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4 Big Trends Shaping Your Business Next Year (Thinks Out Loud Episode 310)

Big trends shaping business next year: Woman visualizes the future

As we start the slide into the end of the year, it’s important to think about the trends that will shape your business next year. And, looking at the data, 4 big trends immediately head to the top of the list. They are:

  1. A predictably unpredictable economy
  2. The acceleration of digital adoption… and that it’s never going back
  3. Shifting ground under the Frightful Five
  4. Customers want you to be more digital… and more human.

What do these trends mean for your business next year? How can you put them to work to grow? The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud dives into the 4 big trends shaping your business next year and offers some answers.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

Thinks Out Loud Episode 310: 4 Big Trends Shaping Your Business Next Year Headlines and Show Notes

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Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

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Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 21m 09s

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Transcript: 4 Big Trends Shaping Your Business Next Year

Well, hello again, everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is Episode 310 of the big show. And thank you so much for tuning in. I very, very much appreciate it.

You know, there’s a reason I call this show Thinks Out Loud, because sometimes I am thinking out loud, and this one is going to be a little more thinking out loud than normal. But there’s a really cool reason for that, a really important reason for that. And that’s because this one’s about a big topic. This is about four big trends that you need to be thinking about and need to be aware of as we head into 2021. And it’s going to be a little bit of a mix of the practical and the philosophical.

Now, the philosophical, because we’re living through a really weird time, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change, at least for part of the year, right? And practical, because you’ve got to live with this. I can’t just tell you, "Hey, here’s some big theory and good luck with that." So I want to have you think about this in terms of what you do about it. Now, that tends to be true every episode, but it’s particularly true when we talk about four big trends that you’re going to be facing as you head into 2021, as we head into next year. So let’s talk about what the four trends are and then I’m going to go into a little bit of detail about each of them.

The Big Trends Shaping Next Year for Your Business

  1. The first is that we should expect that we’re facing a predictably unpredictable economy in 2021.
  2. The second is the acceleration of digital adoption and that it is never going back.
  3. The third is that the ground is shifting under the frightful five.
  4. And the fourth is that your customers want you to be more digital… and more human.

So let’s talk about each of these a little bit.

Next Year’s #1 Trend: A Predictably Unpredictable Economy

First, I said we’re looking at a predictably unpredictable economy. The economy is going to be a bit of a mess at least through the first half of the year, possibly longer. But it’s going to be a bit of a mess. We are still living through what economists referred to as a K-shaped recovery. Some folks are doing well and some people are still struggling and likely will be for a while.

This isn’t a normal economic recovery where everybody’s doing better and a rising tide lifts all boats, and probably won’t be at least until the vaccine is in place.

Work from home might be the new normal forever, at least for some significant chunk of the economy. At the same time, some companies will absolutely require employees to come back in. In fact, two-thirds of jobs, I’ve talked about this a couple of times in recent episodes, two-thirds of jobs in the United States — and more or less around the world — require people in the workplace even now just because of the nature of the job. You know, nurses, firefighters, grocery store employees, people like that. But if we take it as a given that some percentage of people won’t go back to work in the workplace, will continue to work from home, that’s going to have massive downstream and evolving impacts on the broader economy.

Just as a for instance, there was a story in The Wall Street Journal that talked about an analyst report that said, quote, "…this month painted a gloomy picture of mass transit in 2021, saying ridership would likely only grow about 30% above this year’s depressed levels. It also said the rise of remote working and changing travel patterns could cause permanent ridership declines.”

So that’s huge, huge differences. Jerome Powell, who’s the chairman of the Fed said, quote, "We’re recovering, but to a different economy." The economy we’ve taken for granted is going to evolve over the next year or two or three.

What won’t change

One of my long-standing rules of looking at trends is focusing on what won’t change, and the economy is going to change a lot. It’s also going to be incredibly meaningful to what happens to your business in 2021. So you can’t talk about next year and not talk about the economy, even though it’s, by definition, going to change.

Some Economic Optimism… and Opportunities

There will be, even if the economy goes through rough patches probably for the first half of the year, or certainly the first quarter, there absolutely will be pockets of optimism. As I’ve talked about for the last handful of episodes, digital is booming. And I’m going to talk about that more in a minute, but it’s clear that the biggest prediction you should be making about the economy, the biggest prediction you should make about the economy is that it will remain unpredictable for at least a chunk of 2021 and you need to be prepared for that.

Trend #2: Digital Adoption Will Accelerate… and Is Never Going Back

Now, the next big trend and the next thing that is predictable is that digital adoption will continue to accelerate. It’s never going back. Now, I’ve done literally the past couple of episodes about this very topic, so I’m not going to belabor this point much other than to say that we’ve already been seeing this huge shift to digital. There are some recent stats that are worth noting though.

Thanksgiving online sales were up almost 22%. Black Friday was up about 22% as well. Shopify, who powers e-commerce for many small businesses, saw a 75% lift year on year. That’s amazing. By the way, two-thirds of those purchases were made on mobile phones in Shopify’s data, about half on [mobile phones in] the broader data.

Now, remember, this is even with people hunkered down extensively at home, they’re using their mobile phones. So that’s a clear sign that people are increasingly comfortable buying online and increasingly comfortable buying on mobile.

Another really, really good piece of news embedded into Shopify’s data, it’s a small piece of data, but it’s good, was that average cart order was 11% higher year on year.

So that’s a little pocket of optimism like I was talking about, and all of those are clear indicators that we live online now. We just do. Your customers do. And there’s no sign that they’re going to go back. We’re seeing lots of signs that these behaviors are, if not permanent, certainly, again, to use the rules of focusing on what won’t change, not likely to change soon.

Trend #3: The Ground is Shifting Under the Frightful Five

The third big trend is that the ground is starting to shift under the Frightful Five. Now, let’s be really clear. Big tech is in a great position to keep winning. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft, they’re in really great shape. There was an amazing statistic again in The Wall Street Journal that showed from the start of 2020 through the end of October, “Amazon added 400,000 workers, the overwhelming majority in its e-commerce distribution system, including warehouses and delivery. This is again from The Wall Street Journal. That’s the equivalent of the entire workforce of Home Depot.” Right? That’s nuts.

The Frightful Five big tech firms have invested big time in these trends that I’m talking about, in digital adoption and things like that. I’ve talked about how they have a “secret plan” to keep winning, and I’ll link to that in the show notes.

At the same time, they’re really starting to see the ground beneath their feet shift in a big way. They’re subject to a lot more scrutiny. And especially if the K-shaped recovery continues and continues to harm some parts of the economy, you know, small business owners and local employment, et cetera, they’re going to face a lot more scrutiny. And I’m going to come back to that in a second, but that’s a big change.

Why You’re Not Destined to Lose to the Frightful Five

I talked about this, oh, a few months back that you are not destined to lose to the Frightful Five, and the data supports that. Look at the Shopify data. Customers buying on Shopify grew faster than the overall digital growth. Digital growth was up 22%, Shopify’s was up 75%. Look at people like Airbnb and DoorDash who have recently filed to go public. They’re banking that they can be a better option than the big guys because DoorDash is set up to deliver things to you today, right now, from people right around you. Airbnb thinks they’re a better option of places you can find a place to stay than the and Expedia. They are banking on the fact that they are not destined to lose. And you can too. You just can’t sit on the sidelines and expect the game’s going to come to you. You have to get in the game in a big way.

Trend #4: Customers Need You To Be More Digital… and More Human

Now, the last big trend that we need to talk about is that customers want you to be more digital and they want you to be more human. Obviously I just talked about how we’re starting to see a big tech backlash. Retail Dive though has this great data about what the pandemic has cemented about Gen Z. I mentioned this last week in… not last week, in the last episode, about how Millennials and Gen Z’s behaviors have been shaped by repeated crises. They’re used to a world where things are continually changing and where they interact with their friends and family using digital all the time.

We’ve also seen that people have gone months without face to face and they’re hungry for going back to face to face. They’re hungry for the opportunity to be in person with people when they want to be and digital when they want to be. It’s not either/or; it is digital and face to face. People want to use digital more, but they also are increasingly concerned about privacy and trust. Think about how big tech is getting a big look by regulators around privacy. Think about how people are looking for, as I referred to a few weeks back, trusted gatekeepers.

Digital and Human Increasingly Go Hand-in-Hand

This is this idea of we need and we crave human connection as well as digital convenience. They go hand in hand and they’re going to be crucial to 2021, and I’m going to say 2030, and I’m going to say probably 2040. I don’t know that for sure because that’s a long way from now, but it seems pretty likely that that’s something we’re going to see a lot more of.

How to Respond to the Big Trends

So, as I said at the start of the show, you have to have some practicality here. I mean, these are huge trends that matter a lot, but what do you do about it? Over the next handful of episodes and the next handful of months, I’m going to give you lots of ideas of what you can do, but for today, I want to focus on two specifically.

Content Helps Customers

One, I’ve talked about a lot in, oh, gosh, episodes going back as far as the beginning of this show, that you must focus on your content.

Your customers seek answers to their questions. They’re using search at levels we’ve never seen before, but what search means is continuing to shift. Organic search results are getting pushed further down the page. People are looking for things with more local intent, especially when they’re on their phone. So your updates to your Google My Business listing if you have a physical location become more important, the possibility of requiring an app if you’re more of an enterprise level company becomes important for bringing people directly to your content.

We know that social continues to be huge because we know that people are looking for insights from their friends and family and fans and followers out there on social. We know that user-generated content is going to be huge, as I talked about in an episode called “Is Content is King Dead?” Because again, it comes back to this idea of trusted gatekeepers. I don’t just want your content, I want content from people I trust, and there’s nobody your customers trust more than their friends or their family.

But it all still means your content must answer your customers’ questions, whether it’s content you create or whether it’s content your customers create for other potential customers.

So the first thing you must focus on for 2021 is how do you have the content that you need to answer your customers’ questions?

Lean Into Agile

And then the second big adaptation you must make is that you must get more agile. Change isn’t slowing down. There is no new normal. We know that. As I said before, you want to focus on things that won’t change? Well, change ain’t changing, right?

So you have to work on how do you become more agile and more responsive. And that means thinking about, do we have the people in place and the processes in place and the platforms in place that allow us to adapt quickly when it’s appropriate to, quickly to the changing questions our customers ask? Can we get content put together fast enough? Can we shift people to the right channel quickly enough? And by “right,” I mean, right for your customer’s needs, not just yours.

Are we thinking about how to make digital supportive of their journey, of our customer’s journey, regardless of whether they want to transact with us online or face to face? How do we support them properly at each stage of that journey in a way that the handoff between digital and face to face or vice versa works seamlessly?

Big Trends for Next Year Conclusion

So that’s what you need to be thinking about as you head into 2021. You need to be thinking about the fact that we’re going to face a predictably unpredictable economy, that digital adoption is accelerating and is never going back, that the ground is shifting under the feet of the frightful five, which creates opportunities for you to succeed as long as you listen to your customers and both become more digital and more human.

If you can manage to do that, that’s what’s going to set you up for a great 2021. It’s also what’s going to set you up for a great 2022 and a great 2023 and a great 2024. As the old saying goes, the best way to predict the future is to create it. And if these are the trends that you’re facing, it’s just a question of what future do you want to create?

Show Wrap-Up and Credits

All right. I told you this was going to be a long one tonight, but looking at the clock on the wall, we really are out of time for this week. I do want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all 310 past episodes of Thinks Out Loud by going to Again, that’s Just look for Episode 310.

You can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes that you find on to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week. You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, Overcast, wherever fine podcasts are found. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks”**, “Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud,” or “Thinks Out Loud.” We should show up for any of those.

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Thinks Out Loud on Social Media

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Sponsor Message: SoloSegment

As ever, I’d like to thank our sponsor, SoloSegment. SoloSegment uses machine learning, natural language processing and anonymous behavioral data to connect your website visitors with the content they need to help them accomplish their goals. SoloSegment does this in a way that protects customer privacy using anonymous data. They get that most of the people who come to your site don’t want you to know who they are and that you don’t need to know who they are to give them a positive experience and lead them to a conversion. You definitely should check them out. I’m a big fan. I work really closely with them. All you need to do is go to Again, that’s

Show Outro

Now, all that said, I want to again say thank you so much for tuning in every single week. I would not do this show without you. It means so much to me that you tune in every week and it just makes it a lot of fun for me. So thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I hope you have a great rest of the week, a wonderful weekend ahead, and I will look forward to talking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as ever, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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