Local shops’ popularity rises – and robots will help drive more

Britain’s small businesses are facing a boost as over half of shoppers say they have been making a concerted effort to use them in the past year rather than a big chain. Four in ten  would even be prepared to pay more for a coffee or lunch if it meant supporting an SME.

Marketers at Vistaprint commissioned research and partnered with futurist Andrew Grill to predict what the next five years and beyond holds for small businesses, from the introduction of robotics and NFTs, accompanied by new research.

Their study of 2,000 adults revealed that three in ten have even considered opening their own small business with 11 per cent saying they are more likely to do so now as a result of the pandemic.

But it’s younger people who are leading the charge in shopping small with half of 18-24 year-olds planning to support small businesses more post-pandemic, along with 43 per cent of 25-34 year-olds. In comparison, only 24 per cent of over 65s said the same.

An accompanying report by Andrew Grill detailed the key things small businesses can do to capitalise on this change in consumer behaviour such as the emergence of “Non-Fungible Tokens” (NFTs), the latest innovation to take the crypto world by storm, lowering costs with automation and robotics and the re-birth of QR codes.

To help small businesses prepare for this future of Brits shopping small and a new generation of shoppers actively choosing to spend their hard-earned cash with independent businesses, he identifies his key trends for the future of small businesses, across some of the UK’s most exciting sectors:

Among them, for example, were Wellness: “Digital pills” will emerge that will provide a rapid digital “Health MOT”. Improvements in voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri and the addition of always-on “ambient audio” will listen to our speech patterns for signs of stress or discomfort.

If 2020 was the year of work from home, 2021 is a celebration of small businesses

Fitness: AR and VR will be used to deliver personal coaching sessions anywhere, on-demand and home fitness equipment will be affordable and filled with sensors that track every aspect of a workout.

Home Improvement: 3D printing is rapidly evolving and, in the next five years, the technology will have evolved to allow Home Improvement businesses to provide services to print-on-demand in-store and provide a complete custom design capability.

Local Restaurants and cafes: this is where he sees the rapid adoption of robotics and automation in the preparation of food and beverages within small businesses to enable more efficiency from the personal service provided by employees to customers.

He said: “If 2020 was the year of work from home, 2021 is a celebration of small businesses. The pandemic has shifted retail behaviour and SMEs’ nimble nature means they are positioned to take advantage of this new paradigm.

“During Lockdown, we’ve all noticed that we have instead been visiting our local small businesses more frequently by not going into an office. This is a massive opportunity for small businesses.”

Emily Shirley, General Manager for Vistaprint UK and Ireland said:As we all spent 2020 adapting to the ‘new normal’ we know that many of these habits are here to stay, particularly the consumer preference to shop small!”

Meanwhile, Independents’ Day UK, an initiative that emphasises driving footfall to independent shops on July 4th each year – has announced that for the first time, it will culminate in a full weekend of celebrations highlighting Britain’s indie retailers over the entire weekend.

The campaign’s organisers are asking consumers to “pledge a few pounds” to independent retailers, by spending at indies . It will be sponsored by Local Rewards, a programme developed by social media specialists, Maybe* Tech, which allows retailers to communicate with and reward shoppers – and is now live across hundreds of towns and cities across the UK.

More on this here

More on Vistaprint’s research here