2011 was the year of technology. As was 2010, 2009, 2008… and so on. With each year, new technology trends come along to make businesses more productive. Small Biz Technology is watching this year’s trends to help put you ahead of the competition. Here are a few predictions on what will be big this year:
- Tablets. While last year ushered in a wide variety of tablets, culminating in the ultra-affordable Kindle Fire just in time to make everyone’s Christmas lists, this year will see tablets become a part of every board room. Even though PCs are supposed to have replaced day planners around the conference room table, how many of your business meetings still involve binders, legal pads, and ink pens? 2012 will see more businesses buying tablets for employees. In fact, according to a MacWorld survey, 73% of small businesses will be buying tablets in the coming months, with iPads being the top choice. Tablets can be used like notepads, with styli allowing for handwritten notes and those notes being converted to electronic files. But, unlike the traditional notepad-and-pen method of note taking in meetings, these tablets allow employees to easily access files, share and view presentations on the go, and do instant research on the Internet.
- Smartphone Revolution. In 2011, the number of cell phone users bearing smartphones reached 44%, according to Nielsen–nearly half. As more consumers turn to smartphones, businesses will be scrambling to create content ideal for reaching those users, including making sure your content shows up on apps consumers are using to find places to eat, shop, and play. As individuals begin doing more surfing via iPhones and Droids, businesses will need to make sure their content is delivered in a way that is smartphone-friendly, changing the way webpages are delivered.
- Social Media Marketing. 2011 was the year businesses began turning their attention to the power of social media. In 2012, small businesses will begin to understand the strength of this medium, which allows businesses to reach customers in a way traditional advertising no longer can. The best news? Social media marketing is free for businesses who learn how to harness its power. In 2012, small businesses will learn to utilize apps that allow them to quickly and effectively stay in touch with their customer base. Unfortunately, as more businesses turn their attention to social media, consumers may find themselves overburdened with marketing messages from their favorite brands. As with traditional advertising, oversaturation can lead to burnout, causing consumers to tune out these messages in favor of reading posts from friends and family. Small businesses may need to find new, more creative ways to stand out from the crowd.
- Online Hiring. For small businesses, outsourcing using online resources began to gain popularity in 2011. According to eWeek, this trend will continue in 2012, with contingent hiring expected to double. Online hiring provides an inexpensive alternative to traditional contract hiring, with companies easily able to outsource work to stay-at-home moms, professional freelancers, and even international workers on a per-job basis, with no long-term contracts required. With unemployment rates at an all-time high, this is a win-win situation for employers and freelancers, allowing many workers to earn a living without having to commit to full-time work.
With each new year, technology becomes more a part of Americans’ everyday lives. Small businesses that stay informed will be more prepared to meet ongoing challenges as they arise.