Ask an Expert: Top 10 Trends in Business 2015

2014 biz trends

Since forever, my favorite pizza joint only accepted payment with cash or check. How quaint. So when I saw over the holidays that they were now, finally, accepting payment with a Square and an iPad, I realized that business really is changing, as Bill Gates once observed, at the speed of thought.

So, without further ado, here is my annual list of the Top 10 Trends coming to a business near you in 2015. (10 through 4 this week, and the top 3 next week.)

No. 10. You are no longer an entrepreneur, you are now a techno-geek. It’s official – whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, you are no longer just a small businessperson. You must be (or become) a techno-geek too. Be it Internet security, social media marketing, or figuring out new-fangled payment options like my pizza buddies, if you want to stay in business today, let alone succeed, you must be two-parts entrepreneur, one-part geek.

No. 9. The changing of the social media guard: Small businesses use social media for all sorts of reasons, and of course one of the main ones is to drive engaged traffic to one’s site. So which site does that best? Facebook, right? Wrong.

According to a study by Shareaholic, YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn “drive the most engaged social referrals.” In fact, according to the study, “YouTube is the undisputed champion. YT drives the most engaged traffic. These referrals have the lowest average bounce rate (43.19%), the highest pages per visit (2.99) and the longest visit duration (227.82 seconds).”

This is in line with other studies I have seen which indicate that while Facebook is still incredibly popular, other forms of social media are probably better for small business social media marketing purposes.

The next three trends can be grouped together, under the heading “The Mobile Revolution.”

No. 8. The rise of the review: It is no secret that we have entered an age when online reviews are making an ever-increasing difference in people’s buying decisions. As small business people then, what we want is for people to use local search to find our businesses, read positive reviews, and then decide to buy with us.

The number of places where people review businesses is too long to list, but Yelp, Google, Angie’s List, Yahoo Local, and City Search lead the list of usual suspects. To succeed, you need to be sure that positive reviews about your business are ending up on these sites.

One other site that you may not think of initially, but which you should, is YP.com (formerly that venerable old behemoth, the Yellow Pages.) According to recent research conducted by comScore on behalf of YP, “adults who use YP to search online are more engaged during the search process, own more devices and are more commerce-minded, when compared to all searchers.”

And, where do they do these searches? You bet, on a mobile device:

No. 7. Mobile searches dominate: Do you need a mobile search strategy? Well, let’s look at these stats and see:

· 50% of mobile searches have a local intent
· 25% of all searches are done on mobile
· Last December, 34% of all paid search clicks came from a mobile device, this year it’s 42% (a 37% increase) and next year it is anticipated to be 50%
· Almost 40% of these mobile searches occur in a store, restaurant, or while waiting somewhere

So the answer is yes.

No. 6. New ways to pay. When Apple enters a field in a big way, as it did with Apple Pay, you can bet it is a trend to contend with. According to research by Erricson Consumer Labs, 48% of folks would prefer use a smartphone to pay for goods and services, and 80% say their smartphone will replace their wallet by 2020.

The idea of cash, check, or credit cards is rapidly being replaced by this idea of a mobile, or digital, wallet. Add in things like PayPal, Square, and even a new sort of currency like bitcoin, and what we are seeing is a vast array of new ways to pay.

No. 5. The rise of equity crowdfunding: Crowdfunding began as a way to raise money by giving donors “gifts” from your business, e.g., they invest, say, $100, in your sandwich shop and you name a hoagie after them for a month.

Today, equity crowdfunding is now on the rise, thanks to the passage of the federal JOBS Act. Equity crowdfunding allows businesses to use crowdfunding platforms to solicit equity partners, heretofore illegal. According to a blog by Kelly Rodriques, CEO of Pensco Trust, “If the SEC finalizes rules related to the JOBS Act and allows crowdfunding sites to solicit non-accredited investors with a lower net worth than those who are currently allowed to participate in equity crowdfunding, it could lead to even more explosive growth in the category in 2015.”

No. 4. Small businesses will tap into big data: Earlier this year I was invited to the Microsoft campus for a tour of where small business is headed, technologically speaking. As part of that, I was fortunate enough to speak at length with Thomas Hansen, the worldwide VP for Small and Medium Business for Microsoft, and in the process, I gleaned some really great insights as to the future of small biz.

One thing I discovered is that small business will increasingly have access to the trends that big data provides. “With The Internet of Things taking hold in 2015, small businesses will have access to more data than ever before,” say Hansen. (Microsoft has some incredible things in the works, and Thomas wrote a very interesting blog on his own small business predictions for 2015. You can read it here.)

Next week – The Top 3 Small Business Trends for 2015.