2020 has been a tough year for many business owners. No matter what you sell or when you opened, you probably experienced some of the challenges and hope that 2021 will allow you to make up for lost revenue.
Wanting to start the year off strong and keep up that momentum for the foreseeable future? We’ve got just the tips to hit the ground running in 2021.
Tips to Hit the Ground Running in 2021
1. Get Set up to Accept Contactless and Card Payments
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption rate for cashless payments. Many people preferred to buy things with contactless methods, especially when scientists were unsure about the likelihood of spreading the virus through paper money and coins. However, many business owners lacked the infrastructure to accommodate that preference.
A survey of small-business owners conducted this summer found that only one-third of the respondents used electronic payment systems like automated clearing house (ACH). Moreover, just 28% used traditional or cloud-based point-of-service (POS) tools to facilitate payments. However, three-quarters said they accepted cash and checks.
A Mastercard study indicated that nearly eight in 10 global consumers use contactless payments. Additionally, 82% of worldwide respondents viewed contact-free transaction methods as a “cleaner” way to pay for goods.
If your business is among those that accept cash and checks but has not innovated to enable more modernized methods, commit to changing that in 2021. The more payment methods you offer, the easier it’ll be to appeal to customers with a range of preferences.
Conversely, if you do allow other ways to pay, investigate how you could make improvements. For example, maybe you accept Google Pay, but not Apple’s equivalent.
2. Investigate How to Strengthen Your Supply Chain
Government-mandated COVID-19 lockdowns wreaked havoc on global supply chains. As countries closed their borders, many shipped goods encountered severe delays due to port backups. The problem worsened as some consumers engaged in panic-buying, and many started solely purchasing things online once they perceived that option as safest.
A recent study showed that 62% of business owners cited supply chain resilience as a 2021 priority. It also indicated that 55% of companies required three to six months to cope with the effects of this year’s supply-related disruptions.
You can’t predict the future, but it’s worthwhile to identify and fix supply chain vulnerabilities so your enterprise is better prepared for the next crisis. Your recovery time should shorten due to improved preparedness.
The research cited above confirmed that 65% of respondents chose to invest in localizing and regionalizing their supplier and manufacturing bases. Bringing goods closer to the people who buy them should make supply chain shocks less disruptive.
Supply chain diversification was another planned resilience booster. The results indicated that 68% of business representatives are looking at diversifying their supplier bases, while 62% want to spread their manufacturing resources.
Improving your supply chain is not a quick process. Still, it can make your business better able to respond effectively to challenges — even those that do not escalate into global emergencies. For example, if you figure out how to work with partners that are closer to your customers, it could become easier for you to keep fulfilling orders quickly, even as demand spikes.
3. See if Your Insurance Policy Could Mitigate Some of the Losses
Perhaps you applied for federal and state funding to help your business recover but still feel unsure about how to bounce back in 2021. Your insurance policy may be a potential source of relief that you may not have considered yet. However, you’ll need to study the fine print to learn about any exclusions.
For example, many business interruption policies stipulate that clients must experience physical loss or property damage before insurers cover the claims. It’s not impossible to envision a scenario where COVID-19 directly caused those circumstances. For example, maybe thieves broke into a business and stole all its masks — products that likely would not have generated such interest outside of a global pandemic.
That situation happened in May 2020. Criminals cut a hole into the steel shutters of a medical supplier’s warehouse and seized 80,000 masks made for health care professionals and other front-line workers. That example fulfills both the typical requirements for business interruption insurance claims, but others are not clear-cut.
Analysts expect forthcoming lawsuits and case law precedents concerning whether business insurance coverage could help companies recover some of their COVID-19-related losses. It could take time for those incidents to offer guidance, though.
For now, take the time to study your coverage details and ponder how your struggles might enable you to make a successful claim. If you plan to get coverage for the first time in 2021 or switch to a new provider, bring up the novel coronavirus in your conversations before picking a plan.
4. Revisit and Adjust Your Sales Tactics
Whether your business specializes in products, services or both, it probably has a sales element. Now is an excellent time to explore how to better align them with people’s needs. The pandemic changed buying behaviors, and some analysts expect those differences to persist for the long term.
When responding to a September 2020 global report published by her company, Celine Pannuti, head of European staples and beverages research at J.P. Morgan, weighed in about what the future holds. “In the next 12-24 months, consumers are going to be left with less money in their pocket. Many people will be left unemployed and will have less to spend. This will reinforce the trend for staying at home,” she confirmed.
Pannuti also explained how people could switch brands soon. “We could also see some downtrading as consumers settle for more affordable options, though, for now, we have seen consumers buying big brands and choosing household names over value or private label products.”
Consider responding to consumers’ tighter budgets by reminding them of the value your company provides. That may mean introducing payment plans or layaway options. Enhancing your content creation efforts could also help. Some people are not ready to buy immediately. However, if you provide easily accessible white papers, data-backed case studies and other useful information, they’re more likely to conclude that you’re their company of choice.
The J.P Morgan study revealed that some products — such as coffee, hair coloring and vitamin supplements — achieved sales increases during the pandemic. Think about how you could encourage people to see your company and its offerings as continually relevant. Focusing on characteristics like convenience, quality and lower costs compared to competitors could let you tap into broadly desired aspects that attract customers.
5. Consider Launching New Services to Engage With Current or Potential Customers
The introduction of more customer-facing services could also stimulate your recovery goals in 2021. In one example of success with this approach, a virtual staffing company launched two online courses, plus started a podcast to help small-business owners run their companies in 2020 and beyond. These new offerings contributed to year-over-year revenue growth achieved in this challenging time.
Another possibility is to allow people to buy things online and retrieve them at a dedicated point near your entrance — also called buy-online-pickup-in-store or BOPIS — or through a curbside option. Researchers expect that 90% of brick-and-mortar retailers will offer BOPIS choices in 2021. By planning now to do the same next year, you could be better positioned to drive revenue.
Setting up that option may prove more manageable than you think. For example, Seattle transportation authorities opted to support local businesses by installing more than 1,000 priority pickup zones for hundreds of enterprises in the city. Each one lets a person use the temporary parking spaces to get food or other reserved items from nearby establishments. There is no charge to request those areas for businesses, although applicants must pass an approval process.
Brands are increasing their virtual efforts, too. A digital campaign launched by Clarins in France lets people see what its new physical stores will look like in 2021. Similarly, Ralph Lauren unveiled a virtual store so detailed that it even included a soundtrack of the tunes people would hear when shopping in person. Your attempts to appeal to customers virtually could be less extensive and still pay off. Plus, companies specializing in these store experiences could help you learn what is likely to work.
6. Move Forward With Your Growth Initiatives
Many companies had to delay most of their 2020 plans and focus solely on keeping the business stable in uncertain times. It’s understandable if you did the same this year. However, as you assess what to do in 2021, it’s time to look at investments that will help the company grow. Don’t hold off on those any longer.
Data associated with the 2008-2009 economic recession showed that the most resilient businesses grew 30% faster than those less-equipped to deal with the new circumstances. The most successful enterprises reacted quicker and showed more flexibility. Those organizations’ leaders also understood the benefits of advanced technology and recognized the importance of making significant, strategic decisions without delays.
Deciding that you’ll get back on track with growth plans in 2021 should have a twofold effect. First, you can expect that it’ll speed your recovery process and shape your COVID-19 exit plan. Second, it’ll better prepare you to weather any storms your business encounters.
Company struggles happened long before the novel coronavirus affected the world, and they’ll persist after it becomes less of a problem. If you have not settled on the best ways to encourage growth, making technology investments could be a smart move.
For example, consider how automated invoicing or replenishment tools could save time by reducing manual tasks. Data analysis platforms could also spur future success by letting decision-makers rely on hard statistics rather than guesswork. The difficulties of 2020 may have limited your immediate spending capabilities, and that’s OK. The goal is to prioritize ways to grow in 2021, even if you have a smaller starting budget.
Feel Hopeful by Using Resourceful Strategies in 2021
Due to what many business owners experienced in 2020, it may be hard for many of them to feel optimistic about what’s ahead next year. Perhaps you can relate.
It’s unwise for entrepreneurs to blindly hope for and expect better outcomes in 2021 without creating strategies to encourage the successes they want to see.
However, using the tips discussed here — as well as others that make sense for them — will increase the chances of things working out in your favor in 2021. There are plenty of reasons to feel hopeful and excited about what next year will bring.