28/01/2021 by Mie Bilberg
Sales in 2021: From damage control to a future in control
2020 is history, and many things changed forever. The new normal comes with it a myriad of new trends, so which is the most important to you? And how are you going to take advantage of them? This blog post is for those who work within the realm of sales and marketing.
There are three trends that I believe are worth paying attention to in 2021. These trends provide an opportunity to grow for those who offer marketing technology for small businesses:
- The use of new technology is here to stay;
- From borrowed land to self-owned land;
- From damage control to a future in control.
A major step change into digital, will it last?
eCommerce is the fastest-growing segment of the retail market in Europe and North America.
In May 2020, Mckinsey & Company announced that new data suggests that, within eight weeks, the world took a digital step that would have taken an estimated five years under normal circumstances. We essentially fast-tracked consumer behavior and businesses' adoption of digital.
Last year, we learned to meet online, shop online, and get entertained online. No matter the age or nationality.
eCommerce as a share of all sales
When looking at eCommerce and online shopping, the change has been remarkable. eCommerce is estimated to reach 15% of total sales in 2021. This comes after the US retail industry changed from offline into online within three months, which was a change that was originally estimated to take 10 years.
In Italy, one of Europe's least mature eCommerce markets did a complete 180, and the data for first-time online shoppers illustrate an evolutionarily jump forward according to Netcomm, an Italian retail consortium.
Will this change into digital last?
Yes, this is the answer from almost any research done on this topic nowadays. eCommerce is here to stay in on a large scale.
Even supermarket chains seem to be moving online, as the eCommerce economy has grown into something worth paying attention to - even for FMCG retailers.
According to eMarketer, the total sum of retail sales online in the US was estimated to be 14.4% in 2020. In 2021, the total sum of retail sales online in the US is projected to be 15%.
In Europe, online sales grow by 31% on average according to year-on-year research from Statista.
The Center for Retail Research estimated that the total share of eCommerce retail sales in 2021 for Europe will be 15.3%.
The most mature eCommerce market in Europe, The United Kingdom, will see eCommerce as 24.3% of the total share.
In Germany: 18.7%
In France: 13.8%
In the Netherlands: 12.5%
In Spain: 9.3%
In Italy: 5.8
We can expect to see more growth in online sales in 2021, but we will not see a major spike as we saw in 2020, where lockdowns left us with only one option – eCommerce.
An important change within eCommerce is the shift from being a land of opportunity only for pure players like Zalando.com and takeaway.com to being a self-owned sales channel for local shops and restaurants.
The next generation of business owners will start online
This shift became clear to me, as I have worked 10+ years with small businesses within the restaurant and retail industry.
In 2011-2014, when I was visiting a restaurant owner as a sales manager for the takeaway portal Just Eat, the only online presence a restaurant owner would consider at that time was to sign up to a third-party platform like just-eat.com. They did not bother to run a website themselves.
Later in my career, when I was visiting restaurant owners on behalf of Carlsberg Brewery, I noticed another shift.
New restaurants are now born with a self-owned digital business model. Opposite to the restaurant owners I met in 2011-2014. Restaurant owners now see digital as one of their important touchpoints.
The website of a new restaurant owner in 2021 is eCommerce enabled and is up and running before the doors open for the first time. This is a remarkable shift within the industry. Restaurants are still selling via third-party vendors and marketplaces like takeaway.com, the difference is that they also sell online and invest in online marketing on a self-owned website.
Why should you care about what Danish restaurant owners do?
Because Denmark, U.S, and Singapore are the three most digital future-ready countries in the world according to IMD World Digital ranking 2020. So, the change we see on the Danish market and in this case of the average Danish restaurant owner is most likely the change you will soon see for the Dutch, the German, and the French restaurant owner.
From borrowed land to owned land
The relevance of the website in 2021 and the owned media channels is more important than ever.
On the 8th of January, Donald Trump’s Twitter account, with over 88 million followers, was permanently suspended.
In the first week of 2021, social media platforms have taken unprecedented action to mute the former President of the United States. Facebook and Instagram also banned Trump’s account, Snapchat disabled his account and Twitch did the same. Google pulled the free speech-focused social media app Parler from the Google Play Store and Apple has done the same.
Whether we agree on this as the right thing to do or not, what will it teach us?
Don't build on borrowed land
The businesses that started with an online presence on Social Media or an external eCommerce platform like amazon.com, will learn that the risk of building a business on a media or sales channel where you are not fully in control, can be risky.
The Donald Trump example is probably the best reminder of the risk you take if your voice and the contact with your audience or your customers are based on a microphone you borrow from a platform you don't own.
Therefore, your investment should be on channels you fully control – like your website, no matter if you are a small business owner, a large co-operation, or the President of the United States.
Invest in the media platform in which you are in full control. This is also your opportunity to build the data hub you need to drive an online business. Data is more valuable than money. It is the most valuable currency you can own. Data is what you get when you drive traffic and users to your website.
From damage control to a future in control
After the first lockdown in spring 2020, a Danish newspaper, Børsen wrote, “9 out of 10 small businesses in Denmark did not become more digital.”
As the Danish population is among the most digitalized in the world, the fact that 9 out of 10 small businesses did not become more digital was a surprise.
Why was it so hard? What happened?
After lots of conversations with small business owners in 2020, I learned why. They were either busy doing damage control or the government-controlled help-package made it unfavorable to shift into an online business model.
The scenario was completely different in China, where the businesses which survived lockdown were those who quickly empowered themselves with an online business model.
During Covid-19, I believe we all saw the writing on the wall. Once the government aid is gone, there is no future for a business without an online business model.
So, time is up to invest in a digital business model. And in 2021, this is what the average small business owner will be ready for if you help her.
2021 will be even more digital
I believe small businesses will become more digital in 2021 as the economy will make the business owner shift from damage control to a future in control. The new business owners of 2021 will be established online before they open offline.
In 2020 we learned that being present online is mandatory for all kinds of businesses - small and large.
The global brand PepsiCo launched two new webshops in May 2020. Direct-to-consumer sales are a new opportunity for the world’s biggest brands too.
Direct-to-consumer sales, already a trend on the rise, became a real eCommerce opportunity. Nike and Adidas saw it years ago, but 2020 made even more brands follow these footsteps.
New brands and businesses born in 2021 would never even consider the old business model, where sales are taken care of only by third-party sellers or are only a handhold process. The new business owner of today and tomorrow will launch his or her business with an online business model and a self-owned online business model. This means when businesses appear on the market, they are already presented online.
For those who sell marketing technology like websites and eCommerce, this means you are already too late when your sales team is in contact with a newly launched business if you did not catch this business owner before they launched in-person sales.
These businesses will start online, and you need to meet them online to be a vendor they will consider doing business with.
If you are a franchise owner, the start package you welcome a new franchiser should be included a local website as a part of the marketing toolbox.
Help is near
In 2020, Mono launched a brand new DIY platform. This is an opportunity to catch the very first search from a small business owner, who is just about to start a new business. This will enable you to meet your customers of tomorrow - today.
The new normal
In 2021, we are not going back to the old normal of 2019. We now have a new normal, as digital became new normal in 2020 regardless of age, nationality, or industry. Businesses without an online business model will be history. Investing in digital is no longer an investment in the future but an investment in the present.
We will be in control
Nobody likes to lose control, but we all did for a while in 2020. To avoid this going forward, more businesses will invest in being in control. Being in control with customers and sales means owning your audience on a self-owned platform like a website, enabled with an online business model like eCommerce or online booking, and by building an email database. This is more important than growing your Twitter audience – This was clear to the early majority for a while, but in the first week of 2021, it became clear for the late majority too.
Meet your customer of tomorrow - today
Working with leads is much more efficient and fun. Therefore, an online lead generator is a good investment. Instead of wasting hours doing cold calls, let your sales team be ready to provide the support, the upsales, and the service small business owners are looking for. Take the first step, and get a demo on Mono DIY lead generator to learn more.
About the author
Mie Bilberg is the new VP of Marketing at Mono Solutions. Mie has a digital and strategic marketing background. Her roots are grounded in media and eCommerce, driven by a passion for customer experience, digital media, and content marketing. Most recently she was Head of Online Sales at Carlsberg Brewery where she launched a global eCommerce platform. Mie is a well-known face among the Danish eCommerce industry as she represents the jury that every year find the best eCommerce businesses in Denmark. Mie brings experience from start-ups, and marketplaces like Just Eat - takeaway.com. She is the ex-Marketing Director for Metroxpress formerly owned by Tamedia.