Just as 2020 has changed all of us in one way or another, we need to acknowledge that it likely has changed customers as well. It would be unwise to simply push forward with old tactics, not considering the changes that this year has brought to all of us.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that the businesses that are able to quickly adapt to the changing times are better able to thrive. It’s about taking lemons and making lemonade — despite the difficult circumstances, you need to see what you have to offer, what your customers need and find where the two intersect.

These five consumer trends are prevalent across all industries, and savvy business owners will take these into consideration as they plan for a new year.

1. Focus on health and safety

Last year, health and safety became paramount. As consumers were allowed to return to their favorite businesses, it became increasingly important that the companies they were visiting were clear on their health and safety precautions.

There is preference shown to a brand that customers know would take safety seriously and not take any unnecessary risks.

To quell any concerns your customers may have about safety, plainly publish the measures you are taking to ensure their safety, both in-store and on your website.

Even more important, be sure to follow them. If a company says that their employees will be cautious, but the reality shows otherwise, it will be hard to earn back that trust.

2. Socially conscious

Activism has continued to an impact this year, and companies that don’t take a stance could be left behind. Many customers want to buy from a company that supports social and environmental issues.

In the past, companies usually elected to remain silent about social issues, not wanting to offend anyone. However, remember that in some cases saying nothing can be a statement all on its own.


Show your customers your values, whether it is on widespread social issues or by making a difference in your local community. Businesses have power, and consumers want to see them using that power for good.

3. Personalized communications

The modern consumer expects a much more personalized experience when working with a company, whether they are online or in person.

Personalization goes beyond just the shopping experience — such as using personalized or segmented email campaigns.

How can you make every customer feel special? For starters, don’t send the same emails to everyone on your mailing list.

You should have an email workflow that sends emails to customers tailored to where they are on the buyer’s journey.

Personalize communications so that you can market to your customers based on where they are with your brand.

4. At-home experience

Though businesses have begun opening their doors, many consumers have gotten used to shopping from home and likely will continue to do so.

It’s important to note that the standard has risen for online shopping — consumers want the experience to be as accessible and easy as an in-person experience.

To shift your offerings to meet this perspective, provide simple options to allow your customers to peruse your goods and services at home. This could be in the form of offering online consultations, providing ways for customers to virtually “try on” products at home or expanding curbside pickup.

Innovate and find a way to make them feel just as welcome virtually as they would in person.

5. Provide value

Consumers are looking for brands that add value to their lives and to the world around them. This can take many forms — perhaps as a downloadable how-to guide or providing earth-friendly products.


Providing value goes beyond just promoting your product or service. It’s about having insightful content and conversations that push to a sale that then expands to a loyal customer base.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and figure out what matters to them, and see how you can help.

The more you are concerned about their needs over your bottom line, the more you won’t have to worry about the latter.

If 2020 taught successful business owners anything, it’s how to pivot. This year, too, has been full of ups and downs so far, and business owners need to these changes in stride.

We like to call it the next normal, not the new normal. This ability to adapt will only continue to help in 2021 as you strive to improve, keeping your customers’ needs top of mind.

Bobby Hansen is regional director for the Better Business Bureau Cedar Rapids office; (319) 365-1190.

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