Now that 2011 has passed (and what a wild and crazy year it was!) and 2012 is well under way, it’s time to look at some trends that will shape the upcoming year for small business owners. Taken as a whole, in 2012 you can expect to see a lot of maturing and fine tuning of some repeatedly trending topics, such as Internet marketing, the use of social media in business, and the proliferation and usage of mobile technology. The result: small businesses now have a more defined path to success both online and off.



Here is a rundown of some top small business trends:


1. Daily deals to build loyalty. Daily deals sites, such as Groupon and Living Social may have garnered a lot of attention last year, but not all of that talk time was so positive. The Internet is flooded with the stories of small businesses that ran a groupon or daily promotion with very little to show for it at the end of the day. The new year will certainly not see the demise of these sites, but rather their evolution. Look for daily deals sites to become more sophisticated, targeted, and local. Simultaneously, small business owners will seek to increase their follow-up efforts so that their daily offers and promotions will lead to more loyal customers.


2. Local search drives local business. In the new year, the importance of maintaining a local search presence will only increase, with local online directories, business pages, and review sites, such as Yelp! dominating the screen. Aside from helping Internet users access information on a local business, peer reviews and referrals will be big factors driving traffic and sales.


3. Personalized, real-time response. These days “service with a smile” is no longer enough when it comes to customer service- at least not when it’s online or over the phone. Consumers are looking for an instant, helpful, and personalized experience. This may take the form of a live web chat session with a customer service representative or a prompt response to an emailed inquiry or tweeted comment. Expect the continued usage and development of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions and other customer service platforms, such as ZenDesk among small businesses.


4. Bringing in the right traffic. Gone are the days where the goal is to bring as many people to your site as possible, such as with a viral video , article or social media event- especially if these activities are not directly related to your business. In the new year, businesses will be focused on bring in targeted traffic and then guiding their visitors along a carefully conceived sales funnel.


5. Mobile web. In November of last year, Nielsen reported, reported that almost half of American cell phone users (a full 44 percent) now have smartphones, and among those aged 25-34, that percentage jumps to 62 percent. Tablet computers and ereaders are also seeing a spike in sales and ubiquity. That said, this is another trends that small business owners cannot afford to ignore. At least, small business owners should make sure that their websites are mobile device ready. At most, some companies may stand to benefit from mobile-based marketing strategies, such as QR Codes and other forms of mobile advertising.


6. Mobile payments. The use and prevalence of mobile devices is not exclusive to consumers, many small businesses owners have been using smartphones and tablets in particular for businesses transactions and communication. Expect that number to increase in the new year along with an increase in mobile payments setups, such as the inexpensive Square or Intuit’s GoPayment


7. Email is still hanging in there. Far from being an outdated dinosaur when it comes to customer service and other forms of business communications, email is still where it’s at. Spamming people’s in-boxes, however, is not. The most successful use of email is in building long-term relationships through the delivery of quality content. With that relationship in place, email is a direct marketing conduit. Some email marketing tools popular among smaller businesses include: Vertical Response, Constant Contact and Mail Chimp.


8. Pain killers. The best selling point for 2012 is being able to convey how your product or service will solve problems, make life easier, and reduce one’s level of pain and discomfort.


9. The importance of trust. Consumers are looking for authenticity and honesty from the businesses they frequent, and they are getting adept at “smelling a rat.” Relationships and suggestions from within their social circles are also influencing their purchase decisions, sentiment, and ultimately, their ability to trust the quality and value of a company’s products or services.


10. Small businesses crunch big numbers. The new year will also see an increasing number of small business relying on robust, low-cost cloud-based data and analytical tools. These online tools allow small businesses to organize, mine and analyze vast arrays of data from market research, their website, customer behavior, marketing campaigns, and social media activity.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *