5 Trends in 2013 That Small Business Owners Can’t Afford to Ignore

Is it just me, or does it seem like the pace of business is increasing exponentially with every passing year? Each year has certainly brought its own game-changing technological advances and platforms that have affected the way businesses communicate with their customers and market their products and services. 2013 promises to be no different.

But if you start looking into the matter, you’ll quickly see that there are several distinct business patterns to look out at for in the new year, and each one of them is big enough to cause an avoidable splash.

As a time strapped, cash strapped small business owner, how do you choose which ones to pay attention to? For starters, here are five, over-ridding trends that you, as a small business owner, simply cannot afford to ignore:

Trend #1: The big squeeze. In order to maximize their reach, many big box corporations and Internet-based companies have begun offering an unprecedented range of really convenient services including enhanced personalization, same day delivery, and product customizations, and they are doing all of this at a competitively low price range. Because of this, small businesses will literally be force to adapt one or more of the following strategies in 2013: offering a highly specialized product or service, focusing on an ultra-specific niche, building an engaged community of customers around the business, and banding together with other local businesses to save expenses and cross-promote.

Trend #2: A matter of reputation. With online product reviews, social media and viral video, consumers will be more empowered than ever in 2013 to share their experiences, both positive ones and negative ones, about the products and services they use. Small businesses will need to double their efforts to keeps tabs on their reputation online, make sure their products and services deliver what was promised.

Trend #3: Mobile business monopoly. Small business owners need to respond to the growing proliferation of mobile devices. This actually includes several trends: mobile marketing, mobile payments, and web presence optimization for mobile devices. Over the past couple of years mobile optimization meant smart phones, but with the emergence of affordable mini tablets, like the popular Kindle Fire series from Amazon, we are going to see a lot more people connecting to the Internet and to each other through these devices. (And this also includes new items, like Microsoft’s smartly designed Surface- that will bridge the gap between PC and tablet computing). This means some of you have got to start thinking about optimizing your sites for both a smartphone and a tablet experience.

Trend #4: Run on talent. If your company is in the tech industry or you are in need of tech support positions, then you’ve probably noticed how hard it has become to attract talented, experienced employees. This will likely only get tougher in 2013. Many of the best employees are already employed, or are getting grabbed by big companies that can offer super attractive packages. These employees may be reticent to jump to something new. Finding the right combination of hard and soft skills will continue to be a major challenge for small business employers next year.

Trend #5: Keep it simple. When it comes to web-based design two words define the current trend: keep it simple and visual. That sites, such as Pinterest, have taken off is further proof that people are looking for visual content with instant appeal- from either a ascetic of informational standpoint. Moreover, sophisticated data visualization, specifically the art of turning complex data sets into a visual so that immediate patterns and/or fundamental principles become instantly apparent, is also gaining in popularity.

In short, there are many trends and movements that will shape the business world in the coming year, some may apply to your business, others not. But the previous five are definitely ones to watch out for. If you ignore them, then you risk being left in the dust.

10 Tools to Bring Your Website to the Mobile Web

One of the biggest trends making waves in the coming year is the increase in the number of people who will use their smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices to access the Internet. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 35% of American adults own a smartphone and 44% of them use their phones to access the Internet. One recent study reported that half of local searches are conducted via smartphones. Tablet computers and ereaders are also seeing a spike in sales.

 

 

 

It is thus essential these days to make sure that your business’ website can be comfortably viewed and navigated in a mobile environment. If you have yet to make the jump, here are ten tools that can help you get there:

1. MobiReadyEnter your website’s url and get a report on how your page will come up on a mobile phone including a bunch of tips on how to fix any problems. 

2. Google GoMoGoogle recently started an initiative to make websites mobile friendly. Its GoMo site lets you test the functionality of your website on a mobile device. The GoMoMeter, as it is called, will show you a preview of how your site will look when accessed by a mobile device.

3. Gomez Cross-Device Performance TestRegister yourself and submit the url of the site you would like to test, and you will receive an email of the results of the test which reveal how your website is rendered across multiple mobile platforms.

4. iPad Peek– As the name implies, with this service you can type in your website url and the simulator shows the test result in a life size iPad.

5. MobilePress– With this free plugin for WordPress, your blog will be automatically condensed into a mobile version.

6. ZinadooThis mobile website development tool offers a professional editor interface including widgets such as guestbooks, email, click to call, RSS feeds, and feedback forms.

7. mobiSiteGaloreThis mobile website builder offers ready-made template designs, an easy-to-use graphical interface and optional widgets.

8. Wirenode– This site offers a WYSIWYG mobile site editor with multiple customizable templates and several ready-made widgets. Users also have access to website statistics.

9. WP Touch– Turn your WordPress blog into an iPhone application-style theme.

10. WP Mobile Detector– This WordPress plugin detects if a visitor is using a standard mobile phone or a smart phone and loads a compatible WordPress mobile theme for each.