So long, 2020 and thanks for the memories. While we gleefully bid the year adieu, we can also thank 2020 for important lessons learned, namely resilience in times of challenge.
The COVID-19 pandemic has unequivocally created worldwide impact from the largest multimillion operations to the smallest micro businesses. Despite the hardships faced by many small businesses, they continued to make giving back an essential part of their mission, finding creative ways to engage their communities, pivot their production, adapt their business models to navigate continually changing conditions, and step up to ensure their communities were supported.
With the year coming to an end, small businesses are looking ahead and making plans to help them do good and grow in the upcoming year.
While the new year is a time for reflection, it’s also a time to adapt, prepare, and create new opportunities. Understandably, on the heels of 2020, many are feeling cautiously optimistic. However, according to the State of the Small Business Marketing survey by Bluehost Inc., nearly 72% of small business owners surveyed feel optimistic about the future, while only 9% report feeling pessimistic—showing that small business owners are willing, determined, and hopeful.
Below, trends to look out for in the coming year to help your small business succeed.
Digitalization Will Accelerate
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way people shop and engage with businesses, necessitating that businesses up their online presence and digitize their operations and services. In fact, the Bluehost survey found that nearly 70% of small business owners surveyed acknowledged the importance of an increased online presence during the pandemic.
And, while the survey found that more than 50% of business owners reported a boost in website traffic since the beginning of quarantine, only 61% of respondents said they had a website. Businesses with efficient websites up and running have adapted quickly and suffered less disruption during quarantine.
Expectations will be even higher in 2021 because we’re spending more time online. For small businesses, it’s not just about pivoting online—it’s necessary. Customers expect businesses to have an engaging online presence, which means businesses need to build strong, visible digital footprints to stand apart from the competition, attract potential new customers, and engage with their communities.
Key takeaway: Build your digital platform and strengthen your online relationships with your customers.
Social Missions Matter
The world is increasingly counting on businesses to address societal problems. That includes small businesses—and those that communicate positive social missions, share their purpose, and connect with customers on a human level will have an advantage over others.
Your customers are paying attention. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends, 79% of respondents can recall instances of brands positively responding to help their customers, workforces, and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers’ awareness creates more positive brand perception (29%) and helps shift their buying preferences in favor of the brand (19%).
The 2018 Accenture Strategy Research Report found that, in San Francisco, 69% of people surveyed reported their buying decisions are influenced by brands’ ethical values and authenticity. In addition, 72% said they bought from companies with beliefs similar to theirs.
It’s more important now than ever for companies to highlight the efforts they make to enhance and diversify their work cultures, donate to causes, and become more sustainable. Customers relate to small businesses that share their community giving and charitable contributions on a deeper level. It helps build trust and strengthen connections with those customers.
Key takeaway: Share your social mission with your consumers—transparency and authenticity help them understand and identify with your company’s values.
Gen Z Is An Impactful Target Audience
There are close to 68 million Generation Z individuals in the United States. Because Gen Zers have spent their entire lives in a world centered around the Internet and e-commerce, they’re extremely tech savvy. Therefore, businesses must ensure their marketing attracts this demographic if they want to grow.
On the flip side, this generation is often inundated with technology and instead wants to connect authentically, buying from businesses with concerns like theirs. The good your business does and the social causes you support create a mutual connection with this demographic. However, transparency is a must. The Gen Z demographic values social proof and prefers to do business with those that prove their community-minded and socially responsible versus those just talking about it.
To learn more about consumers’ buying patterns, rewards app Shopkick surveyed more than 14,000 Americans and found that, in 2021, 55% of Gen Z consumers plan to shop more frequently at retailers or brands that align with their core values and contribute to a social cause. Mashable reported that 76% of Gen Zers are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet and social causes such as equality, the environment, safety and helping the less fortunate. To make a real connection with this generation, businesses need to work toward helping them make our world a better one.
If you’re not targeting Gen Z consumers, your business is missing out on a large market segment.
Key takeaway: Meet Gen Zers where they are by adapting your marketing strategies to meet their values, communication habits, and shopping preferences.
Consumers Want to Shop Small and Shop Local
In 2020, communities witnessed dozens of beloved local businesses struggle and shutter their doors. Consumers want the small businesses in their communities to succeed—and they’re stepping up their efforts to support them and help contribute to local economic growth.
According to the 2019 Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report, 59% of consumers surveyed would rather buy from small businesses than large corporations. Consumers have the power to shift their local economies. Help them by investing in local marketing and community growth. It can be as simple as donating to a local cause.
Key takeaway: There’s a willing market ready to support local—show them how your small businesses is invested in your community.
Combining these trends with the good your small business already does can create a key differentiator, helping your business stay afloat and flourish in 2021. Implement the 2021 trends with underlying themes that matter most to your customers to address their needs and highlight the genuine connection you have in your community—authenticity, visibility, and transparency.
Authenticity Creates Connection
Corporate Social Responsibility escalated to new levels in 2020, as businesses large and small recognized that giving back is no longer something that’s just nice to do—it’s a must. The challenge for larger companies is the lack of personal relationship building, which creates authenticity. This is where small businesses shine. They’re known for giving from the heart and many have incorporated giving back and doing good into their missions from the start.
Sharing about how and why your small business gives is essential. It shows people you’re authentic about your purpose and helps your customers emotionally connect with your business. The 2017 Consumer Content Report from Stackla found that 86% of people say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and support. Make sure your messaging is genuine to build trust with consumers.
Key takeaway: Highlight your authenticity by sharing how your small business does good.
Visibility Helps You Show Not Tell
Most customers begin their buying decisions online, researching a company’s purpose and mission before spending. Showcasing the ways your business is committed to doing good and giving back helps you stand apart from the competition and makes your business unique because it’s personal, local, and relevant.
Customers want to be shown—not told—how your business is helping enhance the community. And they don’t want to search hard for that information. Use your website and social media platforms to make your efforts a visible part of your business identity online. If you’re well engaged in your community and consistently give back but it’s not apparent to your customer, it won’t matter. If your efforts aren’t visible online, it’s as though they don’t exist.
Help your customers understand the good you do by sharing stories about your generosity, community commitment, and the impact you make.
Key takeaway: Your giving back and doing good efforts must be visible and accessible wherever customers are searching for products and services you offer.
Transparency Creates Trust
A business’ transparency can be utilized to enhance messaging and engage consumers and other stakeholders. Companies that transparently show their vulnerability and communicate their business’ goals, performance, and operations across the value chain build trust, increase brand loyalty, and attract consumers more willing to pay higher prices and to try out new products, according to a Label Insight Transparency ROI Study.
To create trust with consumers, businesses need to provide insight and transparency about the good they do for their communities. This goes beyond just talking about it—you must show what you did, how you did it, and the impact it created. More than eight out of 10 consumers say if a business makes community or social commitments, they expect them to share the results.
Transparency is essential to showing your customers the true value of your efforts. Showing the importance behind what you’re doing creates human connections and builds trust.
Key takeaway: Transparency helps show customers your business is committed and trustworthy.
Community brings people together. Small businesses play a key role in supporting and sustaining every community—they’re your neighbors, partners, and advocates. Small businesses give back to their communities in countless ways. Now is the time to pay it forward and nurture our small businesses back to health. In every small business, every customer matters. Spending locally helps support small businesses in your community.
Key takeaway: Community builds kindness.
Small businesses are caring, nimble, and responsive to their community needs. Their genuine concerns with their communities and the world around them help build, deepen, and expand customer relationships. When small businesses share about the good they do with authenticity, visibility, transparency, they build trust and strengthen their own communities, too.
seedership: A Platform that Powers Small Businesses Doing Good
Today’s consumers want to support businesses that give back and help their purchasing dollars make a difference. While small businesses consistently give back to their communities, they undervalue the impact of sharing that information.
Using the seedership community storytelling platform can help. The quick, user-friendly digital toolset is designed to help small businesses differentiate themselves, grow, and strengthen connections from the good they do. The platform brings together everything small businesses give back— every dollar, minute, and item donated to local causes and charitable organizations —into a visual profile that tells a business’ authentic community story and showcases the full value of their giving. seedership helps keep the good small businesses do top of mind to help them achieve more visibility, impact, and growth.
Ready to showcase the good your small business does. Start building your community story with seedership today.