How Growth Culture Is Changing in 2021

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Mar 2, 2021

The phrase “growth culture” is often overlooked as a buzzword—a jargony term reserved for hip new startups with ping pong tables and stacked pyramids of spent LaCroix cans in their break rooms. The truth is, though, that 2021 couldn’t be better positioned as a time in need of growth—for any company, not just startups. 

Brands at every stage should adopt new growth strategies, especially ones with big plans to grow their ecommerce store. So where should you start in 2021? Does growth just mean scaling inventory or headcount? Is it just the number of customers you claim? 

Growth isn’t always about beefing up numbers. Modern-day growth culture means merchants need to transform the entire mindset when it comes to how the company operates: Who drives change, what focal points need to adapt, and what tools can help transform the business inside and out are all questions to consider for growing in 2021 and for years to come.

Be the Change You Wish to See in Your Company

To drive growth in your company, it’s critical to get everyone on board. If you expect everyone to be in this boat with you at the helm, at least map out where it’s going first. Encouraging everyone in your business, from leadership to entry-level employees, to see the vision or support the mission will excite people every time a milestone is met. 

And while this is a post about growth, it’s important to mention that this could also be a time when some people bow out if they feel your brand’s goals aren’t aligned with their own. Use that as an opportunity to bring someone on who does support the path you’re going on. 

Invest in People First

Since your team is likely made up of real, live human beings with feelings and opinions, institute policies that aren’t solely focused on revenue growth. Invest in people, not just numbers. Provide opportunities for development through conferences and courses that benefit both the employee and brand growth. 

Studies have shown that investing in and developing your team’s skills can improve whatever they create—plus, it lets them know that you care about their personal career goals, even if that means leaving your business some day. Beyond that, nearly half of today’s workers will quit a job if learning opportunities aren’t available.

Encourage them to grow in any way they want to, whether that’s work-related, or a hobby, a new language, or whatever they’re interested in. Additionally, benefits that show you care about the people behind the productivity will attract and retain top talent, which will ultimately keep your store competitive and growing on its own.

Have a Purpose Beyond Profit

The largest generation in the U.S. labor force is millennials. They’ve taken over the top spot previously held by Boomers, which means businesses need to adopt ideas that appeal to the 30-somethings eager to work for them. In short, this ain’t your grandma’s growth culture. 

This generation isn’t too keen on keeping their heads down or living by the punchclock. The majority of millennials—95% of ‘em—will leave a job if they see another company offering more flexible work hours and more balance. They also want to know that their work has a bigger purpose than simply profits, which is why getting team-wide buy-in starts with outlining what your business stands for. 

Modern careers are less about raking in the dough and more about growing, making a mark, and contributing toward the greater good. Seventy percent of workers in the U.S. wouldn’t work at a leading company if the workplace culture was bad, while 86% would take a pay cut in exchange for a culture and vision that aligned with their own values.

A Little Recognition Goes a Long Way

Culture can’t be curated toward growth without knocking down silos and encouraging every department to work together. Marketing, developers, finance, sales, you name it—they should all feel open to contribute ideas. To really encourage innovation, reward any employee that comes up with an idea that either contributes to revenue, cuts down on costs, or generates a positive vibe within the workplace. Employees will feel energized and ready to come up with new ideas while also feeling heard and appreciated. 

Celebrating wins is a whole team effort. Unlike cultures of yore where recognition was given in private behind the closed door of the boss’s office, people today want peer recognition and celebration. You don’t need anything that’s a huge time or money sacrifice, but make space to celebrate growth as a company. Throw a party, send swag after hitting milestones, or even deploy an email blast about an individual’s or team’s win to keep growth going strong. 

Modern Growth Culture Cares Most About the Customer

At the end of the day, adopting a strong growth culture that aligns with modern expectations, wants, and needs in the workplace is for one person and one person only: your customer.

Knowing your market needs to be your number one priority. Brands can no longer guess who their audience is or try to cast the widest net to catch everyone. This route will lead to poor marketing, poor product innovation, and scattered messaging. Instead, focus intensely on who the ideal customer is. Then, bring that customer into the culture with the rest of your team. Bring empathy and humanity to the purpose of growth, even if it’s uncomfortable at times.

Create personas for the different types of customers you have—each brand will likely have a few. Patagonia, for example, will likely attract an outdoors pro or even first-timer. (Or, um, the interesting twist of fate where “finance bros” are also big on Patagonia vests.)

Bring in a physical manifestation of your customer to your office. If you wanna get weird with it, you could even have interns stand in as each persona during meetings and training. This can provide a fun experience for all, and it’s an easy way to get your employees to think about how to create a better experience for the shopper and provide a great learning experience for the interns. 

Enable your employees to empathize with your customers by providing them with a stipend to shop on your website or in your store. They’ll understand the customer’s journey as well as appreciate the impact their line of code or chunk of copy has on personal experiences. 

Today’s empathetic and values-based employees will work harder knowing that a real person’s happiness, not just the bottom line, is the purpose of their role.

Growth Culture Is Changing Alongside Consumers

This past year marked wild changes to everyday life that were never expected even a month before they started. In 2021, we predict more change as ecommerce continues adjusting to the new normal. It should then follow suit that ideas can and should change, too. Brands don’t need to do things as they’ve always been done or do the things that everyone else is doing. 

This past year marked wild changes to everyday life that were never expected even a month before they started. In 2021, we predict more change as ecommerce continues adjusting to the new normal. It should then follow suit that ideas can and should change, too. Brands don’t need to do things as they’ve always been done or do the things that everyone else is doing. 

Now is the time for ecommerce to embrace new techniques, experiences, and expectations that improve the culture within the company and, ultimately, the customer experience. Growth culture is no longer a linear path between “less revenue” and “more revenue.” It’s about embracing a changing workforce and humanizing employees instead of treating them as cogs in some dystopian machine.

As the culture within your businesses grows toward one unifying vision, innovation will follow. Care for the customer will follow. Championing the brand will follow. And in the end, your customers will reap the rewards that come from a happy, healthy, and engaged team.

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