Every time you blink a new platform or device appears on the horizon. It's nearly impossible to keep up with all the technology changes happening today. But, really, you only need to keep abreast of those innovations that could have the biggest impact on your business. I'd like to share with you the Top 10 trends for small business in 2015.
10. Find and use new technology to grow.
Small business owners are more than just entrepreneurs these days; they must continually seek and adopt new technologies for improving their business bottom line. Whether you focus on internet security, social media marketing or new payment options, you must find and put to use new technologies that are right for your business and that improve your business efficiency.
9. Understand and use social media that's right for your business.
Your business should be using social media to drive traffic to your website. Educate yourself on the various social media platforms so you can talk directly to your target audience. According to a study by Shareaholic, YouTube undisputedly drives the most engaged traffic and has the longest visit duration (227.82 seconds). Remember that, yes, Facebook is popular, but there are other effective social media platforms for small businesses. Explore the platforms your consumers engage on the most. A little research can yield BIG results!
8. Online reviews influence consumer buying decisions.
Small businesses want customers searching local, online directories. When using sites like Yelp, Angie's List, YP.com, and Yahoo Local, potential customers read reviews of your business (and your competitors) and decide whether or not to buy from your company. Monitor your company page on these sites to gain insights on what customers really think about your products or services and your competitors.
7. Mobile optimization is necessary.
According to an infographic shared by HeyStaks, 25 percent of all internet searches take place on mobile devices. Of those searches, half are pursuing a local business or service. Seventy-eight percent of local-mobile searches lead to offline purchases. Be wary: half of all searches fail to find what the searcher is looking for. So, yes, make sure your business is optimized for mobile.
6. New methods of payment.
New forms of mobile payment, like Apple Pay, are trends now but will likely become standard in the future. Explore new ways to make customer payment easier. According to research by Erricson Consumer Labs, 48 percent of people would prefer to pay for goods and services with their smartphone. By 2020, 80 percent of people want to replace their cards with a "digital wallet." Will you be ready? If not, your customers will go elsewhere!
5. Equity crowdfunding is on the rise.
Crowdfunding began as a way to raise money by giving donors "gifts," like naming a sandwich at your shop after them for one month for a $100 donation. If the rules of the new federal JOBS Act are finalized by the SEC, crowdfunding could be poised for huge growth in 2015, as it will allow crowdfunding sites to solicit non-accredited investors with a lower net worth than those who are currently allowed to participate in equity crowdfunding.
4. Small businesses will explore big data.
Thomas Hansen, the worldwide VP for Small and Medium Business for Microsoft, recently said that the Internet of Things is really going to take off in 2015. This is good for small businesses because they will have access to more data than ever before. It is incumbent of you to take advantage of the benefits big data can deliver for your business.
3. Find new methods to complete tasks.
We work differently than we did a decade ago. Today, there are a number of entrepreneurs who only use apps and smartphones to accomplish work-related tasks. Businesses are also hiring more part-time and freelance employees than ever. Cloud-based solutions for data storage and collaboration, such as Google+ Hangouts or Dropbox, are increasingly becoming essential productivity tools. You need to discover which tools work best for you!
2. P2P is the new B2B.
P2P, or peer to peer, is part of the sharing economy. It refers to the idea that instead of buying something, you rent it from someone else. Consider examples such as Airbnb and Uber; we no longer have buy vacation homes or drive. P2P allows us to rent goods, products and services from someone else rather than a business. How will your business compete in this new environment?
1. Cybersecurity is a must-have.
Small businesses are increasingly becoming a significant target of cyber-criminals. In fact, 60 percent of all cybercrime is now directed at small businesses. According to a recent study by McAfee only nine percent of small businesses have mobile security in place. Eighty percent of small businesses do not use ANY data protection or encryption. Make it a resolution to put cybersecurity measures in place in 2015, and do it NOW!
One thing is for certain--whether you are upgrading payment systems, exploring P2P sharing, implementing anti-malware/anti-virus protection for your devices, or monitoring business credit--small businesses have greater opportunity to leverage emerging technological trends to grow their business than ever before.