Looking ahead to 2013, what will be the most important trends for small and medium businesses who are trying to establish or maintain an online web presence?
2012 brought a lot of changes and new technologies, and a few trends remain important for the coming year. These trends are making it possible to change the way business is done. Where the old model required your business functions be done in a specific location, with specific hardware, accessible only to specific people, during your business hours; the new model is built on the premise of any team, anywhere, anytime and any device.
Mobile and tablet devices are changing the way that consumers use the Internet. Businesses are not necessarily keeping pace. 63% of online adults access the internet from a smartphone, and mobile devices now make up about 20% of US internet traffic; and that number is growing.
To start with, you should make sure your website works on mobile and tablet devices. Current web site best practices use a technique called responsive design, where columns and content automatically re-size to display correctly on desktop, tablet or mobile devices. If you haven’t yet converted your web site to use responsive design, 2013 will be the year to do that.
The Cloud and the Consumerization of IT
The cloud can be thought of as the use of hardware and software that are delivered as a service over the internet instead of on physical devices at your location. The cloud is presenting many opportunities for businesses to transform their processes. Technologies and capabilities that a few years ago cost larger businesses hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in infrastructure investment are now available to all businesses at low (or even free) monthly costs. A few examples include applications for collaboration, intranets, document sharing, video conferencing, backup, and project management.
Again, this is an area where consumers are way ahead of businesses: 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, Skype and FaceTime are used to connect with friends and family, and consumers research and search everything on the web from car purchases to entertainment and food choices to politics and health.
Make 2013 the year you re-imagine your business processes to integrate these technologies and consumer preferences.
Social media has changed the way we use the internet and interact with one another. 69% of adults use social media sites, and for those aged 18-29, this number rises to 92%.(Source: Pew). Businesses are now using social media as part of their marketing mix, but the potential is much greater, especially for small and medium size businesses.
In a recent article for Fast Company magazine, Ryan Holmes, the CEO of HootSuite discusses this trend:
Last year, McKinsey published a report saying that social technologies stand to unlock $1.3 trillion in business value. Even more shocking: most of those savings come from boosting office productivity.
In other words, social media isn’t a time-waster in the office – it’s a potential productivity tool. HR departments can use social to streamline the application process. Sales teams can identify clients and pursue leads. R&D can brainstorm in collaborative ways that are simply not possible via email. The key lies in next-generation internal social networks, where entire companies can interact and engage…
Social media is an important part of business marketing, but if you aren’t using social media to also transform your business processes, then you don’t have enough time to do it.
Increasingly, people want to work and do business the way they live. A 2011 CISCO survey of young professionals found two out of five would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.
2013 presents many opportunities for you to advance your small- and medium-sized business on the web. In the New Year, resolve to take advantage of them.