It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that mobile devices have permanently changed our society. From smartphones to tablets, it seems more and more people can’t so much as visit the restroom without their favorite device in tow.
Of course, mobile devices aren’t just about thrashing your friends at Scrabble or tweeting pictures of your breakfast. For small business owners, mobile platforms are introducing a host of new challenges and opportunities. We really are in the midst of a revolution here, and navigating our changing, mobile-first world is going to be hugely important in 2014 and beyond.
Here’s a look at five mobile trends that small businesses will want to stay on top of in the new year.
The Future of Payment Is Upon Us
News feeds across the country lit up recently when a story broke about a Costa Mesa resident who made history by purchasing a Lamborghini using Bitcoin. In case you haven’t been keeping up, Bitcoin is an open-source electronic payment network. Quite simply, it’s digital money. Plenty of people are already prophesying the end of Bitcoin and the end of the dollar, but the fact remains that the future of payment is upon us with mobile devices as a big part of it.
Even now, small businesses and street vendors are able to accept credit card payments using their smartphones. With 2014 coming rapidly, many are already claiming that we’re moving toward a cashless society. Whether or not that’s true, businesses everywhere will need to make sure they’re prepared for the transition.
BYOD in the Office
A recent trend for businesses across the globe is the increasingly common practice of allowing employees to bring their own mobile devices to work with them in lieu of employer-issued devices. This practice, commonly referred to as BYOD, has been hailed as a potential boon to workplace morale, since employees are now able to complete their work using devices that they’re already familiar with.
Even so, this raises several inevitable security concerns. Chief among them is the relative vulnerability of company data on a privately owned device. As we start to see more and more personal devices in workplaces, businesses both large and small will need to pick their battles when it comes to security concerns.
Responsive Web Design
A phrase you’re going to be hearing a lot more about in 2014 and beyond is “responsive web design.” Quite simply, RWD refers to a set of techniques that can be used to provide an optimal experience for website visitors, regardless of which type of device they’re using to browse the Web. One of the sleekest and clean responsive designs I’ve come across is that of 12 Keys Rehab – if you’re on a desktop, simply scrunch the window and watch the magic happen. If you’re on mobile, the page renders perfectly for the smaller experience.
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There are a number of common mobile frustrations that most of us can relate to. For example, websites designed specifically for desktop computers tend to load exceptionally slowly (or not at all) on smartphones. The design tenets of RWD can help to avoid such problems by stripping out extraneous or unnecessary images and other elements from the mobile versions of a given website.
Ignoring the needs of a certain type of device is a sure way to alienate large portions of your customer base, which will make RWD an important priority for businesses as mobile devices become an inextricable part of our daily lives.
Different Advertising Models
In some respects, emerging advertising models go hand-in-hand with Responsive Web Design. Thanks to the unique challenges presented by mobile devices, the advertising and marketing industries are already adapting, and will need to continue to do so as they move forward.
Advertising will need to take on different forms for different devices, since they’re used for different things. For example, customers typically spend less time using smartphones than they do tablets or laptops. As a result, ads served to a smartphone will need to take that into account. Providing shorter ads, most likely something between 5 and 10 seconds, will ensure a good experience on a smartphone. For tablets, longer-form advertising is a safer bet, since tablets offer larger screens and are designed to be used for longer periods of time.
Trevor Beattie, the creator of several legendary TV ads, recently predicted the end of the now-familiar 30-second ad model. You can probably thank (or blame) mobile devices.
Life in the Cloud
Lastly, let’s tackle one of those now-familiar buzzwords: “the cloud.” Unlike a lot of mobile trends that come and go, it’s looking like cloud technology isn’t just worthy of the hype–it’s here to stay.
Cloud providers like DropBox, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft’s SkyDrive are helping all kinds of businesses remain productive when they need to collaborate across significant distances. Their services cover everything from renting computing power and servers to providing tools for sharing data and documents. This system advances efforts to keep every company device in sync, including smartphones and tablets. Even workplace communication is getting an overhaul thanks to cloud-based phone systems that can include both company- and employee-owned smartphones.
Becoming familiar with the details surrounding our current, universal mobilization provides small businesses the opportunity to recognize change and adapt to it in a way that advances productivity.
Image credit: Yutaka Tsutano via flickr