COVID changed so much about how we interact. Now that it seems to be almost “over,” it looks like COVID-“inspired” trends aren’t going away.
McKinsey & Company revealed eight trends in 2021 that will change the way everyone, including chambers of commerce, will do business for years to come. Here’s how you can respond to and leverage them for your chamber and your members.
We have summarized their trend projections as well as adding some of our own that are specific to the chamber industry. While not every one of these trends is applicable to all businesses, you may want to think about how many of them will affect your members — and how you can leverage them to grow.
COVID necessitated drastic changes for many businesses. Some of these will go away and some will become trends that will shape how we continue business into the future. Some of these trends are specific while others are overarching ideas that many of us have become attached to.
We’ll begin by highlighting the trends that McKinsey noted would define 2021 and how chambers can leverage them. Then we’ll add a few of our own as well.
COVID-“Inspired” Trends Shaping 2021 and Beyond
The first trend in McKinsey’s trend report was innovation. As historians are quick to point out, dark times like plagues are often followed by great times of innovation, culture, and arts. The Renaissance was one of these times.
Businesses had to switch how they served their customers and so we’ve seen a lot of innovation over the past year and a half. For instance, we’ve seen a large uptick in the amount of US patents granted.
People are also beginning to reevaluate how they’re spending their time. Necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. Ecommerce has grown. People are spending a lot of time rethinking the “safety net” of traditional employment.
Supplemental credits and financial protection programs have given people an incentive to think about something more than a steady pay check and they’re starting to explore their own creative outlets.
Impact: business people are going to remember 2020 for a long time because it taught us we don’t know what we don’t know. Many (okay, all) of us weren’t ready for a global pandemic where businesses would be closed and travel non-existent. It had been about a century since the last one and the world had changed a lot since then.
What the chamber can do: people understand the importance of innovation now and many are looking to exercise their creative muscles. Innovation and entrepreneurship can be very interesting topics.
The chamber can: use the in webinars, to grow their leadership class, launch a business incubator, or partner with groups involved in innovative office spaces. Helping people realize their own business dreams can be very rewarding.
There have been many consumer behaviors that have changed since COVID. In order for them to become a trend, they have to have what McKinsey refers to as a “stickiness” factor. Some consumer behaviors arise out of necessity but will go away when they’re no longer needed, while others are so enjoyed that they will remain.
Let’s take a look at two of them:
McKinsey also pointed out that there have been “two years of digital innovation” in about three months. Some changes we made for safety will likely become permanent COVID-inspired trends that will forever change how we shop. I rarely step foot in a grocery store anymore. I order online and pick it up. Not only does it save me about an hour every week, I don’t splurge on those emotional “grabs” as I’m walking up and down the aisle. I get what I need and that’s it. This type of grocery shopping is likely here to stay. No one wants to give up the efficiency behind it.
But groceries aren’t the only things that have changed from COVID. We also have access to e-healthcare and advice. That will likely remain. Now instead of sitting in a crowded waiting room, giving away half of your afternoon, you get to meet with a medical professional on your schedule. If that person is running late, you are still in the comfort of your home. This has given us all access to healthcare and mental healthcare, making us more likely to seek the help we need. In the past, we might put it off because we were busy or it was a bad time to leave the office. Now we can get our healthcare needs met with less disruption to our day.
Impact: online options started off as a safety necessity but many people are seeing the value in these. They will likely remain in place after the world comes to grips with COVID.
What the chamber can do: the chamber will have to decide the level of “stickiness” the adaptations have. Consider the things you changed at the start of the pandemic, like virtual calls for instance. Do people still have interest in them or have you noticed more are interested in things like in-person events returning? Maybe you launched a newsletter or advice column. Take a look at what you have done differently since the pandemic and weigh the interest people have for it as things open up. Some of your actions may shape new offerings; while others return to what they were before. Some chambers may decide to continue in a hybrid way. Again, the disruption to people’s lives with in-person actions may not be worth it to some or they may really enjoy being able to make virtual appearances without the car travel across town.
Travel was vastly limited for a while and now there’s a growing urge to get back to vacationing as usual. If your chamber and city enjoyed a lot of tourism dollars, that’s exciting news. This COVID-inspired trend and boost could last for years. But what about business travel and how will things like professional development conferences happen going forward?
Impact: clearly, not just tourism-businesses have felt the impact of a lack of travel. Even shopping trips to the next town over suffered. Now that things are opening up, many businesses will need to remind people about their business. Top of mind is important in sales.
What the chamber can do: keep getting the word out about businesses being open. Do your best to connect those looking for work and the businesses that need the staff. Help businesses grow their e-commerce. Online sales are easier to manage with a smaller staff than a busy brick-and-mortar business.
McKinsey also saw the environment, healthcare, and shifting portfolios as major trends from 2021.
Now let’s go over some of the trends we think will shape the near future.
COVID got us talking about health again. While there’s not much any of us could do for a novel virus (one we’ve never seen before and thus don’t have a natural immunity for), it opened the discussion about wellness. How do you stay well? What does the body need and how have we been making health and wellness a priority?
Under lock down, many people started exercising again. Some took more time cooking with whole foods. There was a push to boost immunities and keep your family healthy.
What the chamber can do: Some chambers have launched health and wellness fairs. Others are promoting the important wellness services in their community. Some are creating wellness directories. Wellness also made for some good social media posts with walking clubs and recipe ideas.
Delivery was once a luxury and relegated mostly to food but now a lot of businesses are offering this service. From pharmacies to retail, even our local garden store is offering delivery. One local antique store sold on social media and offered free delivery for customers who spend $200 or more. That way people could enjoy the beauty of new (to them) furniture even when they couldn’t go out to the store.
We also saw a lot of shop online, pickup curbside offerings. While offering delivery may be something each business needs to reevaluate, shopping online and picking up later is likely something that will stick around. People love the convenience of getting what they want without getting out of their car.
Impact: People spent a lot of time at home last year. It gave them time to reevaluate their existing things. Many decided to rehab or redecorate. These deliveries accommodated that desire.
What the chamber can do: Being able to continue offering delivery to customers means keeping delivery staff on hand or hiring companies to deliver when needed. In the current job crisis, that might not be easy. Chambers will need to do what they can to continue those who need work with those who have it.
As important as innovation was, agility was equally important. Businesses not only had to come up with innovative ideas to stay in business, they had to be agile enough to implement them quickly. 2020 has taught us all a lesson about agility and pivoting to meet the needs of our customers.
What the chamber can do: continue to lead through innovation and agility. Most chambers are able to make quick decisions and put plans into quick action.
Working from Home, a Normal Perk, not a Pipe Dream
It’s not possible for everyone to work from home. Working from home was an enjoyable perk pre-COVID but it became the new normal for many employees. While it’s not for everyone, many people quickly realized the benefits to working from home like no commute, no work wardrobe needed, no expensive lunches downtown, no paying for parking, and other time and cost savings.
The other COVID-inspired trend from people being able to work from home is that now people can live wherever they want. No longer are vacation towns off limits because it’s difficult to make a living there. Now people can bring their jobs with them and live where they vacation.
Impact: For those who enjoy working from home or those who at least didn’t miss their commutes, going back to the office may be really difficult. There may be a shift in careers for some people. Some employees may realize other things too like they no longer want to be considered essential.
The giant migration that seems to be occurring in states like Texas and Florida will have ripple effects in housing prices, costs of living, and schools in these areas. The chamber will likely be called upon by community leaders to help with problems of overflow and jobs.
What the chamber can do: the chamber can help get the word out about who is hiring and what the benefits of each job are. Some chambers offer job boards. Employers who could offer work from home positions that decide to go back to the office may have to make some concessions. Working from home is now something people realize can be done for a lot of office workers. Employers will have to check with the market to see if they can make office work work. Competition may require a concession of allowing people to work from home on a partial basis, especially as some areas will be getting very crowded and commutes will become worse with a mass influx in certain areas.
Working for Others
Working for others is not the only option out there these days. With stimulus money and furloughs, many people began reconsidering the supposed “safety net” of working for others. While there is plenty of work out there these days, a lot of it may not be as appealing as it once was.
The other thing people are reconsidering is individual rights of working for someone else and having to do what they dictate. For instance, a medical center in Houston required its staff to get vaccinated for COVID. Nearly 200 walked out instead of getting the shot.
2020 brought to head the questions of what an employer can require of you and what it can’t. Many people are considering working for themselves because of questions like this.
What the chamber can do: help entrepreneurs realize their dreams through training and introductions to the right people. The chamber can help connect good employers with great employees and ensure that people in the community have the skills that employers need. Chambers can keep the conversation open about what the community needs from a business perspective as well and ensure those messages make it into the entrepreneur community.
These COVID-inspired trends will certainly have a big effect on business, preparation, and the economy. We’re only beginning to understand the impact. Still, we know it will shake up employment, innovation, and the start of new types of businesses. Make sure your chamber is in front of these trends.