Technology shapes how small businesses survive and thrive, and 2012 will see record numbers of small businesses harness the power of technology and especially new, online productivity tools to grow their businesses. Jerry Nettuno, founder and CEO of Schedulicity, which is one of those online tools, shares his small-business predictions for 2012:
• Daily-deals dive. The daily-deal space exploded last year, but 2012 will see deal shrinkage of 30 percent or more. Rapid contraction will leave just a couple of “big guys,” some vertically positioned players and a long tail of locals finding ways to thrive by serving a few small regions or cities.
• Surviving deals get a makeover. Burned by go-for-broke deals, many local businesses will fine-tune and target their offers to strengthen loyalty. The more geographically concentrated your customer base is, the better your chances of turning deal seekers into repeat buyers. Look for an increase in frequent-buyer and perk programs to support this movement in 2012.
• Small businesses move to the cloud. The ability to self-publish quickly via the cloud is moving businesses out of traditional media. Productivity services such as Google Docs, Zoho Creator, Office 365 (from Microsoft) and many others are making it easier than ever to operate entirely online. Low-cost tablet computers will let more service professionals and small-business owners run their businesses from a mobile device.
• Breakthrough tools arrive. Emerging technology will spawn more breakthrough productivity tools. Business owners will see new, off-the-shelf ways to connect with consumers. With the launch of Siri, Apple’s new voice-activated personal-assistant application, developers will be hard at work on amazing voice-activated apps that will offer a unique way for local businesses to stand out.
• The appointment book disappears. The success of sites such as Schedulicity, OpenTable and ZocDoc reinforce the idea that the traditional pen-and-paper appointment book may soon disappear. The number of appointments booked online is soaring. Schedulicity alone has seen nearly 7 million appointments booked online since mid-2009.
• Mobile commerce soars. Mobile-payment, location-based promotions, and mobile scheduling will all change the way small-business owners conduct business in 2012. Whether iPad or iPhone, Kindle Fire or Droid, the move to mobile will continue apace. Making your business website mobile-friendly is only a start. As more and more consumers are making mobile a mainstay, it will be essential for small businesses to have a mobile-commerce strategy to tap into this opportunity. •