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The most important small business trends in 2014


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The rise of mobile, the growth of local, the advent of crowdfunding–find out how 61 small business experts think the latest business trends will shape the future of small business in the next 12 months.

Published in: Business, News & Politics
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The most important small business trends in 2014

  1. The Most Important Small Business Trends in 2014 According to the most important small business experts Thursday, January 16, 14
  2. Categories: 1. Technology 2. Marketing 3. Finance & Business Management 4. Going Local Thursday, January 16, 14
  3. Technology Thursday, January 16, 14
  4. The internet showed its promise in the last few years. In 2014, the divide between tech-disrupted sectors and those unaffected goes away. aaron levie, founder & ceo, box Thursday, January 16, 14
  5. The small business digital divide widens. A growing body of research is showing a performance gap between small businesses that successfully use technology and that don’t. small business labs Thursday, January 16, 14
  6. Smartphone and tablet usage of web-based browser and native apps surpasses that via computer browser. rex hammock, founder, Thursday, January 16, 14
  7. This is the year that cross-platform development for the major modern platforms will become increasingly challenging and products will need to be developed with this in mind. It will become increasingly unwieldy to develop for both iOS and Android and natively integrate effectively and competitively with the platform. steven sinofsky, board partner, andreessen horowitz Thursday, January 16, 14
  8. With the resources available for sharing exceeding those available in traditional ways, 2014 will be the year in which sharing becomes normal and preferred for assets that are infrequently used and/or expensive. steven sinofsky, board partner, andreessen horowitz Thursday, January 16, 14
  9. Many small businesses are set to embrace cloud storage in general. gytis barzdukis, senior director, product management, vmware Thursday, January 16, 14
  10. As the web becomes more crowded, small businesses looking to build and maintain relationships with customers will need mobile apps. Creating mobile apps and most importantly consistently updating them with new content using tools like mobile app content managers are how small businesses will evolve in 2014. patrick chukwura, co-founder, joppar Thursday, January 16, 14
  11. Mobile Based Retail Purchasing. 2013 Black Friday was Mobile Friday with almost 40% of all online shopping done on mobile devices. This trend will continue in 2014 as more consumers are empowered to use their phones and tablets to shop anytime, anywhere. Seamless browsing, saving, and shopping across platforms will be crucial for any business that wants to grow in 2014. billy bauer, marketing director, royce leather Thursday, January 16, 14
  12. At the beginning of 2013, people said mobile phone use would surpass desktop use by 2015. Well, it's already happened. Many websites now report mobile traffic as high as 66% of their overall traffic. People who think it's time to get ready for mobile have already been left behind! The small businesses that will see the highest gains in 2014 will be those with a mobile website or a responsive design website. From there, the most successful small businesses will branch out to mobile advertising and more. collin jarman, seo technician, click optimize Thursday, January 16, 14
  13. The ability to gather data continues to be revolutionized, especially for small businesses who might not have been able to afford the tools and technology to gather and analyze data a few years ago. This will give small businesses the ability to move away from 'gut feelings' about what's right and move to measurements, KPIs and quantifiable data so everyone is working with one version of the truth. Either through capturing and reviewing their own data or purchasing data resources from cloud-based providers like eVestment, at no other time in history has so much information been available so readily, so quickly and so affordably. jim minnick, ceo, Thursday, January 16, 14
  14. Less than 5% of business websites are mobile-optimized. Ignoring mobile marketing is simply no longer an option for any business. 94% of smartphone owners are looking for local information on their mobile devices, and 70% of these searchers have gone to a local business after a search. For a small business, this is a golden opportunity. zach cusimano, coo, bizness apps Thursday, January 16, 14
  15. The convergence of mobile, cloud, data & analytics. They’re also leading to new forms of technology-based competition as more small firms use capabilities developed through the convergence of these technologies to outmaneuver competitors. small business labs Thursday, January 16, 14
  16. As businesses grow and demand for their products increases, technology like Lettuce will assist business owners in consolidating their back-end operations, allowing for more time to be spent on sales and growth rather than inventory management. The fast pace of the current marketplace will push more business owners to utilize available technology to make their business operations more efficient and lean. raad mobrem, ceo & founder, lettuce Thursday, January 16, 14
  17. One of the top trends for 2014 is the widespread use of analytics, allowing SMBs to make data-driven decisions. I think as analytics become more and more accessible to the layman, more SMBs will use them to tie online and offline activities together. andre pinantoan, marketing, Thursday, January 16, 14
  18. Small businesses will ditch traditional credit card terminals and POS Systems at an ever increasing pace in 2014. In exchange, they will swap out for tablet-based systems that offer ease-of-use, better reporting, loyalty tracking, minimal fees, cloud storage, and no contracts. phillip parker, ceo, Thursday, January 16, 14
  19. Marketing Thursday, January 16, 14
  20. I think we’re going to see fairly intense consolidation [in the local marketing space]. As the products become more complex, companies will need an in-house sales force to gain traction, which will make it increasingly difficult for new entrants to pop up. Working off that, we’re going to see even more deal sites close, and a couple of leaders emerge from the pact – we’ve obviously seen that start to happen. In addition to the deals space, consolidation will also start occurring around local marketing agency companies as well. The successful companies will be the ones that choose to focus on one thing, rather than the all-in-one approach. howard lerman, ceo, yext Thursday, January 16, 14
  21. Decrease in success of Facebook advertising. People are connecting and sharing more than ever. On a given day, when someone visits News Feed, there are an average of 1,5001 possible stories we can show. As a result, competition for each News Feed story is increasing. Because the content in News Feed is always changing, and we’re seeing more people sharing more content, Pages will likely see changes in distribution. For many Pages, this includes a decline in organic reach. We expect this trend to continue as the competition for each story remains strong and we focus on quality. richard sim, performance product marketing manager, facebook Thursday, January 16, 14
  22. Local small business advertising dollars flow to Twitter, Foursquare, and as always, Google. rex hammock, founder, Thursday, January 16, 14
  23. Mobile growth pushes Facebook to become number 2 US digital ad seller behind Google, with increased emphasis on Instagram as ad channel. emarketer Thursday, January 16, 14
  24. Increase in mobile market for local ads. Mobility and the near-ubiquity of smart phones amongst users with disposable income focuses great entrepreneurs on this massive market. jonathan ebinger, general partner, bluerun ventures Thursday, January 16, 14
  25. The average digital media usage among U.S. consumers is estimated at nearly 15 hours per week, according to researcher PQ Media. So even those small businesses that have been social media hold-outs will be jumping on the bandwagon in 2014 to engage their customers. susan solovic, ceo, susan solovic media group Thursday, January 16, 14
  26. A study by Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and M/A/R/C Research found 84% of smartphone shoppers use their phones while in a physical store. [For small businesses] that have not already given serious consideration to a mobile device as a means by which consumers are shopping, the time has come. christopher mccarthy, managing director, addison richmond consulting Thursday, January 16, 14
  27. Small businesses with local customers will automate marketing operations. Traditionally, marketing automation technology was only available to larger corporations with the budget, staff and resources to manage it. Increasingly, businesses with local customers are choosing cloud-based marketing automation technologies that empower them to shift away from traditional advertising and toward digital marketing and maximize new and repeat sales. stuart wall, ceo & co-founder, signpost Thursday, January 16, 14
  28. [Content Marketers] will have to “pay” [readers] at much higher rates just to keep the same number of readers in 2014 that [they] had in 2013. The global warming of content marketing is in view. mark schaefer, marketing consultant, college educator, author Thursday, January 16, 14
  29. Reinvigorated feminism is another issue facing marketers. In a recent poll by The Economist, 42% of all millennials said they consider themselves "feminists," compared to just 32% of Generation X. jeff fromm, author: marketing to millennials Thursday, January 16, 14
  30. People are becoming more aware of the data being collected about them online. And that's eroding the trust they have with collecting companies, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. tim peterson, digital tech reporter, adage Thursday, January 16, 14
  31. The Internet Advertising Bureau expects online video ads to hit double-digit growth in 2014. Video is now the key part of any brand's consumer research and 2014 will be the year when online merchants finally recognize the value of video as one of the fundamental sales channels. irfon watkins, ceo, coull Thursday, January 16, 14
  32. Brands will move towards more advanced social success metrics than traditional vanity metrics as brands steer away from viral goals. tara hunt, vp insights and social strategy, lime foundry Thursday, January 16, 14
  33. Acceleration in mobile, tablets and new technologies means SMBs need mobile-optimized versions of their website across devices, with mobile checkout, and better mobile experiences. matt winn, marketing communications manager, volusion Thursday, January 16, 14
  34. Graphic design will become an increasingly important part of the small business toolkit as companies realize they *must* extend their brand across various platforms. No longer is a well-designed website enough; it is rapidly becoming essential to have a strong unified presence on mobile (responsive site/ mobile-optimized site/mobile app) and across social media. lauren gard, marketing manager, 99 designs Thursday, January 16, 14
  35. As a small business owner, I fully expect small businesses in 2014 to accelerate their efforts in trying to win the top spot in local search. This means that small businesses will implement Microformats, hoping Google will index that metadata. I also expect more and more small businesses to make video a part of their online strategy. pete abilla, owner, schmula Thursday, January 16, 14
  36. We will see a large increase in the use of responsive web design for companies big and small to help with mobile marketing and SEO. As the digital divide evolves and segments web searches over different devices (phone, ereader, tablet, computer) there is an increased necessity for adaptable websites that are cleanly viewed on each device. It used to be enough to simply have a mobile site, but with a 55% increase in smartphone usage in 2013, a mobile site is no longer enough. jayme pretzloff, online marketing director, wixon jewelers Thursday, January 16, 14
  37. We believe 2014 will be the year small business America focuses on hyper-local marketing using technology that used to be too expensive for them. Use of on-line or mobile customer engagement tools such as mobile marketing apps, text messaging, unique loyalty programs and broader online marketing strategies will explode. Why? The cost for these services has dropped to a point where a fairly sophisticated marketing system can be implemented for the price of a magazine ad or coupon mailer. The data rich tools let owners/ operators really get to know their customer at a personal level and build a real relationship with them. bob gravely, ceo, micro marketing strategies Thursday, January 16, 14
  38. In 2014, more small businesses will bring online marketing in-house. A recent survey from showed that increasing market and brand presence is the number 1 priority of small businesses in the coming year, and as small businesses begin to understand online channels more, they'll see that it's not necessarily better to have an agency when they can have a small, holistic marketing team that covers all their needs while providing long-term value to the business. dustin christensen, digital marketing manager, jackson white law Thursday, January 16, 14
  39. Online reputation management becomes critical for small businesses. 90% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. Now more than ever, small businesses need to monitor their online reviews and listen to customer feedback. Small businesses will need to find a way to quickly and easily aggregate all online reviews, from sites like Google, Yahoo, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Angie’s List, and then monitor and respond to them appropriately. Negative reviews and feedback will of course need to be addressed. Positive reviews can be promoted on a company website and social media networks to encourage and assist in word-of-mouth marketing. rebecca roebuck, digital marketing manager, whiteboard marketing Thursday, January 16, 14
  40. Happily for customers and customer service representatives, 2013 was the year that people finally recognized the undeniable importance of customer experience. Marketing efforts hinged on the swing of brand reputation and company owners came to see the direct relevance of the customer to the bottom line. This is a trend that we are likely to see continue well into 2014. sue ratcliffe, head of client services, alldaypa Thursday, January 16, 14
  41. I predict that a greater percentage of small businesses will not dive solely into a social media-intensive marketing strategy. I think more businesses will hire specialized personnel to consult & manage their presence for them. It's a time-intensive endeavor, so all the more reason they will pay someone to do it for them & be able to stay focused on their overarching business goals for 2014. vin ferrer, social media strategist, graphic d-signs Thursday, January 16, 14
  42. In 2014, small businesses will need to handle and track increased phone call volume in order to understand marketing ROI. With mobile search volume soon expected to surpass desktop, and 60-73% of mobile searches culminating in a phone call, call buttons will become essential for any website. Ease of contact will also become important for search rankings. Adwords ads with call extensions already have a ranking advantage; I predict this will happen in organic results as well, pushing click-to-call to the forefront. dorin rosenshine, founder, outleads Thursday, January 16, 14
  43. I believe 2014 is the year in which the tipping point shifts around marketing green. Companies that have not gotten on the train are going to get left behind by their customers, who demand aware and responsive corporate participation in saving the planet. Last year, Green America released its Big Green Opportunity report. Among their findings: over a fiveyear period that corresponded with the recent recession, the green building sector grew an astounding 1700 percent, while the building sector as a whole contracted 17 percent. shel horowitz, author, green marketing consultant Thursday, January 16, 14
  44. Finance & Business Management Thursday, January 16, 14
  45. The Affordable Care Act gains popularity among a large segment of the smallest of small businesses. rex hammock, founder, Thursday, January 16, 14
  46. Consumer and employee interest in [green] practices is making a strong comeback with multiple studies finding more people today considering sustainable business practices important than prior to the recession. The meaning of green has also expanded to include ethical business practices as well as support for local businesses. small business labs Thursday, January 16, 14
  47. Finding adequate cash to meet capital needs or fuel growth is a challenge for small business owners. Although it’s getting better, business owners will probably not find success at the local bank. More likely, specialty lenders offering niche options for specific needs like equipment financing, shortterm working capital, and commercial real estate along with products like merchant cash advance and factoring are making access to capital easier for business owners. In 2014, traditional lenders will need to embrace a new paradigm regarding small business lending or run the risk of permanently losing marketing share to more aggressive specialty lenders. brock blake, ceo, lendio Thursday, January 16, 14
  48. Small business owners must learn as much as they can on the fly if they hope to withstand resistance and to overcome any setbacks standing in their way. More entrepreneurs realize that they need to invest time in new skills if they hope to make a splash. It's easier than ever to learn professional skills online with sites like and others. danny groner, manager, blogger partnerships & outreach, shutterstock Thursday, January 16, 14
  49. While there are signs the traditional lending market is getting better for small businesses, access to credit will remain tight. Therefore, we’ll see a significant increase in the use of crowdfunding. susan solovic, ceo, susan solovic media group Thursday, January 16, 14
  50. As with the current proposed final rules for Title III, (Crowdfunding Act), I think that the Commission will continue to take a well rounded approach as related to investor protection measures. However, two major concerns loom; Financial Disclosures and the Imposition on Liabilities for Funding Portals. Where will the industry net out on issuers raising $500K & more with needing to provide audited financial statements to raise capital on a registered funding portals as the current rule proposes. Second, will the SEC eliminate the imposition of liability against a Crowdfunding Platform for the misstatements and omissions of the companies that post to their website- specifically the proposed language on Page 280 of the SEC's proposed Rules for Title III, which were published on October 23, 2013. It is important for the Commission allow for enough leeway in developing a healthy ecosystem that will foster capital formation and job creation. kim wales, founder, wales capital Thursday, January 16, 14
  51. Multi-channel selling becomes more important as SMBs need efficient ways to expand their presence and reach more customers with shopping behaviors becoming more fragmented. matt winn, marketing communications manager, volusion Thursday, January 16, 14
  52. The use of social media indicators to determine creditworthiness. stephanie armour, reporter, wsj Thursday, January 16, 14
  53. The Human Resources department will become more important than ever. Many factors may significantly impact the workforce in 2014, including different employee benefit options (such as Health Savings Accounts, the Affordable Care Act, etc.), Generation Y’s impact in the workplace, social media and smartphones in the office, new PTO policies, workfrom-home expectations, and more. HR departments will play a critical role in shaping how companies deal with these shifts in communication, workplace behavior, and technology. Their efforts in doing so will directly impact companies bottomlines in terms of employee engagement, recruitment, retention. chris costello, principal & founder, cbg benefits Thursday, January 16, 14
  54. The number of productivity solutions available to small businesses has exploded over the last few years, allowing business owners to move faster and get more done with less. In the past, businesses were told to Hire Slow, Fire Fast and what they've experienced is slower hiring and poor results. 2014 becomes the year that small businesses get access to better hiring tools, allowing them to hire fast and hire better. ben baldwin, co-founder, clearfit Thursday, January 16, 14
  55. Going Local Thursday, January 16, 14
  56. Fewer brick & mortar locations. An estimated 16 million Americans currently work from home–a figure that’s expected to increase by 63 percent over the next five years, according to statistics from Global Workplace Analytics. Technology lessens the need for small business teams to work from one location. susan solovic, ceo, susan solovic media group Thursday, January 16, 14
  57. Consumers have grown fatigued by the shopping experience at big box retailers. Impersonal service, long lines and big data breaches all are working to drive business to local, smaller main street retailers, but consumers have also grown accustomed to the convenience of technology. If they can't find what they're looking for on their smart phone in 60 seconds, they're perfectly happy to move on. bob wiggins, ceo, two minute mobile Thursday, January 16, 14
  58. Shopping local gathers steam in niches beyond food. rex hammock, founder, Thursday, January 16, 14
  59. Small shops squeezed by larger merchants means SMBs need to become more nimble in how they compete, both from a price, customer service and marketing standpoint with big retailers like Amazon. matt winn, marketing communications manager, volusion Thursday, January 16, 14
  60. The recent rise in construction company startups is a small blip on a long-term downward trend in entrepreneurship in the construction sector. scott shane, professor of entrepreneurial studies at case western reserve university Thursday, January 16, 14
  61. As Amazon continues to crush big chains like Borders Books, the market for independent local retailers opens up again, as it has in the independent book industry. “Amazon may have the bargains, but independent booksellers are trading in the importance of real-life community–and are seeing an uptick in business. verne kopytoff, reporter, cnn Thursday, January 16, 14
  62. We’ll see a lot more course experiences combining offline and online learning. Although massive online open courses have also become more acceptable and popular, we’ll see workplace course educators finding opportunities to create hyper-local on-the-ground experience happen such as meet-ups, open spaces, un-conferences and other activities. I see 2014 as the year when this trend will hit that critical point and become more identifiable in the market. demetrio maguigad, strategic design director, limered studio Thursday, January 16, 14
  63. Working with mostly professional services (doctors, accountants, lawyers) I am seeing a rapid shift to local expertise. Specifically a speciality to your region that is showcased on social media. bryan cush, president, tidal wave marketing Thursday, January 16, 14
  64. As small businesses seek to grow their audiences, drive new customers and optimize marketing expenditures, we will see an increase in alliances. Whether to put on events, offer promotions, or share in advertising expenses, small businesses will band together. I expect we’ll see both complementary businesses and those with little in common other than targeting the same geography or demographic collaborating. hillary berman, founder, popcorn ice cream Thursday, January 16, 14
  65. One thing that I see as a big trend that has been growing and I believe will continue is humanizing a company. The old school thought process of companies being the people behind them will come back stronger than ever. People love knowing the owner. I have a specific coffee shop I go to for meetings and to get a little work done out of the office. I go there because of my relationship with the own above everything else. Those relationships are what will be most important in 2014. ely delaney, automated marketing architect, Thursday, January 16, 14
  66. We predict that more entrepreneurs than ever will open small businesses in 2014. Find out why. Thursday, January 16, 14
  67. about radius For marketers looking to boost ROI, Radius provides the one place you need to segment and identify your ideal SMB customers. Finding and engaging with the right local businesses can be overwhelming due to the disorganized — and often contradictory— nature of local business information. Radius subscribers build perfectly targeted customer segments from amongst the 27 million U.S. business records within Radius to find their next best customers. Thursday, January 16, 14