Written by: Sarah Henneman, Marketing & Project Manager, Summit Creative Marketing
So often we have heard the term “new normal” referring to the habits and rituals we have had to adapt to in the last year. 2020 has shifted our focus and made us aware of things that a year previously would have sounded absurd, but now feel very natural to most, like how clean our hands are, being careful of what we touch, and walking around with our faces covered. In the world of marketing and business, companies have had to quickly adapt to the changing customer landscape and adhere to their needs more than ever, almost coaxing customers back into a safe place to continue using and purchasing.
Adjusting to Life Online
One adjustment we have had to make that is not new, but has become such common practice now that we expect to see a lot more of it in 2021, is the virtual option for business operations. School classes, meetings, even viewing of homes, have all moved (somewhat) seamlessly to a virtual platform. The significance of which is staggering, as Zoom reports its daily usage jumped from 10 million meeting participants in December 2019 to a massive 300 million participants in April of 2020.
In the retail world, digital retail is expanding at an expediential rate, expected to reach 4 trillion users in 2020, bringing with it a wave of new virtual technology, customer service, advice and return policies. The companies that are hitting the virtual mark in these areas are seeing phenomenal growth, Amazon has seen net sales of almost 96.15 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2020 compared to 69.98 billion in the same quarter 2019. Walmart has seen consistent growth in its ecommerce sales from 2016 to 2020, with an unexpected additional 1.5% of ecommerce sales in 2020. A sign of the general acceptance of virtual shopping? Perhaps.
The worldwide pandemic may have widened the net of virtual and digital users based on pure necessity; however, we think some of it will stick around for the long run. Consumers have now gone through the trial phase of this ultimately virtual world, some of whom can’t wait to go back to going out, interacting and even hugging again, while for some this has been a welcomed change and they want to keep it that way! Convenience, time efficiency, not to mention an introvert’s dream come true, are some of the overarching drivers to keep this new norm a norm.
Here are a few ways we see virtual interactions in business sticking around in the future and becoming part of the new normal.
Online Customer Service
It is well known that keeping a customer is far less expensive than gaining a new one, an essential part of retention is great, no, amazing customer service. That used to be accompanied with a smile and a friendly personality, nowadays we see that moving to these key factors; efficiency, 24 hour support, accessibility, no hassle returns, refunds and replacement, all down online. With advancements in robotic customer service, chatbots, seamless integration between chat, email, text and phone, we see long-lasting relationships between satisfied customers and virtual staff and companies being forged.
Work-Life: Remote Work
Working from home may be the biggest 2021 business trend that we see. Whether working from home becomes a full-time option for everyone or parents and extroverts run back screaming to the office life that they missed so much, we see virtual meetings sticking around for the long haul. With borders remaining closed and the uncertainty of travel continuing longer into 2021 than we would like to believe, the option of virtual meetings has the potential to last much longer given its wonderful benefits of convenience, safety, cost efficiency compared to companies paying for trips. Deeper into the future we predict work life may be more of a hybrid of in-person and virtual interactions.
Collaborative apps like Trello, Monday and Slack, have made it possible for virtual teams to work together and interact with real-time effectiveness, not to mention a team spread across the globe, widening the net of quality staff. The benefits are looking really good on this one!
Seminars, or the virtual term webinars, thanks to the technological advances and tool integrations of Teams, Zoom and even WhatsApp for Business, have met a need that we can not turn away from. Not only is the convenience of joining a webinar from anywhere at any time just super convenient and helpful to participants’ schedule, but it also widens the net making it attractive to outsiders who may not have given it a second thought due to travel and distance. Find an interesting seminar being hosted in Greenland? No worries you can attend while in Chicago and save the time and money of getting there! Wonderful!
The Sales Pitch: Transitioning to Online Selling
It was often taught to salespeople that they need to look at the potential customer square in the eye, give a firm handshake to build that trust and bond to be able to close the deal. But for companies like Carvana, that sell a major purchase item, have a totally virtual car buying experience through 360 viewing, virtual tours, and meetings with a sales agent, the company has built itself on the premise of online car buying. Though the brick and mortar stores remain, for now, this is a great example of a company that traditionally would need to be an in-person purchase move to a virtual platform successfully, expect to see more of this in 2021 and beyond.
2021 Business Trends
Do you see any of the trends we mentioned above already happening in your company or industry? What other virtual trends can we expect to see in 2021?
Zoom statistic: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/zoom-statistics/
Global digital retail sales https://optinmonster.com/online-shopping-statistics/