2020 has certainly been a year to remember. Here are the global business trends I've noticed occuring around me.


2020 has already proven itself to be a challenging and, in many ways, unpredictable year. Many businesses are not fans of unpredictability at the best of times. It hampers the ability to plan ahead, develop proper contingencies, and give the public a sense of surety about where you are and where you're headed. We unfortunately face a similar situation as individuals in our personal lives. I've noticed a number of trends, and even positive developments, in the businesses around me while all the chaos has been unfolding. I'll add them here as time goes by.

Focusing on what really matters. In the context of economic pressures, I've seen a number of companies really hone in on products or services they think are the best amongst their offerings, and focus on selling those over others in an attempt to really distinguish themselves from competitors. This is even more of an important exercise when facing cash-strapped consumers and a volatile economic situation. Now is not the time for experimentation for customers (unless it's experimenting with a cheaper alternative), so companies are putting their best feet forward in terms of demonstrating why continuing to do business with them during these tough times should still make sense. The result of that may be that some underperforming items get canned. Altnernatively, new product or service ideas may emerge that better serve the needs of 2020 consumers. This really is a year of change and renewal.

A new remote, digital approach. It's been impressive watching companies around me transition to providing everything from customer care to sales to after-sales support online, compared to an almost entirely in-person approach in 2019. The rate at which some businesses have been able to adapt to selling products and offering services remotely has been truly impressive. Of course, this can be more of a challenge for smaller businesses that don't have the requisite capital. Just as banking moved online all on its own, now other sectors are reshaping the way they interact with consumers, using a digital-first approach and if not an entirely remote model, then a hybrid one. It will be interesting to see whether this continues in these industries once things calm down in the years to come, or whether they'll prefer their newfound approaches to doing business. We really are privileged that we're experiencing the pandemic during a time when so many things are already available through mobile apps. Everything from ordering groceries to hailing a cab to buying mobile data and doing banking are all already available at the touch of a button. Surely this convenience will only grow in time, and I wonder what the next big mobile hit will be.

Healthcare first. With the COVID-19 pandemic ever-expanding, essentially all major businesses I interact with have been forced to take healthcare more seriously than ever before. And for good reason. The South African government is not alone in holding companies accountable for COVID outbreaks at their premises due to the neglect of recommended, and especially mandatory, health guidelines.

Not only that, but customers feel more comfortable returning if they can rest assured you have their well-being at heart. In the most basic sense, that translates to having temperature checks at the entrance, sanitizer available on-site, and a mask mandate for all who enter. But it could go as far as logging the details of your customers in case something bad goes down and you need to notify them for contact tracing purposes, as well as having a health officer on patrol to ensure compliance and answer any questions that may arise.

For offices, I've seen deliveries at the door without signing being necessary, only essential visitors being allowed, log books, a shift to online and call-based assistance instead of in-person appointments, and of course, the now-ubiquitous work from home and flexi-time arrangements with staff which have proven not only useful, but also beneficial to overall staff mental health and even beneficial to businesses bottom lines. Many of these setups will continue once the pandemic subsides due to their positive aspects.

Innovation amidst the struggle. Whether it's the most basic of innovations, like the Perspex screens I now look at supermarket tellers through, or the complicated virtual property tours I now see some realtors doing for their clients, this has really been a year full of inventiveness. It's wonderful to watch minds come together to solve societal problems during a time of high stress levels. I've been lucky enough to work on some of these innovations as part of my career, and equally lucky to watch the businesses around me being inventive in their own ways. It really does make me hopeful for the future.

I think there are many lessons to be learned about both business and personal agility from what we've all experience these past few months. And for the choices we'll make if we end up in the same situation again. One positive is that I think many of us, and the businesses that serve us, are much more self-aware than before.

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