Once upon a time, small businesses got along fine without the Internet. They relied on word-of-mouth and traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio) to help customers find them. As the years went by, small business owners discovered they were losing market share to competitors who had basic websites (essentially digital business cards) to direct customers to them.
Now, the number of ways for businesses to interact with current and potential customers is staggering. Here are a few of the trends I'll be steering OptimWise to focus on, and which your small business should consider as well:
The best advertising comes from genuine fans of your product or service. The more you cultivate goodwill through blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., the more your customers will recommend you to their friends.
Smartphones are just the current step on the road to ubiquitous computing. When customers want to find you from anywhere and at any time, are you accessible? Does your site or app function on the small screens of these devices?
With technologies like GPS and apps like Foursquare providing information about customers' locations, it's becoming easier to target and track customers geographically. Maps are increasingly dynamic and interactive. Augmented reality, which overlays the digital world on top of the physical world, will allow people to live in both worlds simultaneously.
Buying things online is getting easier and faster. Young people want to replace their wallets with their phones; paying for items and using them as identification. I can't wait to get all my receipts digitally!
The Internet has almost no barrier to entry. Practically anyone can publish anything they want to. How do you know if what you're reading is authoritative? Proving your trustworthiness will become critical.
Do you love maintaining your servers, storage, software updates, and backups? If not, let someone else do it! Online services become faster, more reliable, and more secure every day. Individuals and businesses will continue to replace local applications with cloud-based ones; for example, moving from local email to Gmail, Microsoft Office to Google Docs, Quickbooks to Outright or Quickbooks Online.
It's an exciting time to be in business! As always, contact OptimWise for more information or assistance!