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Most Essential Small Business Trends in 2021

Written by Banks Editorial Team

Updated May 23, 2023​

4 min. read​

The chaos of 2020 forced small businesses to pivot to survive. What was initially thought to be a temporary circumstance has now become the new normal. The pandemic caused distant predictions to become current trends, and businesses evolved quickly to keep up. In 2021, businesses will need to embrace adaptability and double down on the trends the pandemic put into motion.So what are your customers, employees, and fellow business owners expecting to see in the coming year?

Here are the latest small business trends in marketing to HR and what your business needs to do to thrive in the new normal.

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Marketing strategy in 2021 is going to be about bringing your business to an online audience.


Businesses were already making the shift, but the pandemic accelerated the trend towards e-commerce by as much as five years, according to IBM’s U.S. Retail Index data. That means more small businesses could retain and grow their customer base by making the switch to online sales platforms. More will make the switch in 2021.

Mobile Usability

Mobile shopping makes up 45% of the entire e-commerce industry in the United States. That means your website needs to look good and function flawlessly on smartphones and tablets. That way, your customers can shop from anywhere they happen to be.

Social Media Extension

Social media allowed small businesses to connect with their customers instantly during the pandemic. They could give updates on opening times, operational changes, and new services. That interaction will continue in 2021 as consumers are now used to rely on social media for instant updates about their favorite brands.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Small businesses are taking more interest in strengthening their SEO so they can capture more inbound traffic. Those who weren’t bothering with a website before are now finding an optimizing online presence essential for their business in 2021.

Profitability instead of growth

Many businesses are feeling lucky to still be around after the chaos of the previous year. Those who are still standing will focus less on growth this year and more on profits. They’ll look for ways to lower costs while strengthening the business they have. Expansion plans will be on hold for a lot of businesses this year.

Growing Online Community

When everyone was stuck at home, they turned to the internet to connect. That included connecting with brands and businesses. Businesses are now fostering growth in their online communities and will be learning how to leverage that participation into sales wisely.

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Business trends in finance will focus on alternative payment forms as businesses seek to protect their employees’ financial security.

The Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program will be a big part of the lives of many small businesses in 2021. This is a $953 billion business loan program from the Small Business Administration that will help business owners continue paying their employees while the coronavirus affects their business.

Alternative Payment Options

Many companies went cashless in 2020 as their business moved online. Consumers embraced alternative payment options like Apple Pay, thanks in large part to their convenience. More companies will be offering a variety of alternative payment options in 2021.

Creative Financing Options

Businesses need cash to survive the pandemic. Creative financing options such as emergency funding from the U.S. government, crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter, and microloans from private sources will become more common. These innovative financing solutions will help businesses bridge the gap as they adapt to new demands.

Your business had to adapt, and many employees did, too. Flexibility will be critical in business trends that keep the best talent on your payroll.

Remote work

About 25% of the workforce will be working from home in 2021, and those numbers will continue to increase in the coming years. Employees love the ease of their commute, and businesses are finding benefits in decreased overhead costs.

Flexible Employee Policies

The pandemic forced many businesses to become more flexible with their employee policies, such as handling paid time off and where employees worked. It even made policies like dress-codes seem outdated. Policies will be more flexible as employers attempt to retain and attract top talent.

Technology trends in small business will be all about making companies more innovative, faster, and more responsive.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics for Better Custom Understanding

Businesses are turning toward artificial intelligence to help them understand the data produced by their business. The information provides insight into customer behavior and helps business owners predict future demands.

High Demand in Virtual Services Business

Services like virtual personal training, food delivery, or telemedicine are thriving even in a post-pandemic world. Company owners will be looking for ways to add virtual services to their business models in 2021 to cash in.

Investment in Automation Tools

Small business owners will turn to automation tools to help ease their workload and improve customer service. Automated tools like chatbots on websites can answer client questions, freeing owners to focus on more in-depth tasks.

How you make your product will matter more than ever, and going green will be a small business trend you can’t ignore.

Eco-friendly Materials

Consumers are asking for eco-friendly products, and they are even willing to pay a little more to get them. Businesses will be adapting their current product lines to have less packaging and more eco-friendly materials this year.

Customers aren’t following brands anymore as they allow their hearts and minds to dictate where they are spending their money.

Shopping Small

Consumer focus is on shopping small and shopping local. Google searches for “support small business” doubled in 2020, showing a clear trend that’s going to continue in 2021.

Focus on Retaining Customers

Focusing on customer retention can take the sting out of the uncertainty of the upcoming economic period. Things like loyalty programs, subscription boxes, and virtual services can keep loyal customers coming back for more.


Customers are much more likely to support a business that thinks as they do. Businesses will need to demonstrate empathy in their words and their actions, and customers will respond in a big way.

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Adaptability: The Main Small Business Trend

If 2020 taught small business owners anything, it’s that to survive; you have to adapt. Adaptability will continue to be key in 2021. There is widespread uncertainty about the economy as nations start to come out of the pandemic. Meeting whatever challenges are ahead will keep you and your business thriving in the long run.

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