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9 Industries to Watch in 2021

Jan 31, 2021 • 9 min read
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      2020 was a boom year for a few industries and tough for others. With the coronavirus vaccine now available and “signs of herd immunity” possible by mid-year, what businesses may survive or even thrive in 2021? It might still be a banner year for hand sanitizer, but keep reading as a few of the predictions may surprise you.

      1. Cybersecurity

      Data is an asset—just ask any business that has been hacked. The US government, including Homeland Security and the Treasury Department, will spend months recovering from the recent Sunburst cyber-attack.

      Our online lives—mobile apps, Internet of Things, and digital-first mentality—are here to stay, so businesses and customers need solid methods for protecting their online identities. No wonder Gartner ranked cybersecurity mesh as one of the top 9 IT security trends for 2021. Gone are the days of perimeter-security (e.g., a building with an alarm system). Our digital-everything has evolved cybersecurity into a mesh of protection around “the identity of a person or a thing.”

      2. Education

      The eLearning market is expected to grow to be a $375 billion industry by 2026. As businesses adapt to embrace “constant learning” models for their employees and universities seek to snag a share of the online market, the eLearning industry is one to watch.

      But eLearning won’t be the only potential trend in the education market. Tutoring options to help school kids “catch up” on lost learning will be needed. While the jury is still out on how steep that curve is and what demographics may be missing from the known data, many experts agree it’s a problem that will need to be addressed.

      McKinsey suggests 2 proposed mitigation strategies—accelerated academies or high-intensity tutoring—either of which will cost billions to implement.

      Infograph showing investments needed to catch up on lost learning

      Source: McKinsey projections, based on studies by Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, EdResearch for Recovery Project, and Hamilton Project

      3. Fitness

      The fitness industry may look different in the future, but people will still pursue the benefits of exercise, including a mental health boost, reduced comorbidity risk for any future pandemics, and remedying the lack of social distancing from the fridge.

      Any fitness-related business that can adapt to keep customers engaged will have a shot at success. Part of that engagement will include maximizing personal safety for any in-person offerings. Another piece of the puzzle will be creating a team-mentality—peer pressure still works even in a virtual setting as many runners paid money to “race where you are” and compete remotely against other racers.

      4. Human Resources

      Small business owners have discovered that “winging it” for HR needs leaves them at risk of legal liability and doesn’t allow them to use their human capital to its full potential.

      Why is HR important? Because a professional HR solution can help with talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion goals, ACA compliance, benefits administration, and employee relations, and it can help create initiatives to support employee’s mental health. No small business owner has time to do all that plus run a business.

      While it’s possible to mitigate some of those needs by hiring contract labor or freelancers, most small businesses need employees to grow their businesses. This is where the HR industry could explode in 2021 as businesses that offer HR outsourcing services, like ADP or professional employer organizations (PEOs), can help small businesses with their HR needs.

      5. Logistics Management

      Supply chain management, including the logistics of getting raw materials in and goods back out to your customers, got the limelight when many channels came to a screeching halt at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

      In 2021, all pieces of the logistics puzzle will be scrutinized for redundancy as no one wants a repeat of bare shelves in the grocery store or factories shut down due to delayed raw materials. Given the importance of distributing goods—everything from delivering goods to online shoppers to distributing the coronavirus vaccines—logistics management will be a hot topic in 2021.

      6. Longevity Industry

      The silver tsunami has started. By 2030, it’s estimated that 17 million baby boomers will be 65 years or older. The $7.1 trillion market of serving baby boomers is expected to grow to $13.5 trillion by 2032. That’s not pocket change.

      The aging in place movement, where adults grow older at home rather than moving into a facility, may accelerate due to the pandemic. The CDC reported that 21% of assisted living facility residents who contracted COVID-19 died (compared to 3% of the general population), so some seniors may delay facility care for as long as they can. That means a need for aging in place services such as transport, physical help, and assistance with technology.

      7. Mental Health Services

      The coronavirus pandemic has caused an upsurge in the need for mental health services, and employees are starting to demand mental health coverage

      Even before 2020, there was a shortage of mental health professionals—only 1 for every 10,000 people worldwide, according to the WHO. Since the CDC predicts 50% of the American population will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives, this is an industry ripe for growth. The world needs more mental health professionals, but anything related to stemming the tide is viable, including technical solutions such as AI or mobile apps that act as a “passive symptom tracker.”

      The challenge will be to piggy-back off the pandemic-related focus on mental health and get funding. On average, countries spend only 2% of their health budget on mental health initiatives, so it’s going to take entrepreneurs to step up to the plate to fill the void.

      8. Telehealth

      Telehealth, on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic, was widely adopted in 2020. No one wanted to risk contracting COVID-19 for the sake of getting antibiotics for a sinus infection. Now that patients have made the leap, many will continue to use telehealth for future needs.

      Another reason for the acceleration in telehealth use was the need for hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. For example, the WHO says the city of Madrid converted “over 60% of its mental health beds” to beds for COVID-19 patients. This forced mental health professionals to provide alternative services to their patients, including telehealth. While telehealth may not be appropriate long-term for all scenarios, it’s easy to imagine insurance companies encouraging it instead of a hospital bed when feasible.

      9. Tourism

      It’s too soon to predict if tourism will recover, let alone grow in 2021, but people are itching to explore. When the “all clear” signal is given, a reinvented travel and tourism industry is bound to take off.

      What might that look like? Travel experts predict a focus on single-residency lodging and a desire for solitary cocoons within public spaces of hotels. With luck, it may include a “travel for good” focus to support emergency conservation efforts as many wildlife preserves have experienced an increase in poaching with no budget to handle it.

      And of course, let’s not forget the digital nomads. With remote work expected to be the new normal, those workers who can be 100% remote might be some of the first wave of explorers to return.

      Keep an eye on these industries for potential growth in 2021. And remember, you can always access funding options through lending marketplaces like Lendio to help adapt your business to changing industry trends.

      About the author
      Katherine O'Malley

      Katherine O'Malley is a contributor to the Lendio blog. A technology geek at heart, she splits her time between traveling, freelance writing, database administration work, and implementing SEO on her travel blog. In her free time, she loves to research the challenges small-to-midsize tourist suppliers face and find ways that technology can help them out.

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