The startup and innovation landscape provides a huge source of tools for SMEs: thanks to Dropbox small companies can store a huge amount of data in the cloud for free. Skype has revolutionized the way people interact around the world and making low cost (or free) international business calls is so much easier than even a few years ago.
With SMEs accounting for about 99% of the entire business ecosystem, the web giants and fast growing startups know the huge potential offered by the SME market. On the other hand, partnering with tech companies could be a great chance for SMEs both to improve their internal operations and processes, and to gain new customers by providing innovative services they cannot normally offer due to lack of technical skills or budget.
The web economy offers thousands of interesting opportunities for the small and medium enterprise; they just need to be learned.
For example, if you have a local shop or café you can now collect parcels on behalf of your regular customers, earning the business a fee for every delivery. This seemingly small add on, offers a new service that has been proven to grow the number of visits to an outlet, including new visits and sales for your core business as well as boosting your customers' loyalty and retention. A good example of an affiliate program of this kind is provided by Amazon Locker, a self-service parcel delivery service offered by the giant online retailer that allows the user that buys online to choose the most convenient place for picking up the parcel among a network of retail stores partners. While retailers receive a stipend from Amazon to host the kiosks, customers don't need to worry about their parcels being stolen or missing the mail delivery: a great idea both for online shopaholic and owners of small local shops, that can get a good local visibility and sales fee, with no budget.
Empowerment via mobile devices is one of the biggest trends of the 21st century, introducing new ways of interacting with brands and paving the way for brand new marketing models for businesses. According to Google Mobile Planet Statistics, 94% of smartphone owners used their devices for local searches. As a result of searches, 51% visited a store, 48% called a store and 29% made a purchase. With such figures in mind, it's easy to understand why having a mobile presence is a must for any kind of business these days.
However, whilst most companies acknowledge mobile as imperative, many still don't know how to integrate it into their operations, the main reasons being the lack of coding skills within a company or low budgets to adopt a mobile strategy. However, there are a number of smart tools that have appeared on the market that can help companies easily build an app themselves or even become an app reseller to their clients: businesses and agencies looking to increase briefs, impress customers and provide a fast-growing additional source of revenue can join AppsBuilder's Reseller Program, which provides an ideal solution to add mobile services to a company's repertoire.
An enormous advantage that SMEs have is their focus a niche: in the sharing economy, where getting free tips from anyone on the internet is just a click away, deep skills and practical knowledge from trusted experts are actually one of the most valuable exchanges that can boost a brand's reputation, get positive referrals on social media and improve sales: on the free online events platform SuperSummit, companies can share tips through free live video interviews with top industry experts, or can open their own branded channel to sell interactive webinars.
More opportunities for SMEs and professionals can come from the fast growing "internet of things" sector which is fast becoming the hottest new trend for 2014: with the internet now powering everyday objects, everything can be controlled with a smartphone and what were considered already mature markets are getting a new lease of life: Fitbit, the smart tracker allowing sports lovers to monitor their performance, has launched an affiliate program which enables personal trainers, fitness and wellness websites, bloggers, retailers, and many more to earn commission selling Fitbit products through a company or personal website.
The affiliate marketing industry is continuing to grow in the US and will reach $4.5 billion by 2016, researchers at Forrester say. Reselling will become a huge business, with dramatic effects in terms of new customer acquisitions for both parties. However, the digital startup landscape offers an additional advantage to SMEs, agencies and individual professionals: huge cost savings on tech features that can improve the core business of every company with a non-tech focus. A big opportunity in a fast changing era, which must not to be missed.