If someone asked me to describe this past year, I would lean into the Greek philosopher's saying of: "Change is the only constant in life."
We've grappled with the economic and social hardships from both a pandemic and social upheaval. Small-business owners have had to find new ways to support their staff during these physically and emotionally exhausting times.
Businesses were pushed to evolve, analyzing operations and functions through a critical lens to continue meeting customer needs and retaining talented employees -- all while maintaining an edge above competitors.
Together, we are surviving the challenges, and as states begin to open, we embrace what could be considered our new normal. Here are three predictions to help small businesses embrace change:
1. E-commerce strategies will continue to climb.
How you meet the needs of your customers is more important than ever. Retail is one industry that has continued to transform the way it interacts with customers.
While in-store experiences will continue to be imperative for some business, we'll see an even greater emphasis on e-commerce strategies. It will be important to have a seamless experience throughout the entire e-commerce continuum -- from an easy-to-navigate interface to a simple return process. Leaning into this strategy can help form lasting customer relationships and loyalty with your business.
At the UPS Store, we've heard first-hand from our customers the need for a convenient way to return items or merchandise and those conversations guided the development of our no box or no label returns program.
If 2020 taught us anything, it's to be prepared, to be flexible, and to adapt to the world around us while leading with empathy and compassion.
2. We'll find new ways to connect.
How we collaborate with our teams changed significantly over the last year. Meeting in a conference room has evolved into touching base on a laptop screen and moving forward, we can expect a hybrid of both.
How we communicate isn't the only thing that has changed. Welcoming new talent from Generation Z is also changing how we communicate at work. Giving our co-workers a glimpse into our homes has created more candid experiences from the dog barking to our child saying hello in the background. These experiences may lead to more authentic conversations in the future, which we can expect to be normalized and valued in the workplace. It's a gentle reminder that we're all human and doing the best we can -- something that is reassuring for small-business owners, their employees, and their customers.
3. Purpose will remain in the driver's seat.
Change can happen only if your company has a reason for doing it. Changes you make should advance the company toward its goals and mission.
Employees and customers alike crave a closeness to a driving cause. Why does your business exist and what roles do your key audiences play in helping it thrive? Articulating this point at every decision or bump in the road will help build advocates for your business -- people who are in it for the long run.
It's critical that small-business owners make their employees a priority in business decisions. Listen to your workforce and welcome new ideas that are rooted to your purpose. Letting the fear of change creep in could be detrimental to your business and the employees who help drive it.
As we take steps toward the world reopening again, many may be surprised to realize that our "back to normal" will inevitably look different. My advice is to listen to your employees, stay on top of trends, and keep sight on your goals.
Change isn't going anywhere -- embrace it and thrive.