A recent report from the SMB Group reveals the top four technologies that small and midsize businesses will likely be focusing on in the coming months: social media management, mobile commerce, application marketplaces, and business intelligence/analytics.The main business challenges driving that need for technology? "Growing revenue" was cited by 36% of survey participants; "attracting new customers" was named by 35%; and "improving cash flow" was cited by 30%. As far as specific technology challenges, 35% of SMBs said they need to get better business insights from existing data.
Social Media Management. No big surprise here, right? The SMB Group reports that more than 700,000 local businesses maintain active Facebook pages, and that more than 3.5 billion "pieces of content" (news stories, blog posts, web links, etc.) are shared each week at the social networking site. We're talking about a lot of info here, and that's why social media management tools are getting more popular every day. By using these kinds of products, SMBs can save time, gain a more unified view of their customers and marketing efforts, drive more business, spot new opportunities, and compare themselves with competitors, according to the report.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: BatchBlue (for combining CRM with social networking), HubSpot (for inbound marketing), and Marchex Reputation Management (for seeing in one place everything people are saying about you on the Web).
Mobile Commerce. Here's another tech trend that probably won't make your jaw drop. The SMB Group says the mobility market will reach $1 trillion by 2014, more than 65 million people access Facebook with their mobile devices, and 37% of smart phone users have made purchases over their phones in the past six months.
For SMBs, the advantages of mobile commerce are legion. Here are a few cited by the folks at SMB Group:
-You can sell more when customers aren't limited by how much cash is in their pocket, purse, or wallet. (Let's just say that it's all about the "power of plastic.")
-You can capture a customer's contact info and follow up with tantalizing promotions.
-You can use mobile marketing to send customers reminders and keep them posted about upcoming promos and/or sales.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: MobiSiteGalore, Mobify, and Ruxter (for websites geared at mobile users); Fanminder and Ez Texting (for SMS text messaging services you can use to promote your biz); and Intuit GoPayments, Sage Exchange, and Sage Payment Boss (for m-commerce/accounting integration).
Want to read about app marketplaces and analytics? Read my blog this Friday.