used with permission from HP Technology at Work

Fotolia_74081362_XS_copyright[1]It happens every January. As one year ends, so begins the onslaught of predictions for the coming 12 months. The fast-paced, ever-changing nature of technology makes it an especially fun and easy topic to address in this way, and the tech trend predictions for businesses came fast and furious at the beginning of 2014. So what happened? Did they come true? Let’s take a look and see just how accurate those predictions were—and how they can benefit your business into 2015.

Prediction #1: More and more mobile for SMBs
Did it come true? Yes. In fact, the vast majority of small businesses are now using smartphones to conduct day-to-day business—94 percent to be exact, which is up from 85 percent in 2013 [1]. The same survey indicated that more than half of small businesses use mobile apps as well [1]. And in addition to affecting the way businesses are run, mobile marketing efforts have continued to increase this year for companies of all sizes.
Biz benefit: There are so many ways businesses can use mobile, it’s no wonder most have already incorporated it into their day-to-day. Retail stores can use mobile point-of-sale solutions like tablets to make transactions away from the register, mobile websites and apps provide unique avenues to increased sales, employees can work from wherever work takes them… the list of benefits goes on and on.

Prediction #2: Let’s get visual: businesses continue to embrace photos and video
Did it come true? Yes. Apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine have become increasingly popular with mobile users, and therefore businesses as well. Video especially is being more widely used for marketing purposes, with at least 50 percent of small businesses using YouTube to promote awareness [2].
Biz benefit: Images and videos can be viewed and shared quickly on social media apps, and are a great way to show how real people love and use your products.

Prediction #3: Small biz goes Big (Big Data, that is)
Did it come true? Partly. Most businesses know there are major benefits to using Big Data, but capturing the sheer amount of information and figuring out just how to use it remains intimidating for most. It can also be expensive. However, more and more small businesses are beginning to understand what specific data is useful to them, and the technology they need to get results. The Big Data revolution for small businesses may not have happened in 2014, but 2015 could be the year.
Biz benefit: Once businesses are able to zero in on the information that is particularly useful to them, using Big Data can provide insights that will help them better serve their customers and attract new ones, as well as boost efficiency and sales.

Prediction #4: Cloud on the rise
Did it come true? Yes. Throughout this past year, more and more small businesses took advantage of cloud offerings, and that trend is expected to continue. According to a recent survey, 37 percent of small businesses are currently using the cloud, a number which is expected to jump to nearly 80 percent by 2020 [3].
Biz benefit: Fully adapting to cloud technology provides flexibility and opportunities for growth with less risk involved. Data in a small business is most threatened by software issues, computer failure, fire, and theft, and cloud storage can serve as a backup for all of those issues. Encryption can also provide additional security, making the cloud a reliable home for important and sensitive information [4]. Built-in automation and economies of scale are just some of the other reasons why small businesses are jumping into the cloud and not looking back.

Prediction #5: New ways to pay
Did it come true? Sort of. A few small businesses are venturing into the somewhat uncharted territory of payment alternatives like Dwolla and Google Wallet, but for the most part, credit card payments or good old-fashioned cash are still king—for now. However, mobile payment solutions like Square, GoPayment, and mobile tap-and-go systems are becoming increasingly prevalent in small businesses like food trucks and farmers’ markets that need to accept electronic payments where traditional registers are not practical.
Biz benefit: Transaction alternatives offer a lot in the way of convenience for both the business and the customer. Tap-and-go payments are quick and easy, and using mobile phones at the point of sale eliminates the need for customers to carry a wallet everywhere.

With a couple exceptions, it looks like the old crystal ball was pretty reliable as far as small business tech trend predictions for this year were concerned. So what about next year? What predictions do you have for the state of business technology in 2015?

[1] eWeek, Mobile Tech Saves Small Businesses More Than $65 Billion a Year, May 15, 2014
[2] The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, LinkedIn Rules But Sales Potential May Lie with Twitter: The 2013 Inc. 500 and Social Media, 2014
[3] Intuit, Intuit’s Future of Small Business survey, August 7, 2014
[4] Tech Cocktail, How Small Businesses Can Benefit from Cloud Storage, August 30, 2014