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The State of Business in 2021

A round-up of future business trends, consumer behaviour and preferences to help you stay future-focused.

In a volatile market, companies have to undergo constant monumental and dynamic changes to keep up with the competition. With the situation accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, future business trends are reliant on real-time consumer behaviour and preferences.

While the current landscape remains challenging, don’t be discouraged. Keep yourself updated with the latest goings-on and brace yourself for the state of business in 2021, in order to navigate the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ahead, we delve into possible business trends in 2021 and actionable plans for your business to remain relevant.

1. The key emerging industries

Source: Bloomberg, Frost and Sullivan Analysis

According to Bloomberg, Frost and Sullivan analysis, the top mature industries by 2020 include Pharma & Healthcare, Energy, Power and ICT. On the other hand, the top emerging industries by 2020 were predicted to be Cloud Computing, 3D Printing, Big Data and Virtual Commerce, with the latter deemed the industry with the most potential to grow.

Actionable step: Regardless of your industry, stay relevant and tailor your business to consumers by adopting analytics, targeting, as well as omnichannel marketing communications and support for your product or service. This will help you analyse their consumption patterns and better understand your target audience.

2. Contactless payment options

The pandemic has resulted in people being more wary about physical contact. Naturally for businesses, this translates to a shift to contactless payment options to limit physical contact and curb the virus. According to MasterCard, contactless payments were increasingly adopted by consumers and have seen a sharp 40% increase. The fear of contamination has led consumers to make use of options including tap-to-pay and mobile pay, over the traditional method of paying with a physical credit card.

Actionable step: Work with reliable merchants to introduce contactless payment as an option to your consumers.

3. Improved omnichannel experiences

More brands are bonding with their customers via omnichannel presence, personalisation and support. Today’s consumers observe a high standard and expect to receive a personalised experience as a unique individual with unique needs, regardless of the platform they choose. A research reveals that 72% of customers expect businesses to keep track of their purchase history to create a unique personalised relationship, instead of an anonymous one-time transaction. If this requirement is not met, the business may be met with a high customer churn. Omnichannel shoppers are also on the rise, those who shop from online platforms to offline stores and these are the customers who are likely to recommend your brand to friends and family, as compared to single-channel shoppers.

With growing consumer demands, a foreseeable business trend would be to provide real-time personalised experiences across the brand’s available channels.

Actionable step: Start small if you have yet to get a headstart on this. With the platforms you currently own, ensure consistency in your tone of voice so consumers know who they are talking to. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, make sure that this brand voice translates to your offline store as well.

4. Dominance of e-commerce and growth of social commerce

With a pandemic of this scale and the government urging people to stay indoors, it's natural that ecommerce growth is accelerated in the process. According to eMarketer, US e-commerce sales generated an estimated US$600 billion in 2020, accounting for 14.5% of total US retail sales. Comparatively, e-commerce in 2019 only saw US$600 billion in revenues.

eBay’s stock price soared by 55% and Amazon’s surged by 66% since the beginning of 2020.

Closer to home, Singapore -- one of South East Asia’s fastest growing e-commerce markets -- is predicted to reach almost S$10 billion (US$10 billion) in e-commerce sales for the year 2020 alone.

Social platforms have also grown as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, with more people adopting the use of social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, in turn rendering these avenues an effective means for social marketing. A fashion purchase survey revealed that 55% of Gen Zs made a fashion purchase after being inspired by browsing social media. 50.6% of Millennials, 8.1% of Gen X, and 27.5% of baby boomers also followed this consumption pattern, a trend likely to continue even in a post-COVID era.

Actionable step: Hop on the digital bandwagon if you have yet to do so. For companies who already have a digital presence, think forward and explore if you could start an e-commerce platform to further drive your business.

5. Increased Key Opinion Leaders collaborations

Given the rise of social media usage, social platforms have increasingly become a part of our everyday lives.

Every platform boasts a handful of distinct social media users who have gained a following through their engaging content, and appear to be more relatable than celebrities. These are the Key Opinion Leaders (KOL), who have the ability to reach out to their followers, altering their brand perception and influencing purchasing decisions. This subtle form of promotion is well received by consumers, a strategy adopted by numerous brands. During the pandemic, social media allows people to stay in touch with the outside world and in the process, increased the influence of KOLs.

In fact, the sector has expanded so much that KOL marketing is not just limited to commercial brands, but also used in politics.

Actionable step: Conduct your own social listening and shortlist some KOLs who may be pertinent to your industry and possibly have brand affinity. If budget is an issue, consider if barter trade could work for you, a situation where you offer your product or service to a KOL in return for a shout-out on their platforms.

2021’s state of business is highly dependent on technology, one that will involve human capital and operational expansion. As the different fields continue to evolve, expect more changes in the days ahead, possibly even the emergence of new technology that will change customer experiences in a whole new way.

Give your business the edge to stay ahead with innovative, integrated solutions and dedicated services that you may require. Find out more: https://rhbgroup.com.sg/overview/business.

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