreneurs will thrive.