It’s hard enough to write an IT strategy and plan your IT purchasing, never mind monitoring what’s going on in the world of technology to see if any new developments can help your business
But if you want to gain a competitive advantage, it’s worth understanding how new tech trends can help you. Benjamin Dyer, product development director at ecommerce specialist SellerDeck, highlights some key trends and their benefits to Rachel Miller.
It seems as though cloud computing has been threatening to transform business IT for quite some time. But now that over half of all businesses are using cloud-based services, it might finally be happening. So what’s the expert verdict?
“Cloud computing is really starting to take off,” says Dyer. “It offers small firms the ability to ramp up or ramp down their usage to suit their requirements.”
But not all services are right for them, adds Dyer: “I am sceptical about web hosting in the cloud as providers don’t necessarily offer service level agreements, as other hosts do.”
“On the other hand, cloud services are ideal for storage. The services are easier to use, safer and probably cheaper than buying a hard disk.”
In retail, two developments mean customers can now pay for goods and services without cash or even a PIN. Visa is rolling out contactless cards that can be swiped over a reader.
The firm has already distributed more than 100,000 ‘wave and pay’ cards to customers in London and more than 5,000 retailers have signed up to the scheme. Guido Mangiagalli, head of new channels at Visa Europe, says: “We aim to make the 2012 Olympic Games entirely cash-free for visitors.”
Meanwhile, mobile phone apps that allow you to pay for products using your smart phone are on the way. Nicknamed the ‘mobile wallet’, shoppers can pay with a swipe of their phone.
O2 is also planning its own mobile payment service, to be called O2 Wallet. Do small shops and service businesses need to get in on the act?
“With the prospect of a cashless Olympics, mobile payments are definitely set to take off in 2012. This is a trend that small firms cannot ignore,” says Dyer.
Online-coupon discount sites are now commonplace. The best-known are Groupon and LivingSocial, which provide subscribers with daily deals from local small businesses. But the jury is still out as to whether the trend will last.
“I think the bubble is going to burst,” says Dyer. “The approach of these sites flies in face of good business marketing. The sites just attract customers looking for a bargain.”
Indeed, some products and services have been effectively devalued thanks to the amount of discounts on offer. “Those who buy a one-day deal are unlikely to become repeat customers at full price,” concludes Dyer.
Part of the huge trend of using social media technology to market your business, harnessing your site users’ comments and contributions to boost your sales has become the latest marketing tool.
Reviews, ratings and recommendations are fast becoming an essential part of how we shop for goods and services online. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, commented: “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003.”
There’s no doubt that standing out online is getting harder and shoppers increasingly rely on referrals and reviews to find products and services. So how do you make use of the trend?
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