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sexta-feira, 23 de dezembro de 2011

How will Digital Change Small Business in 2012?


Over the course of 2011, we wit­nessed social media and location-based ser­vices real­ly take off for small busi­ness­es — the mom and pop shops of the world con­tin­ued to get more dig­i­tal and more mobile.
As this year wraps up, we look back at the tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ments that small busi­ness­es have ben­e­fit­ed from and pre­dict how those tech­nolo­gies will affect entre­pre­neurs in 2012.

We spoke with a num­ber of small busi­ness­es to get their thoughts on how the mar­ket will con­tin­ue to adapt to chang­ing tech­nolo­gies as we move into the new year.

Based on those dis­cus­sions, here are our seven small busi­ness pre­dic­tions for 2012. Read on and let us know what you’d add to the list in the com­ments below.

1. Busi­ness­es Mine Big Data
Many of the small busi­ness own­ers we spoke with pin­point­ed 2012 as the year of big data. “Com­pa­nies are real­iz­ing that they have a lot of infor­ma­tion on their hands and will need tools to mine it, make sense of it and mon­e­tize it,” says We Are Cloud CEO Rachel Dela­cour.

“What will real­ly mat­ter for SMBs in 2012 is the fact they can, for the first time, mine their own busi­ness like the big guys, and do so quick­ly and cheaply,” Dela­cour syas. “SMBs can use pow­er­ful, high-end tools deliv­ered via their desk­top brows­er or onto their tablet for just a few dol­lars per month to see what’s hap­pen­ing with their HR, their sales, their social media engage­ment. Those SaaS tools give a one-man shop or a 50-per­son out­fit almost instant­ly the same fire­pow­er as a whole depart­ment with its own IT staff inside a multinational.”

Jeff Judge, CEO of Sig­nal, agrees. “Accord­ing to IBM, 2.5 quin­til­lion bytes of data are cre­at­ed daily, and 90% of the data in the world today was cre­at­ed with­in the past two years. 2012 is the year when small busi­ness­es start to bring togeth­er data from their web­site, cus­tomer pur­chase behav­ior, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing cam­paigns and social media activ­i­ty around their brand to dras­ti­cal­ly impact the qual­i­ty of their dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing efforts.”

2. Web­sites Opti­mize for Tablet Com­merce
For­rester Research pre­dicts mobile com­merce will grow at a com­pound annu­al growth rate of 39% through 2016, and Infi­nite Research fore­casts that tablet adop­tion will grow at a com­pound annu­al growth rate of 56% per year through 2015.

Alex Schmelkin, co-founder and pres­i­dent of Alexan­der Inter­ac­tive, believes that 2012 will bring an explo­sion of tablet com­merce. “Wide­spread adop­tion of Apple’s iPad has made it imper­a­tive for retail­ers to opti­mize their web­sites for tablet usage,” he says. “While com­pa­nies will con­tin­ue to devel­op native apps for the device, web brows­ing is the num­ber one activ­i­ty, and most t–com­merce will con­tin­ue to occur in the brows­er. Small busi­ness­es should review their sites to opti­mize for touch and fix any usabil­i­ty issues.”

Lisa A. Shorr, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing at PC Trou­bleshoot­ers, would go as far as to say that 2012 is the year that tablets take a stand in the small busi­ness arena. She explains, “Since its launch in 2010, the tablet has been used not only as a brows­ing mech­a­nism, but a true mobile busi­ness tool as well…Our clients are demand­ing more mobil­i­ty and inte­gra­tion of mobile devices for doc­u­ment shar­ing, email­ing, social media and more.”

3. Brands Become Pub­lish­ers
“Con­tent is King.” That’s an Inter­net mantra we’ve all heard way too many times, but there’s truth to it — and next year, small busi­ness­es will start to see the light.

“2012 will mark a surge in busi­ness­es not only being the pub­lish­ers of their own con­tent, but [being] dis­sem­i­na­tors as well,” says Affect Strate­gies‘ pres­i­dent and founder San­dra Fathi. “Whether it’s a com­pa­ny blog or a cor­po­rate e-newslet­ter, small busi­ness­es will focus on cre­at­ing the con­tent and devel­op­ing their own pub­lish­ing vehi­cles to get their mes­sages to mar­ket. They will bypass tra­di­tion­al media out­lets and go direct­ly to their tar­get audi­ences by cre­at­ing brand­ed niche media properties.”

4. Loy­al­ty Pro­grams Go Dig­i­tal
Who doesn’t love free stuff? Small busi­ness­es have been accom­mo­dat­ing that love for decades — each year, loy­al­ty pro­grams just keep get­ting bet­ter and eas­i­er to use.

In 2011, Foursquare and other location-based ser­vices were huge inflencers in tak­ing loy­al­ty pro­grams dig­i­tal. Small busi­ness cer­tain­ly played their part in the game, mak­ing check-ins all the more fun for con­sumers.

Next year, though, we’ll see greater adop­tion of dig­i­tal loy­al­ty pro­grams. “Punch­cards are a thing of the past,” says Doug Hard­man, CEO of Spark­Base. “Busi­ness­es will start trans­fer­ring their loy­al­ty reward pro­grams into the dig­i­tal space. This is a twofold trend to keep up with big­ger busi­ness­es such as Star­bucks and Sub­way, who have dig­i­tal reward pro­grams, and also to com­pete with daily deal sites. Small busi­ness­es want to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves and offer spe­cial deals with­out hav­ing to work with Groupon or Liv­ing­So­cial. Mobile dig­i­tal loy­al­ty pro­grams allow them to do this.”

“The shift to mobile shop­ping is accel­er­at­ing as near­ly half of all shop­pers use their mobile phone to scout deals and com­pare prices,” says Hard­man. “Mobile coupon redemp­tion is fore­cast­ed to exceed $43 bil­lion glob­al­ly by 2016, and mer­chants need a way to con­nect with shop­pers [on their mobile devices].”

CEO Jeff Judge of Sig­nal agrees. He says, “The next wave of loy­al­ty pro­grams for small busi­ness­es will lever­age cus­tomer data­bas­es of pur­chase his­to­ry, mar­ket­ing cam­paign response rates and social media activ­i­ty like check-ins and brand men­tions to cus­tomize rewards to an indi­vid­ual. One only needs to look at com­pa­nies like Bel­lyflop, Stampt and Spo­tOn — and Google’s acqui­si­tion of Punchd — to see this emerg­ing already.”

5. Web­sites Inte­grate Social Login
Ian Aronovich, CEO of, believes that more small busi­ness­es will inte­grate social login on their web­sites in 2011. “Social login is where you can use your Face­book, Yahoo and Google IDs [among oth­ers] to login to var­i­ous websites,” he says. “It’s quick and easy to use. Social login is great because peo­ple don’t need to cre­ate dozens of new user­names and pass­words every time they find a site that they want to use.”

Because Face­book is the most pop­u­lar social net­work and Inter­net users’ top choice for social login, small busi­ness­es may want to focus ini­tial efforts on the plat­form. “A study by Social Labs shows that 50% of ecom­merce vis­i­tors are logged in to Face­book simultaneously,” says mar­ket­ing man­ag­er Alan­na Fran­cis of Blue Foun­tain Media. “This means that with Face­book Open Graph inte­gra­tion, small busi­ness­es can show cus­tomers rec­om­men­da­tions and Likes from their social cir­cles. Since many retail­ers have shown that social rein­force­ment increas­es sales, small busi­ness­es will want to con­sid­er this strat­e­gy in 2012.”

6. Busi­ness­es Pull Back on Daily Deal Spend
Daily deal sites like Groupon and Liv­ing­So­cial brought lots of excite­ment in 2011. While we saw a lot of small busi­ness­es suc­cess sto­ries in the group buy­ing space, we also heard of a num­ber of dis­as­ters, includ­ing the story of a baker who almost went out of busi­ness after run­ning a Groupon deal. For small busi­ness­es run­ning on low mar­gins, daily deals aren’t worth it.

“The daily deals tal­lies on cus­tomer reten­tion and prof­itabil­i­ty con­tin­ue to be ugly for merchants,” says Tarek Pertew, co-founder of Par­rut. A recent Rice Uni­ver­si­ty study sug­gests that near­ly half of all mer­chants are mak­ing money on deals. And with Groupon’s own data sug­gest­ing that only 22% of cus­tomers are com­ing back, we [at Par­rut] assume that a sig­nif­i­cant pull­back is due. That said, the daily deal busi­ness is evolv­ing, and it’ll cer­tain­ly be a major out­let for lead gen spend going for­ward. At the same time, we think small busi­ness­es used daily deals as a ‘gate­way’ to social mar­ket­ing, but will now focus on their own con­tent and other tech­nolo­gies which give them more con­trol over sus­tain­able growth and profit.”

7. Sched­ul­ing Con­tin­ues to Go Cloud
Jerry Net­tuno, founder and CEO of Schedulic­i­ty, may be a lit­tle biased, but we like where his head’s at. “The appoint­ment book is dead,” he says. “The busi­ness sec­tor as a whole has seen a shift to automa­tion. The suc­cess of sites like Schedulic­i­ty, OpenTable and Zoc­Doc only rein­force the idea that the tra­di­tion­al pen and paper appoint­ment book may see its demise in 2012. The num­ber of online appoint­ments is grow­ing expo­nen­tial­ly, as Schedulic­i­ty alone has seen near­ly 7 mil­lion appoint­ments booked online since mid-2009. Over the next two to five years, the phys­i­cal appoint­ment book will be gone alto­geth­er and replaced with online counterparts.”

In 2010, Seattle-based Emer­son Salon, sourced 75% of its busi­ness from Twit­ter, Face­book and its blog, great­ly due to its online book­ing options and social media savvy. Other small busi­ness­es should take note and move towards dig­i­tal sched­ul­ing in 2012.

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