Well, that was a ride. When we strapped ourselves into 2020, we had no idea what lay beyond the first turn. At the end of a year that was weird at best, I, for one, am looking forward to a reset. Sure, the pandemic surges on, but a vaccine is rolling and there’s hope that 2021 will be a better year than the last.
On close inspection though, 2020 wasn’t all bad news. We at Shopify found moments of joy thanks to a strong community of small businesses owners who helped each other succeed, the impact we made together to fight climate change, and the stories of resilient founders finding silver linings.
As we say goodbye to 2020, we reflect on what made us happy this year. Plus, we’ll share our advice for keeping the good vibes going through the new year.
1. Small business owners are resilient as h*ck
We won’t lie: 2020 was exceptionally hard for small business owners. Some were forced to lay off staff, pivot their focus, or close their doors. Some may not reopen. But those who remain standing did so because of their resiliency and resourcefulness.
We spoke to 84-year-old Nonna Nerina, who quickly pivoted her pasta-making classes to virtual learning after COVID decimated tourism in her Italian village. Canadian Katherine Gaskin did the same, taking The Content Planner’s workshops to Zoom. In Seattle, author and founder Moorea Seal closed her retail boutique but took time in isolation to reevaluate and focus on her true passion. And, when the founders of transgender swimwear brand RUBIES had to end their school postcard program, they shifted focus to corporate programs, staying true to their cause.
💪🏽 Staying strong in 2021
If your business survived 2020, keep up the great work. We’re rooting for you! If you’re starting over or starting from scratch in the new year, dive into some resources and stories to help you get unstuck and inspired:
- Getting Unstuck: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do
- Discover What Inspires You
- Read Success Stories of Other Inspiring Business Owners
2. Support for small businesses is up
Yet another silver lining: support for small businesses has actually been bolstered by the pandemic. According to our research, 57% of buyers say they sought out local and independent businesses to support, and of that group, 34% did so more during the pandemic than earlier in the year. Of those who reported shopping locally, 79% cited supporting their communities or protecting local jobs as their reasons.
Consumer trends are also shifting toward supporting independent businesses as a way to make social or environmental statements with their dollars. In Shopify’s Future of Commerce report, we found that 49% of consumers respond positively to retailers who donate to a cause and 23% shop local or independent to reduce their environmental impact.
⛑️ Helping small businesses in the new year
Let’s keep the momentum going into 2021! We can all do our part by diverting our dollars away from massive chains directly into the hands of independent business owners. These folks, after all, are the heart of our communities. They help the local economy, create jobs, and provide inspiration and mentorship to the entrepreneurs of the future.
Looking for businesses to support? Start here:
- Read How to Support Small Businesses—with 100+ Gift Ideas to Get You Started
- Browse picks from influencers in The Gift Better Guide
- Download the Shop App to discover local and curated brands
3. Together, we protected millions of trees
Our sustainable actions made a measurable impact toward protecting the planet in 2020. We introduced Shopify’s Sustainability Fund and launched Shop, a shopping discovery and package tracking app that also offsets emissions from every purchase made through Shop Pay.
At the time I’m writing this, the Shop community has protected 85,465,576 trees. On top of that, we announced that we were committed to offsetting emissions from every purchase made on Shopify stores over the BFCM weekend. The numbers are in! Through that effort, we offset nearly 62,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of carbon captured and stored by 80,970 acres of North American forests in one year.
🌳 Committing to sustainability in 2021
We launched Shopify’s Sustainability Fund this year, with plans to invest $5 million annually in promising solutions to fight climate change. If your goals for 2021 include making an impact within your own business, start here:
- Turn on Shop Pay to enable offsetting for your customers’ purchases through Shop.
- Download the Offset app.
- Get inspired by the stories of socially responsible companies
- Read: Sustainable for the Long Term: 7 Ways to Stay True to Your Values—and Meet Customer Expectations
4. Shopify stores smashed BFCM records
During BFCM, independent businesses on Shopify drove $5.1 billion in total sales (yes, that’s billion with a b)—a 76% increase over last year. Though the pandemic presented many challenges for small businesses, it’s clear that many persevered and collectively, they decimated past sales records for the BFCM weekend.
📈 Making BFCM 2021 even better
It might seem early to be talking about next BFCM (we know, we know, you’re still waist-deep in shipping this year’s orders). But it doesn’t hurt to plant the seed. Start preparing for the season earlier this year to account for the unexpected. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that viruses do not care about your plans.
Dive into some resources to put your best foot forward in 2021:
- The 27-Point Checklist to Prepare Your Store for Black Friday Cyber Monday
- How to Plan a Creative (and Profitable) Black Friday Cyber Monday Promotion
- 24 Shopify Apps to Help You Sell Your Best This Black Friday Cyber Monday
5. Our communities are even stronger
There’s no question that shared experiences unite us. We’re all in this together, even while we are isolated and apart. And in crises like these, we mobilize and pool resources to help each other, whether it’s buying food for an elderly neighbor or calling friends to check in. In the business community, we saw the same spirit.
Small business owners invested profits and resources to help their communities. We spoke to these inspiring founders who stepped up for others in 2020:
- Medical wear band FIGS donated 30,000 sets of scrubs to healthcare providers.
- Canadian fashion and lifestyle brand Peace Collective ramped up its charitable efforts, donating meals to local food banks with all purchases from the brand’s Home Is collection.
- Liezl of ArtGirlUprising ran virtual classes—at a loss—to help artists learn about the business side of art and support them through the pandemic. “It’s all about community building and allowing people to see each other,” she says.
- The founder of Alivia launched her social impact brand in the middle of the pandemic. She found success in connecting people in the disability community through storytelling. The fashion brand also supports non-profits with every sale.
❤️ Keeping community close in the new year
In a year where we were all but cut off from our communities, we had to reinvent ways to connect. Community is more important than ever for brands—and that won’t change when the ball drops. Rally a community around your cause or story, engage 1:1 with your customers, and seek out existing communities where you can contribute meaningfully.
Get started with tailored advice for building community for yourself and your brand.
Take care of yourself—and each other
That’s it from us, folks. We’re off for some R&R, ready to bring you more insights and inspiring stories to help you grow thriving businesses in 2021. We hope you make time to do the same. From our families to yours, whatever and however you celebrate, happy holidays!
Illustrations by Pete Ryan