2020 trends that we can apply in 2021

2020 trends that we can apply in 2021

Pandemic year taught us some hard lessons, but we can become stronger as a result

We are in full swing in the first month of 2021. While this can mean new beginnings, it doesn’t necessarily mean we should ignore what has happened in 2020. Many elements and lessons from 2020 have persisted into 2021 and are well worth noting.

From shifts in customer behaviour to disruptions in our economy, 2020 was not a year many of us want to look back on fondly. But as Walt Disney memorably observed: “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

While the negative impacts of 2020 were profound, it also brought many important lessons and shifts we need to learn from in order to forecast and succeed in 2021. Here are some of the trends that emerged in the past year that we can continue to apply in 2021.

First, remote work and virtual collaborations are here to stay. For most of 2020, the number of Covid-19 cases in Thailand was very low relative to most other countries. Even so, many employers in organisations large and small were giving their employees the option of working from home. However, as we entered 2021, coronavirus infections were spiking again, bringing remote and virtual work back into full swing. 

Not all jobs can be shifted to work-from-home settings, but there are still opportunities here for organisations to grab. For example, in-person sales meetings may not be advisable in today’s situation. However, sales teams have an opportunity to adopt new approaches that integrate technology into their work routine. 

Although tech-based approaches might not be as effective as in-person interactions just yet, there are plenty of promising applications out there that businesses can test and experiment with to pave the way for the future of remote work.

Second, an increase in e-commerce has made omnichannel strategies more important. Omnichannel refers to an approach that combines all customer experiences from the web or mobile browsing to physical stores into one fully integrated platform. This should not be confused with a multichannel strategy, which utilises different approaches that are still separate units that are not integrated seamlessly.

With the growth of online shopping, omnichannel strategy has become crucial. It optimises all business channels to provide a seamless experience that creates greater value and experience for the customer. One successful practitioner of this approach is the personal-care and beauty product firm Sephora. Its omnichannel approach encompasses physical stores, in-app reward systems, online stores and delivery. It empowers customers as their interactions with the business are personalised to their preferences.

Third, we’re seeing an increase in virtual services. Some businesses that have thrived on physical stores and transactions, such as fitness and education centres, may have to rethink the way they serve their customers. While in the past year, many fitness centres and educational institutes have been providing virtual classes, many struggled to begin.

But virtual services are probably going to continue increasing, and businesses will have to find opportunities through new technologies and approaches to provide better services. While virtual services are just the beginning, the way we provide services may shift once again and may require even more technological support.

Fourth, empathy and strong relationships have become the core of customer engagement. We know that customer behaviours have changed and will continue to change. Many have become more aware of their spending due to changing circumstances.

Empathy and building strong relationships can help us build trust with customers and also help us understand their needs better. Today, we cannot assume what our customers need. Truly understanding those needs and building a good relationship with them is the key to building a business that answers those needs.

Finally, on top of empathy, data literacy will become even more crucial in understanding customers and making timely decisions. Empathy and relationship building are time-consuming but still necessary. However, we cannot spend all our time on relationships without any feasible actions. This is where Big Data comes in.

Data is crucial for forecasting and decision-making. With technology and analytics tools, collecting data isn’t the tough part — it’s the sense-making and decision-making parts that can be tough. However, there are now many data analytics tools that are accessible to anyone who wants to learn; it’s a matter of developing the practical skills to make those tools effective for your organisation.

2020 might have been the year that many of us were knocked down by the disruptions we faced. But 2021 may be the year we get back up stronger than we could ever have imagined. We have the lessons in hand and we’re now more prepared than we were at the beginning of 2020. The question is, what are we going to do today to ensure this will be a successful year?

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com

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