Thought leadership research firm TrendCandy today announced a forecast of top business trends for 2021 based on research conducted in 2020. TrendCandy surveyed tens of thousands of people on various topics including chatbots, open offices, COVID, political division, small businesses, career mobility, Black Friday, remote work, corporate travel and co-working.
The top learnings from 2020, and how those lessons will change what we do in 2021, include:
Are Chatbots Taking Over?
In 2020, more customers expected to interact with a chatbot for customer service than with a human. In 2021, chatbots and humans will become progressively indistinguishable for customer service experiences.
According to John Collins, Director of Content Marketing at Intercom, "Business messengers are increasingly conversational, intuitive, and accurate in how they respond and assist. 2021 will see more customers not only expect to interact with intelligent chatbots, but start to prefer them."
Can Creatives Become Executives?
In 2020, 62% of creative leaders said creative professionals at their company need to move out of a creative field in order to advance to an executive-level position. But in 2021, as brand power becomes a greater strategic asset to defend against imitations, IP theft, and parity products, creative professionals who understand design, messaging, story and image will see more access to the C-suite and boardroom.
Adam Morgan, Executive Creative Director at Adobe agrees, "Creative people are open to change, new ideas, transformation and progress. These just happen to also be the qualities that help executives grow companies."
Brian Barrus, Executive Creative Director at The Stoke Group added, "Our survey data shows that the executive roles that have traditionally been out of reach for creative professionals are beginning to open up now. Design, content, and branding are all fundamentally IP, and the C-suite needs creative thinkers who understand how to turn that into a competitive advantage."
Can Co-Working Survive COVID?
Nearly 7 out of 10 commercial landlords in 2020 said coworking will be a more important part of their leasing strategy. In 2021, as they look to lease office space amid the continued uncertainty of COVID-19, companies will seek flexible options that enable them to move in quickly and avoid making long-term lease commitments.
"As landlords attempt to execute new leases and renewals in a market with limited demand, and tenants seek greater flexibility, flex space offerings will likely be an effective way to keep deals moving forward," said Katie Higgins, Director, PR & Content at VTS.
Are Open Offices Just a Fad?
Employees in 2020 wanted three main things from office space, open or not: natural light, quiet places to focus, and free snacks and drinks.
While not a fad, open offices are evolving in 2021 into something new. Modern office design is borrowing elements from home: private nooks, stocked kitchens, lounge furniture, and comforting decor.
Penn Owens, EVP at Layton Construction said, "Open offices of the past felt more like factory floors aiming to maximize every inch with desks and people, but new design innovations are turning open offices into environments that foster creative thinking with common areas, homey comforts, and quiet solitude."
Can Small Businesses Still Win During COVID?
In 2020, 74% of small businesses were still optimistic about their future despite the COVID lockdown. And in 2021, as long as small businesses get a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lifeline for the final stretch of the COVID crisis, the future is bright for small businesses as they're well positioned for the return of customers and the economy.
"No one is tougher than a small business owner, and that strength was tested in 2020. But we've seen inspiring innovation, adaption, and resilience among small business owners, and in 2021 we think many will come back stronger and ready to grow again as we get the pandemic under control," said Brock Blake, CEO and co-founder of Lendio.
Is Black Friday Cancelled, Too?
In 2020, shoppers stayed home because of COVID, and 8 in 10 said that even if retailers offered fantastic in-store experiences, they still wouldn't go shopping during the pandemic. But in 2021, retailers will adapt, a vaccination is available, states are opening, and shoppers are gaining their confidence back.
"Retailers are getting better at turning Black Friday into an event. With doorbusters, performers, hot chocolate bars, guest appearances and other experience-driven marketing, Black Friday took a break due to COVID in 2020 but is coming back for 2021," according to Paxton Gray, CEO of 97th Floor.
Should Small Businesses Accept Venmo?
In 2020, more businesses had lost a sale because they didn't accept the customer's preferred payment type than had lost a sale due to bad reviews. Businesses are expanding the types of payments they accept in 2021. Bitcoin? Venmo? Text payment?
Rick Hansen, VP of Customer Success at Weave agrees, "We live in an era that allows vendors to accept diverse payment types. The businesses that are open to a diversity of payment options are the ones who will win a greater share of wallet."
Is Remote Work Working?
In 2020, 31% of employees admitted they had worked drunk from home compared to 9% who admitted to working drunk at the office. Productivity is slipping the longer employees work remotely. In 2021, employers will adopt hybrid policies that allow employees to alternate working at home and in the office.
"Employees say they're more productive working from home, but the unusually crowded midweek beaches and hiking trails tell a different story," said Justin Ethington, founder of TrendCandy.
For more information about TrendCandy's original survey research on trends, please visit www.trendcandy.io
TrendCandy conducts survey research to create original ideas that spread. Thought leadership research generated by TrendCandy has been covered by hundreds of media outlets, including Bloomberg, Business insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune Harvard Business Review, Inc Magazine, TechCrunch and Time. Brands like SAP, Disney Resorts, Audible, 3M, Meredith Media, Ancestry and Pinterest use insights from TrendCandy to create conversations, advance relationships, and win a greater share of the future. www.trendcandy.io