Entrepreneur’s Top 10 Small Business Predictions for 2012

Entrepreneur Media has offered up a list of Top 10 predictions for changes to expect in the small business climate in 2012.  After sifting through predictions by a handful of forecaster pronouncements and government reports, here is what they came up with as the Top 10:

  • Volatility ahead. With Europe now teetering, economic uncertainty will remain the big issue for every small business owner, with 44 percent of owners naming it the “one thing that stands between where you are today and growing your company,” a Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute study found. Winners will have flexible long- and short-term plans so they can shift gears quickly.
  • “Right-time” multichannel marketing. Watch for new tools that will help business owners better analyze complex customer behavior and comments on various social-media platforms. You will be able to use that data to tailor marketing campaigns.
  • More cheap online ads. Marketing will center around a move to low-cost online tactics such as paid search, says Kenneth Wisnefski, founder/CEO of the SEO firm WebiMax. “Merchants and retailers who chose innovative and less-expensive advertising channels including social media and paid search were rewarded well during the Thanksgiving weekend,” he says in reference to the spike in online sales.
  • Customers in charge. More businesses will involve customers directly in merchandise and marketing decisions, Susan Reda writes in STORES magazine. How? Here’s a hint: If you aren’t doing online customer polls yet: Facebook makes those insanely easy to set up.
  • Mobile purchasing grows. “Those retailers not optimizing their website for mobile phones need to start as soon as possible,” says Diane Buzzeo, CEO of ecommerce-software provider Ability Commerce. Research firm eMarketer adds that m-commerce more than doubled this year to $6.7 billion, and expects it to quadruple again by 2015.
  • Credit gets easier. Business owners may finally get the capital they need, says Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of the credit-card portal CardHub. Underwriting standards relaxed this year and will continue to loosen up in 2012, he says.
  • Services head offshore. Service-sector businesses will be in demand overseas, Elance forecasts. This year, U.S.-based contractors exported their services to more than 140 countries through Elance’s freelance portal.
  • Daily deals die down. Experts agree: The daily-deal space is oversaturated with competing offers. Also, many business owners lost money doing daily deals. Expect a shakeout, both in the number of deal companies and in the types of deals offered.
  • Retail-format experimentation picks up. Expect more retailers and restaurateurs to experiment with their store layouts.
  • More collaboration. The small businesses that stay afloat will be the ones that reach out to complementary businesses in their town or their industry and find ways to help each other.