The New Normal? Business leaders aren’t sure exactly how to define that yet because a more fitting term would be The Latest Normal or the New for Now Normal.
Whatever the case, small and medium-sized businesses need to ride the crest of the trends into 2021 and beyond. While some business-customer relationships will revert to how they once were, some trends pushed into play by the pandemic may stick around. Here are some guidelines—subject to change, of course.
Trend #1: Kid-Glove Customer Experiences
“The most important thing any business owner could do right now is to create experiences that are easy, convenient, and stress-free for the customer,” says Toronto-based customer experience expert Marc Gordon, who advises businesses big and small. Marc regularly appears on TV, radio, and podcasts evangelizing the importance of creating customer experiences that inspire loyalty and grow sales.
“If a customer calls a business and orders something and says, ‘I’m coming in at two o’clock’ and the order is ready at two o’clock, in the right colour and the right size, that is a win. If a business can just do those things, not stress the customer out or create any kind of anxiety, that is a winning effort.”
Takeaway: Examine every step of the customer experience, and look for ways to make the buyer’s journey seamless.
Trend #2: Pre-Shopping Local Online
As government regulations have changed how we do business and how consumers shop, SMBs must be ready with a continued plan for online growth in their business. Statistics Canada reported 65-per-cent growth in online sales early in the pandemic, and it’s likely to stick.
“I think we're still going to like the idea of being able to purchase something online, or at least learn more about it, and then go get it,” Marc says.
“When you wanted to buy a blender, you'd go into the store, buy one and leave—or you'd order one on Amazon. But now, you can go to the local store’s website, order it online, or reserve it for curbside pickup. Not out of safety, but out of convenience. You whip out your phone, place the order, and when you stop in, the blender will already be waiting for you.”
“I think it's worth it for a lot of businesses to have a stronger presence online, even if they don't embrace the e-commerce concept,” Marc says. “Sometimes it's just about communicating better.”
Takeaway: Step up your e-commerce—and ensure your website looks great, especially on mobile.
Trend #3: Work-From-Home Angst
Despite reports about the work-from-home utopia and the death of the office as we know it, many Canadians are eager to get back to the workplace—an average of 40 per cent of employees, according to a Canadian HR Reporter survey of corporate decision-makers.
“At the beginning, everybody was really excited about Zoom calls,” Marc says. “‘Oh this is great! I can connect with all my staff and coworkers and managers and I don't even need to wear pants.’ And now months later, people are dreading all the virtual things they have to tolerate.”
Now that people can’t turn to co-workers in the cubicle next to them and say, ‘Hey, how's your day?’ or ‘Here's a problem I'm having,’ sharing ideas and advice and inspiration has become a chore. Businesses have to be aware that many employees miss their co-workers, are fed up with virtual collaboration, and they’re struggling with work-life balance.
Takeaway: Check the pulse of your staff before planning for long-term remote work and consider hybrid working models.
Trend #4: The Flood Gates Will Open
When things do open up fully, Marc predicts there’s going to be a blow-out like we’ve never seen. And SMBs in certain industries should start to prepare now. When restaurants, bars, conferences, sporting events, concerts, and leisure travel return, engagement, and enthusiasm will be sky-high.
“There will be early adopters and those that hang back, but overall, I don't think you'll be able to get a restaurant reservation for a very long time.”
Trend: Prepare for the eventual arrival of “normal”—and make sure you’re ready to meet pent-up demand.
Yellow Pages’ suite of digital marketing solutions can help your business prepare for what lies ahead in 2021. Whether you’re looking to boost your online presence, build an e-commerce website that sells, manage your online reviews, or find new customers through SEO and SEM, our certified experts can help you reach your goals. Get a free consultation today with one of our Media Account Consultants by calling 1-877-553-6883.