3 Fast-Growing Technologies Small Businesses Should Pay Attention To

by Kevin Casey on September 14, 2012

Research firm IBISWorld recently picked its top 10 technologies poised for significant growth and the industries likely to reap the bottom-line rewards. It’s the kind of list that tends to make entrepreneurs foam at the mouth with excitement, because today’s success stories — Apple’s iPhone and iPad, Toyota’s Prius, Facebook, and Skype — were fodder for such lists not too long ago

“Once named ‘new technologies to watch,’ these technologies and companies have become household names,” the report [PDF] says.

The Intuit Small Business Blog culled the latest list down to three technologies likely to have particular relevance for small businesses. That could mean new financial opportunities, new ways of finding and keeping customers, changes to existing ways of doing business — just about anything that might have a visible or even dramatic effect on how you operate.

1. HTML5 — Any small business with a website should bone up on HTML5. Although its developers still working out some kinks, the coding language is commonly considered the future of web development. “It is fast becoming the de facto standard for web experience innovation across touchpoints,” writes Forrester analyst Peter Sheldon in a blog post.

Among the reasons why: HTML5 offers an alternative to creating separate mobile apps for different devices and operating systems. “By programming once in HTML5, developers can now reach consumers through every mobile device,” the IBISWorld report notes.

2. Near-field communication — NFC is a wireless technology for transferring data from one device to another. While IBISWorld and other analysts note that it has a wide range of potential uses, a key one for small businesses is “contactless” payments. Instead of swiping a traditional debit or credit card at the cash register, your customers could pay with their NFC-enabled smartphone and a service like Google Wallet. (Retailers need a NFC reader to accept such payments.)

Relatively few consumers are using NFC today, but that is expected to change as more NFC-enabled mobile devices hit the market. Lots of big retailers, such as Bloomingdale’s and OfficeMax, have begun accepting NFC payments, too. “In 2012 and the years ahead, as the shares of people using smartphones and consuming media on the go increase, NFC apps, tools, and advertising will become more pervasive in daily lives,” IBISWorld says.

3. Ad-serving platforms — Online and mobile advertising is getting increasingly sophisticated, and the trend is poised to continue. That means new opportunities for advertising and marketing agencies, creative professionals, developers, and the like. But it could benefit nearly any small business that spends money on advertising. Say goodbye to the shotgun-blast approach: You will have more options than ever for your limited ad dollars. For example, if you want to target male alumni of particular group of colleges, or a certain age group in the Pacific time zone, or past visitors to your website — you can (or will be able to) do so, and that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

“Within the next five years, geolocation services will enable advertisers to target consumers with ads and coupons at the most opportune moment, as they pass by a store or walk down a certain aisle,” IBISWorld predicts.