8 Ways Business Has Changed In 2021

Recently, I was invited to keynote a professional fraternity’s graduation ceremony at Gonzaga University. Don’t worry, I didn’t mention the game. 

The organization asked me to share with their students how business has changed since COVID. Below is a summary of the key points from the talk (with less cuss words):

1. Accelerating Digital Transformation

The COVID-19 crisis catalyzed e-commerce growth by 4 to 6 years. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales in 2020 grew more than 30 percent from 2019 as the pandemic pushed consumers to turn to internet retailers for their needs. 

Also, COVID-19 pushed people to learn tech. Older people were forced to learn how to use technology to do things they would’ve done in person pre-pandemic. Now they engage in more mobile banking, online shopping and Zoom, of course. 

Tech has played a significant role in how we navigate our new normal, and it provided means for companies to continue their business. Thanks to technology, people can get their consumer needs, process essential transactions and more without leaving their homes. 

2. Retail Is Forever Changed

Everything evolves, including the retail industry. Online shopping and “No Touch Retail” have been on the rise since the pandemic started. No more wandering in the store, browsing through items and searching for what you need. Instead, you plan ahead, get what you need and go. 

Casual clothing at work is also changing the retail game in a BIG way. I don’t know about you, but I said goodbye to my slacks, blazers and most of my suits. Clothing retailers have also gone casual thanks to pandemic-accelerated casualization of work apparel. 

3. Growing On-Demand Economy

On-demand and home delivery services are becoming a permanent market share during the COVID-19 crisis, thanks to the clear benefits to consumers and the opportunity for displaced employees to get work/income and schedule flexibility around their personal schedules.

With the new normal’s work setup, many people looking to start a small business or side hustle of their own can now begin to accept freelance jobs. Moreover, with the rise of freelancing, many businesses are opting to hire freelancers instead of permanent staff as it is more cost efficient.

4. Remote Work Environments

Remote work is not going anywhere. It is now an option, and everyone is considering it. Both employers and employees have experienced the many benefits of remote work. In fact, surveys have shown that nearly 70% of U.S. employees are requesting to continue working remotely even after the pandemic is over. Eighty-three percent of employers stated that the shift to remote work has been successful for their company.

As economies reopen, many companies plan to mix remote work with on-site work in the office to get the best combination of productivity and collaboration. Flexibility is our new normal, from working remote full-time to hybrid work models.

5. Customer Experience: Now or Never

Before COVID-19, businesses categorized themselves as either an online company or an offline company. Now everyone has to be an online company to keep up with their competitors and not fall behind. These two worlds are colliding. The pandemic pushed companies to embrace online services in an attempt to stay afloat amidst the crisis. 

To meet their customers where they are in this physically distant world, companies are focusing more on online customer experience. Even the most digitally resistant consumers shifted to online services. It’s a must to develop a customer experience that differentiates, even if it’s online.

Customers care now more than ever before if a company cares for them and values their employees. Consumers are not only after the product or service provided, but they also want to know how much the companies care for their customers, employees and the community during the pandemic and our transition to the post-pandemic future as that approaches. 

6. Rise in Automation

More processes are becoming automated. In the thick of the pandemic, many companies shifted from humans to machines to check guests into hotels, cut salads at restaurants or collect fees at toll booths. 

Automations were primarily instituted to keep customers safe during COVID-19, but the efficiency of these robots and automations could be here to stay. I’ll revisit this in another blog later because there is a whole lot to talk about on this subject. (And, if you know me, you know my line of “ask me my opinions on robots” because it grinds my gears!)

7. Widespread Adoption of Omnichannel

The pandemic has served as a catalyst in the widespread adoption of omnichannel business models in the retail industry. Omnichannel model provides a full-suite of ways for a consumer to engage with a brand: store, website, brand-owned app, marketplace presence, social media and partnering with last-mile delivery services. 

Thus, an omnichannel streamlines the customer experience to make the company easy to find, recognize and interact with.

8. Contactless Payment Options

These payment options already existed pre-COVID, but in 2020 they became more popular as limits were placed on person-to-person contact to reduce the spread of the virus. Now, people are leaning towards this type of payment option because it’s easy, convenient and more sanitary.

The Role of Business in Society Has Changed.

In 2019, chief executives from the Business Roundtable have redefined the purpose of corporations, moving away from mainly making profit for shareholders to serving all stakeholders, including the community. 

The big push to conscious capitalism has been expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses set aside financial gains and helped society cope with the pandemic. Companies of all sizes went into overdrive to shift production and provide PPE, and some pledged not to lay off their employees. 

Though not everyone rose to the occasion, the pandemic has allowed us to witness human leadership in business and the large role it can play in how businesses operate within society. 

In love and respect,

Hilary Corna

Hilary Corna

Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Podcast Host, Founder of the Human Way ™...

Hilary’s favorite title is HUMAN.


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I am starting a revolution. One business and one person at a time.



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