We’re taking a look into our ‘Virtual Crystal Ball’ and making some informed (yet bold) predictions for the coming year regarding web trends.
1 – INCREASED SPENDING ON WEBSITES
Small businesses are predicted to increase online marketing spending, with websites taking the front seat, according to a recent survey. The survey found that 54% of respondents indicated that their businesses currently have websites. Unfortunately, most of those websites contain nothing more than general information, and less than half of them incorporate customer service features.
The importance of being easily findable on the Internet() has still not been fully recognized by small businesses, but increasingly, smart entrepreneurs are taking notice. Next year will be marked with increased spending on website development, lifting small business sites from their current iterations as online brochures to more prominent positions as useful resources for customers.
Those making valuable upgrades to their online presences will increase functionalities revolving around e-commerce, reservation systems, corporate blogs and social media integration. Furthermore, we may see increased attention on better web design.
2 – SMARTPHONE / SMART DEVICE REVOLUTION
A whopping 49% of small business owners use smartphones, outpacing the rest of America in smartphone adoption, according to a recent Forrester study.
As more small business owners are exposed to smartphones on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that they will begin to innovate with mobile technologies. In 2010, business owners were tweeting on the go, using location-based services and investing in mobile advertising.
In 2011, the smartphone revolution will continue to ensue, with ever increasing smartphone adoption. Mobile devices will continue to change the way that companies of all sizes do business. With most business needs at the tips of their fingers, small business owners will experience more flexibility than ever before.
3 – SOCIAL SHOPPING AND E-COMMERCE ADVANCES
Regardless, it’s evident that e-commerce is a huge advantage for small businesses taking part in it. Offering their products online, businesses have widened their customer bases beyond their local markets.
While only 30% of small business websites currently incorporate e-commerce abilities, the increased buzz around online and social shopping will probably push more small business owners to experiment with the medium in 2011.
4 – MORE FOCUSED SOCIAL MEDIA EFFORTS
This year was a time of social media experimentation for many small business owners. Testing many social media services in the past year, small businesses are becoming more knowledgeable about which platforms their customers use most and how their companies can benefit from staying connected on each platform.
It isn’t uncommon to visit a small business’s website to find a mass of social icons pointing to less-than-utilized profiles all across the web. It seems that anxious entrepreneurs have spread themselves thin in the social media realm this year, trying out every platform that got buzzed up.
The simple truth is that not every platform is right for every business — it’s all about where your customers are.
Having answered quite a few social media questions from small business owners this year, I have a feeling that next year is really going to be about paring down to the essentials based on proven successes and strong metrics.
5 – INCREASED ADOPTION OF CLOUD COMPUTING
Earlier this year, a group of Internet and tech experts and social analysts predicted that Internet users will “live mostly in the cloud” by 2020. While I don’t have the expertise to analyze that prediction, I can point to the fact that I and many of my friends and co-workers already do live and work mostly from web-based and mobile apps, relying less on software installed on our desktops.
Cloud services have already simplified many processes for businesses. Google Apps and Google Docs(), for example, make hosting and collaborating on spreadsheets, presentations, forms and word processors much simpler. Box.net and Dropbox have also made online file sharing and collaboration much easier. Meanwhile, 37signals supports a full line of business tools for project management, CRM, internal communications and group chat.
In 2011, businesses will be increasingly exposed to cloud services as tech companies introduce more and more products geared toward moving our digital lives into the cloud.