Savvy owners know that keeping up with small-business trends is crucial to company success. The business world is changing rapidly—a 24-hour news cycle, constant connection to consumers via the Internet, and economic ups and downs have made staying up to date more important than ever.
So how is a small-business owner supposed to carve out time to learn more about new technology and products, as well as what trends everyone should be paying attention to this year? That’s an easy one: Here are five top trends that are making waves in business today.
1. Going Mobile. Don’t get left behind in small-business marketing and sales—go mobile. More than ever, consumers are making purchases, searching for businesses, looking for company reviews, and setting up meetings, all on their smartphones. According to TNS Global, because these devices are constantly increasing in popularity, adapting to mobile services is one of the most important small-business trends of the year.
Thanks to the surge in mobile activity, having a company website that is optimized for viewing and interaction on smartphones and tablets is a must. Finding a way to make your site mobile-friendly is equally important. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to invest in expensive IT services to create an app, but it does mean that a company website should be easy to navigate on a small mobile screen.
2. Cloud Computing. Although cloud technology may seem elusive to some small-business owners, migration to the cloud is in full effect, making research to understand what it’s all about a priority for owners.
Cloud technology allows businesses to increase productivity without exhausting resources. Many cloud-computing companies charge by the unit for their services, making it budget friendly by reducing business costs. The cloud is also accessible from anywhere across the globe with an Internet connection, which means small-business owners can work from home and have greater control over their company while out of town on a business trip.
Keep on top of this trend because it’s going to be a big one—check out PCMag’s reviews of twenty of the most popular cloud services for small businesses.
3. Emerging Social Media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn have been around for a while now, but the likes of Pinterest, Instagram, and Yelp are coming on strong. The sheer number of platforms may be overwhelming, but don’t forget—most social-media outlets are free to use, and they connect businesses directly to consumers. It’s a great way to market a small business, and it gives companies insights into how their clients think, what they buy, and whom they interact with on a daily basis.
Small-business owners can share information about sales, marketing, and industry news, as well as respond to consumer questions, all through online platforms. Images have also become increasingly important, but companies don’t have to make huge investments in expensive cameras to keep up. Instead, a small-business owner can use a smartphone or a basic digital camera to take a picture and upload it online in just moments.
Most social-media sites are easy and free to use, so get online and sign up for a Facebook or Twitter account today.
4. Thinking Global. Positive your business is too small to go global? You might want to reconsider. Companies from overseas are reaching into U.S. markets, so it’s important for local companies to think on an international scale, even if they’re not ready to begin marketing to consumers in different countries.
If you think your company is too small or too niche to expand overseas, take a look at Dan Perkins’ story. Perkins started Couch Guitar Straps out of his garage ten years ago, and today, with only four part-time employees working with him, he sells vegan guitar straps all across the globe, from Germany to Japan.
5. New Payment Methods. PayPal, GoPayment, and Square are a few of the most popular alternative-payment systems that are available today, but this payment trend is on the rise, and more options are sure to pop up. Some customers find these methods quite convenient—when making a purchase online, all they have to do is sign into their PayPal account, for example, and find their credit card and shipping information saved and ready to go.
Not sure where to begin? Start by reading through Digital Trends’ product reviews of Square, PayPal, and GoPayment, and weigh the pros and cons.