Growing Your Business in 2021: Where Do We Go From Here?

02.25.2021 Alyson Phillips

The dramatic change and economic disruption seen in 2020 has had a profound impact on shaping the outlook for many businesses in 2021.

With the pandemic still restricting business operations and consumer spending habits, business owners are forced to build business models and advertising strategies based on abnormal conditions that are likely to change significantly over the course of the 2021 calendar year.

To effectively grow your business in the year ahead, you will likely need to embrace a flexible approach when it comes to not only your business model, but also your advertising strategy and your expectations around consumer behaviors. Despite these challenges, local businesses have an opportunity to invest in their customer base and their revenue streams by taking a forward-thinking approach to building their business strategy.

Based on our recent Ask the Experts webinar, business owners are eager to move forward and grow their business in 2021. Wondering how to do that in a year that is anything but normal? Here are some insights to help you out.

1. Consumer Spending is Poised for a Surge—Eventually

Overall, consumers have pulled back on their spending during the pandemic, preferring a cautious approach to spending until they know they’re out of the woods. It’s important to consider that the economic effects of the pandemic have split consumers into two distinct groups: While some have prospered during the pandemic, others have struggled from significant losses of income.

Even financially stable consumers may be more cautious in their spending based on the unpredictability of the future. But there’s a strong sense that consumers are eager to spend once they feel safe to do so, especially as income rebounds, and once lockdowns and other restrictions become a thing of the past. Certain industries are poised to see a greater bump than others—think tourism, restaurants, and event centers—but all industries may see increased spending activity as consumer spending relaxes over time.

2. Growth Opportunity is Not Standard Across All Industries

While consumer spending is set to surge once consumers feel comfortable with their finances, some industries will see greater success than others—especially when it comes to businesses that previously catered exclusively to either the work side, or lifestyle side, of consumer spending.

Experts believe that any industry that empowers consumers to have a more flexible work-life integration is well-positioned to see sustained growth during and after the pandemic. The flexible work environment is likely here to stay, at least on some level, and that change in how we integrate work into our lives will have a number of ripple-effects related to consumer behaviors.

Automotive and travel brands, for example, are likely to see increased demand for services and experiences that make it easier to work while taking a vacation away from home. Vacation experiences will become more accessible, which will likely affect exclusive vacation destinations that charge a premium for a set, limited-time experience—especially if consumers start traveling more frequently, at a lower cost, and maximize their leisure time while shifting dollars and time away from premium travel options.

3. Safety Measures are Just One Component of Effective Ad Messaging

At the start of the pandemic, messaging around safety protocols was crucial to motivate consumer engagement with local businesses. While those safety concerns remain relevant, the importance of emphasizing safety in your messaging has been somewhat diminished.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t demonstrate your ongoing safety efforts to your targeted audiences. Certain research around ad testing suggests that it’s best to deliver just enough messaging to show how you’re keeping them safe. Showing employees in masks, for example, or displaying reasonable safety standards relevant to your industry, can all be beneficial in easing consumer worries. But your advertising should also emphasize other, more consumer-centric benefits of your business and its offerings, including affordability, limited-time opportunities, and an unmatched shopping experience.

4. Some Changes Forced By the Pandemic May Be Here to Stay

Businesses across almost every industry have changed either their operations, their customer experience, or both in response to the challenges of the pandemic. New safety regulations have been adopted, while services such as delivery, curbside pickup and store visits by-appointment have been newly created or expanded to better serve customers.

Even as the pandemic fades into the distance, some of these business model changes may still be coveted by consumers. Grocery shopping is a prime example: Now that consumers have embraced grocery delivery services to save them a trip to the store, they might be more inclined to continue paying for this service in the future. In that case, businesses offering this service, or curbside pickup for groceries, may see continued demand that motivates them to make this a permanent fixture of their business model.

The key is paying attention to what your consumers like, and what they’re asking for. If consumers continue to utilize an aspect of your service you created for the pandemic, it might be risky to get rid of that service just for the sake of “returning to normal.” Look for trends and consumer preferences that are likely to stick, and adapt your business model accordingly.

Related: 4 Ways 2020 is Shaping Consumer Behavior in 2021

5. A Flexible Business Model is Key to Success in 2021

With so much of the business landscape in flux and contingent on how the pandemic progresses, the best thing any business can do is to make a plan based on current industry conditions, and to stay flexible as circumstances change in the future. Throughout this period of transformation, your advertising strategy can help you stay in touch with your target audience, and deliver timely messaging that is relevant to your customers’ current needs and desires.

Looking for help in building this ad strategy? Contact us today.

About the Author

Alyson Phillips

Alyson is the Director of Marketing at Cox Media’s corporate offices in Atlanta. With a background in journalism and over a decade of experience in brand marketing, she has a passion for connecting brands to their customers through powerful storytelling. In her role, she’s responsible for amplifying the Cox Media brand in the communities we serve nationwide – whether through advertising, thought leadership, or the customer experience. When she’s not working, she’s chasing around her twin toddlers and spending as much time outdoors as possible.

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