As we head into 2022, there’s still no telling how the COVID-19 pandemic along with supply chain and labour issues will continue to disrupt the UK’s economic recovery, or how Brexit might further complicate things.
But, for entrepreneurs, even a crisis can lead to creativity and innovation. Businesses that can target new needs and offer customer-first solutions are perfectly placed to find new opportunities.
We’ve crunched the numbers to find the trends, sectors and business ideas that could make a huge impact in 2022, plus dug in to get the inside track from industry experts. We’ve picked out eight big themes shaping the world of business, identified sectors with huge growth potential, and come up with a wide range of business ideas to launch.
So, whether you want to get on board the healthtech rocket by launching your own care app, help people have fun and improve their wellbeing by starting a sober party planning business, or even help ease life’s hard decisions by setting up an online divorce consultancy, there are plenty of inspiration to be found.
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Here are the eight trends that we believe are going to shape the UK business landscape in 2022:
The pandemic has finally killed off the idea that most people should work 9-5 in an office.
Flexible working is no longer seen as a privilege, but a right. To compete for the best talent, companies will need to adapt accordingly, or suffer the consequences.
But, this also means huge cultural changes are needed, and entrepreneurs can find opportunities for giving additional training, support and services to businesses learning to adapt. Cybersecurity training will surge up the agenda, and there will be a huge need for businesses to tighten their data protection standards as workers continue to adjust to the remote lifestyle. When workers aren’t remote, the office itself will need to evolve, leading to fantastic opportunities for workplace design consultancies. Even more excitingly, virtual reality and augmented reality training and product development will become hugely important as forward-facing businesses adapt to the metaverse.
Whether it’s creating VR training simulations to improve performance, streamlining IT management for small businesses, or helping businesses evolve their office spaces to meet modern expectations, there’s an abundance of opportunities for emerging businesses to help others respond to our new ways of working.
To learn more, check out our full article on new ways of working
The COP26 conference shone a blinding spotlight on climate change – but if you somehow missed that, then you probably at least heard about the protestors gluing themselves to the M25.
We need to find new ways of living, we need to find them fast, and startups will be pivotal in this endeavour. The UK government is committing to a net zero target for 2050, but it needs the ingenuity and innovation of the UK small business sector to help it on its way.
This is an enormous trend but, drilling down, some great ideas include: appealing to sustainable consumerism by selling refurbished or sustainably sourced products, capitalising on the rapidly increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), and joining the push towards vegan and plant-based food.
To get in on the action, you could create a sustainable online clothing store, start an electric vehicle rental service, or open a vegan fast food restaurant.
To learn more, check out our full article on sustainability
For most people, finance is at best a chore and at worst a necessary evil.
Like it or not, we all have to deal with the world of bank accounts, mortgages, business loans and taxes.
But, a new wave of startups sees things rather differently. In the past year, we’ve recognised numerous businesses in our Startups 100 list that have simplified finance by speeding up the process, explaining things properly, and helping customers do everything they need to digitally.
Some are focusing on financial education, some are radically improving the mortgage process, some are making it much easier to get the finance your business needs, and some are helping people tackle the dreaded self-assessment tax return.
To join this disruptive group, you could develop a financial education mobile app, become a mortgage broker, or offer bespoke branding or web design services to accountants.
To learn more, check out our full article on finance made easy
Healthtech is booming in the UK – it’s attracting serious investment and is supported by strong long-term trends such as the country’s aging population.
Within this huge industry, some sectors really catch the eye in terms of future growth potential.
On-demand medication flourished during the pandemic (for obvious reasons). This growth looks set to continue even when we have conquered COVID-19, as many customers won’t be keen to go back to the old in-person-only system.
Another area set to become more and more important is care apps. The UK is facing a social care crisis. With the demand for care services expected to increase massively, anything that makes the process of organising and delivering care easier is going to be very popular indeed.
Finally, the rise of telemedicine could transform how healthcare is delivered, with niches such as fertility tech now a rapidly developing sector.
Top healthtech business ideas include creating care apps, offering telemedicine training, or helping to educate men about the key role they play in the fertility process.
To learn more, check out our full article on healthtech
While it had its advantages in all that added flexibility, the time spent living under lockdown and working from home was generally not great for our mental and physical health.
This means that there’s a huge appetite for businesses aiming to provide wellbeing support, in whatever form that takes.
For example, after hours and hours of staring at screens, a desire to get back to nature is a huge wellbeing trend. Companies offering UK-based digital detox breaks and outdoor activities are likely to see a boom, aided further by uncertainty over booking overseas travel while the pandemic continues.
Another emerging trend is a more sophisticated and scientific approach to nutrition, one that uses advanced techniques to create personalised products that make you feel and live better. Already, 41% of UK consumers use vitamins and dietary supplements daily, which indicates the opportunity in this sector.
Two further emerging wellness trends that could really make an impact in 2022 are sleep hygiene (the science of helping people to get better sleep) and mindful drinking (the growing shift towards cultivating a healthier relationship with alcohol, and generally drinking less of it).
If you fancy starting a business that makes people feel better, you could run guided tours with a twist, become a nutritionist or sleep therapist, offer mocktail mixology classes or even produce a line of ready-made mocktail drinks.
To learn more, check out our full article on wellbeing
The UK has always been a nation of pet lovers, but this went to another level during lockdown. Being stuck at home meant an influx of furry friends, and an estimated 17 million Brits now own a pet.
This means that the market for pet products and services is bigger than ever. Better still, owners are willing to pay a premium to truly pamper their four-legged friends.
Keeping their pets safe and healthy is a top priority for owners, so it’s no surprise that vet tech is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Forward-thinking vet companies are now offering round-the-clock remote consultations, helping to address any worries and dragging a historic industry into the 21st century.
Similarly, the country’s swelling pet population means very healthy prospects for the UK pet insurance market, and especially for businesses that can simplify and demystify a notoriously complex area.
Premium pet food is another booming area, with owners demanding personalised, high-quality products that fuel and excite their animal companions.
Finally, pet borrowing services are an attractive option for people who can’t own a pet, allowing them to get some of the benefits without the commitment.
Options for entering this space include starting a pet care consultancy, developing a specialist premium pet food website, or even opening a pet-based café.
To learn more, check out our full article on pet care
Helping businesses connect with their customers is a perennial business opportunity, especially given how customer needs are continually evolving.
To stay ahead of the curve, we’ve picked out three trends that are shaping the way businesses and customers interact.
For both parties, streamlining delivery is a key priority. As ecommerce becomes more and more important, having an efficient supply chain and delivery process is vital, so there’s a huge opportunity for companies that can improve how this process works.
Increasingly, customers want personalisation, something that allows them to exert control during the sales process and create the feeling of a more human interaction than simply buying a mass produced item. This can take many forms, but creating that feeling is the really important bit.
Finally, an increased focus on data protection and privacy is the other side of the ecommerce boom. Customers are more and more savvy about how their data is used, and protections such as GDPR have been introduced to regulate this. This has made things more difficult for some businesses, but it’s an exciting opportunity for companies with a focus on data privacy and cybersecurity.
To tap these trends, you could start a same-day courier company, open a showroom consultancy business, or set up a cybersecurity training provider.
To learn more, check out our full article on connecting with customers
There are some things none of us want to spend too much time thinking about, with death and divorce at the top of the list for many.
However, these things sometimes become unavoidable.
When that happens, there’s a huge need for companies that make things easier. Customers are desperate for approachable services that offer understanding and expert advice, and that break down complex topics and demystify the jargon.
In what is generally called death services, startups are simplifying and streamlining the often intimidatingly complex process of creating a will. Innovative new businesses are creating platforms that connect the bereaved with funeral directors and guide people through the funeral process.
Many of the same considerations apply to divorce. Again, companies are working to improve an outdated process, including helping couples to avoid lawyers altogether and instead use experts to work out an amicable settlement.
Other areas ripe for innovation include insurance and jobsearch, both of which are being disrupted by upstart firms with smarter, more efficient ways of doing things.
For business ideas that help people during their most difficult moments, consider setting up an alternative funeral planning service, developing a communications app for divorcing couples, or starting a ‘reskilling’ training service.
To learn more, check out our full article on easing life’s hard decisions
As you can see, there are loads of options for starting a great business in 2022.
It’s clear now that the COVID-19 pandemic is going to have an enduring impact long after the last lateral flow test has been thrown away.
The pandemic has forced companies to operate in new ways, showed businesses and employees new styles of working, and kickstarted trends that may continue for years to come.
There will be winners and losers from these changes, but entrepreneurs should view this crisis as a chance to truly make their mark by giving customers what they need most in uncertain times.
Which sector you enter and which trends you take advantage of will depend on your experience and knowledge, but our series of articles show that there are opportunities everywhere if you look closely.
Starting a business can always feel risky. But, with the right expertise, some creative thinking and an agile strategy, you can really make a big impact in 2022.
Alec is Startups’ resident expert on politics and finance. He’s provided live updates on the budget, written guides on investing and property development, and demystified topics like corporation tax, accounting software, and invoice discounting. Before joining, he worked in the media for over a decade, conducting media analysis at Kantar Media and YouGov, and writing a wide variety of freelance pieces.
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