The last year and a half have been a difficult time for many companies. Some were forced to change their business models, and others had to adapt to lower demand for products and services. Many scrambled to meet higher demand for essential goods and services. The ones that are currently thriving are prepared to pivot when needed.
The National Retail Federation estimates sales will hit over $4.44 trillion by the end of 2021. Although the world is in flux and businesses face some challenges, the economy still ticks along and is promising rebounds in the future.
You must be poised to survive the obstacles and take advantage of the opportunities. Even though there are six months left in 2021 and you might not yet be ready to plan for 2022, companies that prepare themselves now are more likely to survive sudden shifts due to unexpected occurrences.
Global e-commerce will hit around $5 trillion this year, with much of the business occurring between Black Friday and Christmas Day. Now is the time to prepare, before the busy holiday season strikes, and you’re suddenly forced into 2022 without a list of how-tos to survive the new year.
While it’s impossible to predict every challenge businesses might face, there are some things nearly all companies are likely to contend with in 2022 and beyond. Knowing what they allow you to prepare and overcome them more easily.
Check off these possible problems, but understand something could arise no one saw coming, much like the pandemic of 2020. Although companies may not have expected a deadly virus to change the face of business, if they prepared for disasters, they were better equipped to handle the shift.
1. Changing Buying Habits
Over 60% of buyers altered the way they shopped in the past year. People may not feel comfortable going into a store or just like the convenience of delivery and curbside pickup. Whatever the reasons, more want simple solutions to getting the items they need. Is your business ready to meet its demands?
- Survey your customers to find out how they prefer to shop. Do they want online options? How important are delivery and curbside pickup to them?
- Streamline your process so those ordering online are treated with the same courtesy and speed as those entering your establishment.
- If delivery is new to your business model, seek to improve logistics and make the experience a positive one.
Each type of business will have unique needs when offering additional shopping and fulfillment options. Pay attention to where mistakes occur and what bottlenecks need fixing. Make sure you understand what your customers need and want.
2. Inventory Control
During the height of the pandemic, you likely noticed that many stores ran out of essential items such as toilet paper and paper towels. Even food flew off the shelves.
Part of the reason for the shortages was due to the way companies handle stock now. Zero inventory models, where companies keep only what they can sell immediately rather than overstock, is popular because it reduces waste.
What happens when suppliers can’t get items to you fast enough or customers buy more than expected? The last thing you want is people ready to buy and no product to sell them. You have to find a balance between controlling waste and having enough.
- Invest in good inventory management software.
- Track patterns, such as seasonal demand, that might require you to order more of a product.
- Appoint someone to keep an eye on stock and reorder the minute it gets short, or set up an automated system that does so for you.
While there will be times you’ll run short or buy too much of an item, today’s technology helps you save money and keep your customers happy. Learn from any mistakes you make, offer discounts on excess products and apologize to customers when items are delayed.
3. Finding Qualified Employees
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an astounding 9.2 million new job openings in the United States. Everyone you look, you’ll see help wanted signs. Even fast-food restaurants are upping their pay and benefits in an attempt to attract workers from a very limited pool of availability.
If you run a company with a need for unskilled workers, such as a restaurant, fast food franchise, retail store or manufacturing facility, you may find filling openings is next to impossible. The issue is likely to continue into 2022, so figuring out how to combat it now may keep you from being stuck without workers through the busy holidays.
- Consider what you offer that no other brand does. What is your company culture?
- Offer perks, such as bringing your dog to work or paid time off to volunteer for a local charity.
- Treat your employees like you care about them and their futures. Offer training and promotional paths.
Your best line of defence in overcoming the labor shortage is to offer employees decent pay, treat them well, and invest in their training and development.
4. Abandoned Shopping Carts
People shopping online more also removes some of the urgency to buy that consumers have when in-person. Abandoned carts are a serious issue that can hurt your revenue.
You likely spend a lot of time and money driving traffic to your website. If you also own a brick-and-mortar store, you may send some of those customers to your online location. You may spend money on social media ads and influencers, and you want to see a return on your investment.
- Use exit pop-ups to increase conversions as much as 46% by guessing user intent.
- Gather emails early in the process so you can reach out with a discount or free shipping offer.
- Shorten the process. The quicker the user gets through the sales funnel, the less likely they’ll change their mind.
Try different tactics and run A/B tests to ensure you get the highest possible conversion rate for your efforts. You can apply similar tactics in-store. Make the checkout process simple and try to figure out why people leave without making a purchase.
5. Natural Disasters
You’ll likely have to deal with a disaster in the next year or so. Perhaps a pipe bursts and leaks into your store. Maybe the pandemic grows worse, or a new one arrives and forces costly shutdowns.
- Make a list of the possible situations you might face. Write down as many things as possible and a solution for each.
- Take out insurance to cover natural and manmade disasters so you can keep operating even when things fall apart.
- Set aside funds for a rainy day so you aren’t left without cash flow.
Think about how you’ll handle each situation. If local businesses shut down, how can you keep serving customers? If your store floods, where can you relocate overnight? Have a loose plan in place to handle almost any scenario. Even if something unexpected happens, you can adapt one of your other plans and move forward without losing momentum.
Overcoming Obstacles Now
One of the reasons it’s vital to think through the issues you might face in 2022 is that anything on the timeline could speed up. You might worry about emerging technologies and how you’ll adapt, but suddenly every competitor starts using automation.
Here is how to prepare now so you can hit the ground running in 2022 or adapt quickly in the moment:
- Write down your strategy. When you’re upset and panicking, you won’t have to think. You can just grab your plan and implement it.
- Keep an eye on the changes in technology and the world around you. Is something happening faster than expected? The number of companies that had to move to remote work in 2020 is a good example of a sudden change you should prepare for.
- Brainstorm with your workers. Everyone has different interests. One employee may have read an article about an impending economic shift, and another might know about viruses or technology. Talk to your employees about obstacles they think might occur that impact your business.
For each obstacle you think of, you should have a plan for how to overcome it.
Preparing for Upcoming Issues
Now that you know a few of the obstacles that might occur in 2022, how do you prepare? Here are some steps to take now before you near the last quarter of 2021.
- Listen to your gut. What do you think is most likely to occur?
- Know the solutions. What software is available, and which is best for your business model?
- Check your insurance and make sure everything is up to date.
- Take inventory of your equipment and product in case you have to turn the information over to your insurance company. Taking photos is also a good idea.
- Network with other business owners, so you have a plan to relocate if you have to at the last minute.
- Hire and train people who can adapt at a moment’s notice. Brainstorm with your staff regularly so they get used to throwing out crazy ideas while trying to find the best solution to a problem.
The more prepared you are for potential obstacles, the better you’ll pivot and survive anything.
Facing Everyday Challenges
Although the obstacles listed above are specific to the times we’re living in, there are everyday challenges you’ll also have to overcome. Cash flow, employee retention and customer experience are all issues you’ll face every year.
The best way to grow your brand and develop a positive reputation is by preparing for each situation you’ll encounter along the way. A mentor who’s gone before you is invaluable to help you learn how to avoid mistakes. Take the time to talk to others, study the industry you’re in and plan for the worst, and you’ll never miss a beat.