2020 was quite the year — but there's excitement in knowing that a new year with new opportunities is upon us. As we continue to push forward, let's dive into the top trends predicted to emerge with the calendar switch to 2021.
1. Security is here to stay.
Cyberattacks are likely to remain the number one threat facing Small to Midmarket Businesses (SMBs) this decade. While data security isn't a new concept, it continues to be a relevant trend as it not only protects critical information, but also prevents unnecessary financial loses or damages to public trust and brand reputation. According to the 2020 Data Breach Investigation Report by Verizon, SMB cybersecurity maturity needs to evolve as around 43% of breaches today are focused on midmarket companies.
A 2020 research study by BullGuard, of over 3,000 small- and medium-sized businesses in the United States and UK, also showed that 23% of the companies surveyed don't use any endpoint security, and 32% just use (often free) consumer-grade solutions.
These solutions, albeit convenient, may not have the robust capabilities needed to combat advanced threat levels — especially since we've seen a spike in cybersecurity attacks with working from home at an all-time high. While we cannot predict how the world will change in the coming months, what we can confidently assume is that 2021 will be a year of hybrid work. It will be common practice for businesses to employ both in-person and remote teammates. And, with this type of environment, efficiently managing multiple user and device permissions will be critical.
Businesses can benefit by:
- Creating a digital defence strategy: Both a proactive and contingency plan
- Investing in security awareness training for employees
- Leveraging threat intelligence tools to become cyber resilient
2. Working from home was the victor of 2020.
We touched briefly on the note that remote work is here to stay, but what specifically will that entail?
The phenomenon we witnessed in 2020, with large and small companies alike shifting to remote practices proved that working from home is an effective, long-term option for many. But with this pivot comes the expectation of extending employees the same workspace experience they had in the office.
Tools and devices such as noise-cancelling headphones, ergonomic desks, wireless keyboards, dual monitors and more are high-priority items that will lend to a positive employee experience both in-person and off-site.
Questions to ask:
- What hardware do employees need to perform their jobs?
- Is the software in place ideal for collaboration and security?
- How are teammates fairing? Do they feel included and supported?
- Has output remained consistent? Are there any roadblocks?
- Are customers receiving the same level of care?
Some examples of how companies are predicted to maintain hybrid work capabilities can be found across multiple industries. For instance, in 2021 it may become likely that healthcare providers maintain telehealth appointments to triage patients, provide consultations and perform follow-ups. This could save time, giving doctors, nurses and other caregivers more availability to focus on life-threatening cases. Within the financial space, accounting workers may easily transition to remote-only work, providing virtual updates and calls with the added benefit of being able to contact customers at any time, for optimal accessibility.
In retail, brick-and-mortar stores may be able to supplement usual practices with the aid of revamped mobile apps and touchless checkout counters for faster buying experiences. And finally, in manufacturing, automated data processes may provide insight into information gaps, speeding up production when necessary.
3. Take advantage of marketing tools.
Omni-channel marketing tools to propel client engagement and net new acquisitions are quickly gaining momentum now and into the future. Gone are the days of emailing a prospect directly and expecting a response — or calling a prospect's office. SMBs are differentiating themselves by delivering content across various marketing channels which tie back to a consistent and seamless client experience. This allows the journey of the buyer to be smoother across whatever platform they prefer to engage on.
Beyond that, businesses need to leverage the power of marketing automation to deliver personalised email solicitations. Relevant content and tailored messages dramatically increase the chance of a sale. There are great marketing automation tools out there and investing in the right one for your business will yield a lower cost of client acquisition.
Finally, chatbots are becoming more table stakes than a “nice to have.” A rising number of consumers prefer to engage with a chatbot versus communicate with a business via phone or email. Chatbots work 24/7 and deliver instant responses to simple questions. Backed by Artificial Intelligence (AI), these tools will help businesses gather intel to get ahead of known customer questions before they arise. This type of predictive marketing will prevent bottlenecks in service desk requests while elevating satisfaction ratings.
According to Intercom, 50% of business leaders plan to invest more in automation, including chatbots, in the coming year.
In the end, it all comes down to being customer-obsessed. Knowing what tools and technologies to invest in to connect with your loyal base and reach new prospects, as well as track metrics for engagement, will set one company apart from the pack.
4. Will 5G live up to the hype?
2021 will be the year we see 5G impact midmarket businesses. The ability to reduce latency and transfer massive loads of data opens the door for companies to really leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI platforms without having to create their own massive network internally. It will also allow for greater access to data in an instantly available fashion — while lowering costs.
Think about how this will effect employee communication and client engagement. 5G is a lever that gives businesses the ability to accelerate innovation. However, the challenge will come from choosing which capabilities of 5G to leverage, as well as transitioning off of legacy systems and processes. For those that embrace 5G and chose the right path, it will be a large competitive advantage.
5. Embrace the cloud and as-a-service offerings.
According to Gartner, up to 60% of business owners will rely on the cloud for hosting data by 2020. We've continuously seen businesses with limited staff and infrastructure benefit from cloud computing when it comes to data management and scalability. Gaining access to ready-made solutions via Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings is another winning point for midmarket companies in need of a little extra help getting started. However, not understanding the subscription and as-a-service commitments can create complications. Getting a consumption subscription service turned off, or releveled, could end up manifesting into extra costs, adding lines to the bill on procurement cards.
SMBs working to modernize their IT approach by leveraging the cloud and consumption/subscription models may benefit from partnering with a trusted advisor. By doing so, they're more likely to experience improved preparedness for integrating complex IT systems, managing disaster recovery, syncing and sharing files, migrating data and more.
Why SaaS cloud solutions?
- Rest easy knowing services are maintained by a vendor.
- Save on hardware by hosting data in the cloud.
- Consolidate applications into one offering.
- Gain instant access to apps that power daily operations.