Business trends for 2021: Over half set to focus on customer engagement

Topic: SME

It’s fair to say that 2020 was a difficult year for many businesses, and as the UK heads into it’s third national lockdown, we imagine there are many hoping to use their learnings from last year to better navigate 2021.

In a bid to understand how companies are planning to ensure effective operations for the year ahead, we surveyed over 500 businesses to determine which areas they were going to focus on more and which communication trends they believed would be the biggest within their industry.

Our data showed that over half of businesses were looking to mainly focus on customer engagement when compared to 2020, with an additional quarter choosing to mainly focus on their online presence. What’s more, the two most common trends predicted for business communication across industries were the use of business messaging apps and two-way communication with customers.

As illustrated in the charts above, when compared to last year 52.69% of businesses were said to be predominantly focusing on customer engagement, 25.55% on their online presence, 13.17% diversifying their product / service offering and just 8.58% on their brands humility and customer sentiment.

As you might expect given the reported focus on customer engagement, when asked which communication trend recipients felt would be the biggest within their industry for 2021, the two most popular answers were two-way communication with customers (32.54%) and business messaging apps via SMS, WhatsApp, RCS or Apple Business Chat (32.2%). The remaining third of responses were split as follows: Customer service technologies 13.63%, Focus on internal communication 10.73% and video marketing at 10.9%.

Interestingly, even when looking at the data as split by business industry, results were relatively consistent across the board. For a full breakdown, please see details below.

Predicted communication trends for 2021 across 7 different industries

Banner showing survey results of business trends for 2021 across financial services industry

When analysing the results from recipients within the financial services and utilities industries, responses follow the same pattern to those collated overall. 70% of recipients predicted that two-way communication with customers (40%), and business messaging apps (30%) were going to be the largest communication trends for 2021. Furthermore at almost 1 in 5 (18.57%), recipients within these industries were the most likely to predict customer service technologies as a communication trend for their industry this year.

Additionally when compared to 2020, recipients in these industries reported that more focus would be given to the following areas:

  • Customer engagement 58.62%
  • Online presence 18.97%
  • Diversifying product / service offering 15.52%
  • Brand humility and customer sentiment 6.9%
Banner showing survey results of business trends for 2021 across healthcare sector

As you might expect, over one third (34.44%) of healthcare businesses predicted that two-way communication with customers would be the biggest communication trend for 2021, followed by business messaging apps at 32.22%. Interestingly however, video marketing was also favourably forecast at 15.56%, which was the highest figure of all industries surveyed.

Given the ongoing impact of the pandemic, in many ways this makes sense as communicating with patients and customers via video, would potentially enable healthcare organisations to educate and provide further information in a more engaging way.

Furthermore, when asked which areas they planned to focus on most for 2021, results were as follows:

  • Customer engagement 56.58%
  • Online presence 21.05%
  • Brand humility and customer sentiment 11.84%
  • Diversifying product / service offering 10.53%
Banner showing survey results of business trends for 2021 across public and education sectors

70% of recipients within education and the public sector, predicted that two-way communication with customers (43.33%) and business messaging apps (26.67%) were going to be big trends within communication for 2021.

Moreover, when compared to 2020, recipients within the public sector reported that they planned to focus more on the following areas:

  • Customer engagement 60.81%
  • Online presence 18.92%
  • Diversifying product / service offering 13.51%
  • Brand humility and customer sentiment 6.76%

And it is worth noting that customer engagement at 60.81%, was the highest rate reported of all industries in our survey data.

Banner showing survey results of business trends for 2021 for retail and automotive industries

Survey data from recipients within the retail and automotive sector also predicted that two-way communication with customers (39.29%) and business messaging apps (33.33%) would be the biggest communication trends for this year.

Likewise, as you may expect, when asked which areas they were going to focus on more when compared last year, responses were as below:

  • Customer engagement 57.33%
  • Online presence 26.67%
  • Diversifying product / service offering 9.33%
  • Brand humility and customer sentiment 6.67%
Banner showing survey results of business trends for 2021 within the software and IT sector

Survey responses from individuals within the software and IT industry revealed that the majority expect business messaging apps (36.3%) and customer service technologies (18.49%) to be the biggest communication trends for this year. Intriguingly, of all industries of all surveyed, software and IT recipients were least likely to select two-way communication with customers as a predicted trend for 2021 at just 16.44%.

Furthermore, at 35%, recipients within this industry were also most likely to select online presence as a focus for 2021:

  • Customer engagement 40.0%
  • Online presence 35.0%
  • Diversifying product / service offering 16.67%
  • Brand humility and customer sentiment 8.33%
Banner showing survey results of business trends for 2021 in the transport and logistics sector

Although both two-way communication (34.88%) and business messaging apps (23.26%) were rated most highly by individuals within the transport and logistics industry, interestingly focus on internal communication was also rated favourably at 23.26%.

In addition, when asked which areas they planned to focus on more when compared to 2020, data shows that while customer engagement came top, recipients within this industry were the most likely of all sectors surveyed, to select brand humility and customer sentiment:

  • Customer engagement 57.89%
  • Online presence 18.42%
  • Brand humility and customer sentiment 15.79%
  • Diversifying product / service offering 7.89%
Banner showing survey results of business trends for 2021 across the travel and hospitality sectors

Data collated from travel and hospitality businesses shows this sector was one of only two within our research, to not list two-way communication with customers as the biggest communication trend for this year. And at 36.92%, recipients within these sectors were most likely to report business messaging apps as the largest communication trend for 2021.

Finally, when recipients in these industries were asked about their focus for next year, results were as follows:

  • Customer engagement 49.18%
  • Online presence 29.51%
  • Diversifying product / service offering 14.75%
  • Brand humility and customer sentiment 6.56%

Although the situation regarding the coronavirus continues to impact each business and industry sector slightly differently, our data shows that universally, customer engagement will be a main focus for 2021. In compliment to this, when looking at predictions for the biggest communication trends across industries, our research shows that the majority of business sectors believe enabling two-way communication with customers and business messaging apps will be the two largest trends for this year.

If you would like any further information on business messaging apps or how introducing these into your communication strategy could help enhance business efficiencies and customer engagement, simply get in touch with one of our expert team at sales@esendex.com.

Author Avatar
Demi Edmunds

Hi, I'm Demi, Digital Marketing Executive at Esendex and I benefit from experience across the marketing mix, in both B2C and B2B. I'm passionate about helping clients realise the full potential of multichannel communications and bridge the gap between brands and their customers.