Summary: What’s next for consumer businesses and their employees as they recover from a tumultuous start to the decade? Our survey found 3 impactful industry trends that are driving the next phase of work and consumer behaviors.
In my 12 years of experience in retail, I’ve watched various industries shift to embrace new digital opportunities and advance economies as a vital component of their business strategies. Technological evolution has always been mission-critical in terms of future growth and success.
While enduring more than a year full of unique challenges, specifically tied to the global pandemic, organizations were forced to abruptly stop everything and adhere to a completely new set of customer wants and needs. Consumer businesses were among the most challenged industries in 2020—in their struggle, it became clear that customer expectations for digital experience leaped forward by a decade. Public health was suddenly the main factor for strategic planning to ensure business continuity. We saw an acceleration of changes in consumer behavior unlike ever before, and businesses reached unprecedented levels of swiftness in response. These changes delivered more convenience and greater efficiency and are likely to endure over the next several years.
Seismic shifts in consumer business
At the beginning of 2021, Windstream Enterprise completed our inaugural Industry Insights Survey where we asked our customers about the major changes they witnessed and their plans for the coming years when the world is fully up and running. With well over 300 responses—roles ranging from business leaders in the C-suite, to VPs, directors and engineers—we learned exactly what has been going through the minds of consumer business leaders. We documented what they’ve done to avoid falling behind, and how they plan on getting ahead.
Here, I will highlight three industry trends from this survey that we found to be both meaningful and integral to the future success of consumer businesses.
Finding 1: Greater investments in IT
Budgets and jobs were cut as a means of survival, particularly among the more challenged industries within consumer business, like retail and food service. After what could be described as a stressful year for these industries, we asked, “What’s to come in 2021?”
The answer was good news: better days are on the horizon. Our survey shows that 86% of executives within consumer businesses expect their IT budget to increase or stay the same in 2021. We also saw that 53% of consumer businesses see IT as a strategic advantage, which hints that further investments will be made in technologies to reinforce connectivity, business continuity and collaboration.
Times of crises are never fun to experience first-hand, but the struggles of 2020 bred innovation. They also forged newfound partnerships between line-of-business peers and IT leaders within organizations. CFOs and CEOs sat down together and analyzed customer data with a microscope and then banged on the doors of IT leaders asking to make responsive changes to protect revenue. Our survey suggests that these partnerships are here to stay, giving IT leaders an opportunity to embrace their role as advisors to their executive team and put healthy budgets in place.
About the Author
Grant has more than 11 years of experience in the retail, contributing to his deep knowledge around business development, technology, product development, sales and merchandising.