It's an understatement to say that 2020 reshaped how many people do business. And it was especially hard on small businesses who rely on in-person foot traffic, like coffee shops, florists, and clothing boutiques. Thankfully, it's not all bad news. Many small businesses discovered that the changes they've made to adapt in the past year are actually beneficial for their business. Here's how those changes are helping shape small business trends for 2021 and how you can make them work for you.
1. Remote work on the rise
Since work abruptly shifted from company office to home office last March, several studies have found that workers are even more productive when they work from home. This year, the percentage of employees who work remotely is expected to double. But these workers won't strictly be working from home—they may also be setting up in places like coffee shops and co-working spaces. As such, small businesses should expect to see changing use patterns compared to pre-pandemic times. For example, the five-o'clock rush might now happen in the middle of the afternoon, when workers want to duck out of their home offices and hit the gym, or grab a cup of coffee.
2. More cloud connections
Small businesses who already had their accounting and ordering applications in the cloud—that is, on remote servers rather than on enterprise software—had the advantage when the pandemic shifted business models. They could easily access and update those applications and data from anywhere. With that in mind, many small businesses are expected to move processes like workforce management, point-of-sale, and online ordering into the cloud earlier than planned.
3. Alternative payment methods
Another shift we're likely to see last beyond 2021 is the use of alternative payment options. The National Retail Federation found that no-touch payments—such as contactless credit and debit cards and mobile-pay options—increased by 69% from January 2020. Small businesses who offer these new payment methods need to keep in mind that customers will need a strong WiFi signal to use them. If the signal isn't great, you may find yourself losing a sale.
4. Putting data to work
While small businesses don't have the resources that large corporations can tap into, they can still gather and make sense of their data in other ways. And this is the year they're expected to really put the power of data to work. A good WiFi set-up offers data that can aid with flow, stock levels, and staffing. A small boutique might find that customers linger in front of a display of colorful socks and so the owners might move that display to the back of the store to pull customers through the space. A florist, looking at WiFi usage, could discover the store is inexplicably busy on Wednesdays—and they can dig further to discover the reason and adapt accordingly.
5. Adaptive WiFi
Small businesses need to stand up to the constant connectivity challenge. Today's customers notice where their WiFi signal fades or disappears altogether. Adaptive WiFi creates a network that fully blankets the store, gym, or cafe to do away with dead spots and areas of poor connectivity. Adaptive WiFi automatically allocates bandwidth between the nodes, or pods, that serve as routers that communicate with one another. A good WiFi system is essential for keeping customers happy. Without it, gym-goers can't enter their reps in their mobile training app. And coffee shop customers can't download their files while sipping on their third latte. If they know they can't rely on your WiFi to do what they need it to, they may take their business elsewhere.
Use these trends to your advantage
As all these trends show us, small businesses need an intuitive, reliable internet platform as part of their strategy. With Link, just one of the smart business features bundled into WorkPass, small businesses get truly intelligent, cloud-driven, adaptive WiFi. Link continuously adapts to usage demands, so that one bandwidth-hogging customer won't slow things down for everyone else connecting to the network. Because WorkPass is an all-in-one business intelligence platform, it also gives you real-time insights into how your network is being used and what your customers - and employees - are doing. And that helps you tailor your business strategy for success. Find out how it can help you.