Mobile Trending Upwards in 2014

Mobile Technology

The year 2014 is lining up to be the year of explosive growth in mobile technology, with hundreds of new products designed to attract an enlarged audience of eager users of anything that can be pocketed or worn out the door he go.  If there were ever any doubts, a visit to the recent International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas put that doubt to rest.  Perhaps the hottest buzz this year centered on “wearables”, those trendy devices that have yet to fully become understood in the marketplace.  Some estimate that “wearables” will become a billion-dollar industry this year. And to keep all those new mobile, wireless, wearables charged-up, 2014 will definitely be a big year for wireless charging. There are over 60 different phones that have Qi wireless charging (the inductive charging standard) built in today – and 40 million of them have been sold – and because it’s a standard, you can put your phone down on any Qi charging surface and it will just start grabbing power. But the tech sector that is worn on the wrist made a huge impression in Las Vegas.

From the Razer Nabu to LG Lifeband Touch to the Sony Core, the options are rising for users to essentially pick whatever fitness tracker fits their needs. The same goes for smartwatches. With the newest iteration of Pebble in the form of Steel, it seems this time piece gang is finally figuring out that in addition to functionality, aesthetics are important for consumers. Companies big and small are diving into the tech, consumers are no longer limited to a select few, and this sector is poised to get even bigger in the coming years. Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich touted his company’s vision for the wearable market, showing off a voice-recognition headset and unveiling the capabilities for the company’s new super-small “Edison” chip, which can be easily embedded into clothing.

The interest in mobile is not limited to the consumer but also extends to retailers who are interested in how mobile technology will help them connect with their customer. When retailers discuss the latest shopping trends at the 2014 National Retail Federation Annual Convention, a big topic will be how mobile devices enhance the customer experience inside stores. According to a recent study from the Google Shopper Council, a growing number of mobile shoppers use smartphones as they shop inside a physical store to find more information about products and compare prices. Using a mobile device on the spot to make informed decisions has never been easier as customers’ devices now act as mobile concierges that provide online reviews, price comparisons, and a quick way to pay through mobile payment systems such as ISIS Mobile Wallet. Savvy retailers see the opportunities and are channeling customers through location-based mobile advertising with the use of apps like shopkick and Foursquare. These and other reward-based apps offer exclusive deals, gift cards or coupons for checking in at a retail location, while building brand loyalty.

Technology, however, is also helping consumers feel better about what they buy. Marketing tech provider Vibes recently found that “among consumers who either texted or scanned a QR code to get more information on a special in-store deal, 42 percent said doing so made them feel better about the purchases they made.”

What’s more, shoppers are benefiting from better customer service as stores are adopting the use of tablets to answer customer questions and speed the checkout process. Vista Retail Support, an IT support company, reported that almost half of the merchants it surveyed are using handheld technology in their stores today.

One consumer sub-segment that promises to utilize mobile more generously in the coming year is mom market. Brianne Manz, founder of Stroller in the City and regular contributor to MomTrends, is a mom of three who understands the benefits of using technology to manage family life. While blogging daily about city living, kids, fashion and all things mommy, she is also running around town with her kids, so it’s essential for her to stay connected when in transit. “I basically use my mobile device for everything,” she said. “The only time I am able to sit in front of my computer is at night while working on my blog. Everything else, from booking appointments to corresponding with my children’s teachers on email, is all done on my mobile device.” For moms who snap hundreds of pictures of their growing kids, Manz recommends PicTapGo, a “phonetography” app that helps improve the quality of pictures taken with iOS7, as well as photo-editing app Afterlight to add a creative flair to family memories. For moms who are constantly on the go and juggling family and career, utilizing mobile technology can make all the difference in the world.

Yahoo, who recently eclipsed 400 million monthly mobile users, is throwing its chips into the mobile game. By 2017, the company expects 3.8 billion connected devices worldwide.  Instagram has over 150 million active users and has been the de facto social network of choice for the under-18 crowd. Instagram provides the most compelling visual medium for communicating brand messages and engaging with loyal customers. Brands wanting to reach younger audiences, or younger potential hires, need to find a way to connect because e-mail and phone are less viable options. With 65% of people being visual learners, social sites that focus on photo and short video sharing are going to win in the long run. With the improvements in smartphones and their ability to geo-locate and send/receive data from anywhere at any time, a whole new series of service offerings is predicted to unfold in the coming year.

It is clear that 2014 will be another big year for mobile, and while the most optimistic predictions may take some time to unfold, mobile is not only here to stay, but poised to be at the very core of how we continue to relate and function with our environment in our daily lives.

A Strategy of Measured Growth for 2014


After more than 5 years of economic uncertainty, unrealized promises of business growth and motivated consumers, most business owners are more than just a little bit weary of all the “this is going to be the year of the turnaround” predictions.  But given the sustained anemic economic business environment of the past, a well formed and realistic strategy for growth in 2014 is essential for business survival.  A slow, no growth, bar the door, strategy may no longer be a sufficient to sustain an enterprise into the future.  A recently released, 2014 Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project (PPCMP) Survey indicates that 87% of privately held companies with sales under $5 million have growth strategies planned for 2014. In addition to being optimistic about their own growth strategy, most business owners are optimistic about the economic outlook in general. Nearly two-thirds (65%) believe that growth opportunities for business will increase over the next 12 months, and more than one-third (35%) think that general business conditions will improve over the next year.

Of course, there are still plenty of businesses not planning to expand, 51% say “economic uncertainty” is the number-one reason they’re holding back.  In addition, while capital has become more available than in the recent past, most lenders are only supporting those expansion plans that meet their strict, “gold plated,” performance projections, forcing many to focus inward to the existing business model for growth in the coming year, a  sort of “don’t forget what is working” strategy.  Whatever the pathway, growth goals and objectives must reflect the real world projections and be flexible to accommodate expected and unexpected changes to performance assumptions.

It is important, especially when just starting out, for a business to find solid footing before moving on to new things. However, once a company is established and its core offerings are profitable, it makes sense to stretch a little. Diversifying business offerings, in the same way an investor diversifies a portfolio, helps increase reach and revenue potential, while decreasing the risk of a single revenue stream. Unfortunately, expansion comes with its own set of risks. Diversifying a company’s offerings across multiple services means that a bad month or two in one area won’t sink the business.  It is important to not to neglect the cash cow! Paying too much attention to new areas at the expense of the core services that made the business successful can be a fatal mistake.

Venturing beyond the current core of business experience and expertise may be a lucrative option.  The once iron rule of “don’t journey into unfamiliar territory or get into a business that you know little about” is still good advice, but companion business opportunities are a good way to grow a healthy, well performing entity particularly if that entity has a proven, efficient and lean model that can be applied to another parallel or perpendicular universe of products or services.

Regardless of the strategy for growth, digital marketing will need to be an integral part of a 2014 marketing campaign.  Consumers have embraced all things digital and mobile and they will continue to seek out and use the new communication technologies when researching and initiating purchasing decisions.  According to a recent report conducted by SinglePoint, 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes of receipt permitting marketers to effectively reach 90% of their targeted readers, converting those readers into new business.  The benefit to small businesses is connectivity with current customers and POTENTIAL customers.  Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to purchase based upon social media referrals.  Building an effective digital marketing program, designed to enhance and grow the brand promise across all existing and future expanded business experiences should be at the center of any strategy for growth in 2014.

Staying lean in business means having everything you need and nothing you don’t. But lean should  does not mean stagnant or no growth.  Lean requires examination and retooling to find and wipe out inefficiencies and in this challenging business environment, lean has been a necessary element of survival, but even with the continued uncertainty, a measured and relative strategy of growth will ensure sustained business success for 2014 and beyond.

Is a Partnership the Answer to Expansion and Growth?


The demands of running a business can sometimes be difficult for even the most experienced professionals. Whether at the start-up phase of a new venture or at some point during the life cycle of an existing business, demands often lead to an owner bringing on a partner.  Partnerships  can provide additional capital to improve operational flexibility and more potential for growth; spread the responsibility for operations and decision making and reap advantages of combined skills and experience.  The exchange of opinions and ideas allows business owners to expand on already good ideas or replace poor ones. A business run by multiple talents and visions significantly increases opportunities for expansion, and ultimately higher profits and creating a partnership can also enhance motivation, morale and personal responsibility. But the opportunities can also welcome risks.

Selecting a partner begins with identifying those who have a common desire and commitment to the strategic goals of the business and who are trustworthy and share a reputation for personal integrity. Clearly identify the expectations of each partner and the percentage of ownership for the business at the outset.  Document all the terms of the partnership agreement in advance and perform meticulous due diligence before implementing the agreement. Establish specific individual protections and a clear exit strategy for the partnership at the outset.   Preparing for those things that can and will go wrong in advance may result in huge benefits to resolving disputes down the road.

Common pitfalls to avoid include:

The thrill is gone.

In addition to making money, so much of the satisfaction of business ownership is related to setting ambitious goals and then achieving them. If partners can’t find a way to reenergize their commitment and look forward and tap into the opportunistic soul of an entrepreneurial partnership, it’s time to call it a day.

Differences in the equity split.

Resenting the equity split can often be the first sign of fracturing in a partnership. Perceived differences in the compensation to performance relative to the agreed equity split can derail a partnership quickly.

Unresolved internal disagreement and bickering.

When a company’s leadership is distracted by petty grievances, competitors have a perfect opportunity to steal away their best customers and employees lose focus on their responsibility to the success of the company. The energy lost on ongoing difference of opinion will affect business performance.

Disagree on spending priorities.

How a company invests its cash in new product development, marketing, customer service and personnel is directly related to an organizations performance and success. When partners feud, spending decisions are no longer made in terms of what will advance a company in a profitable way but favor initiatives that might advance the authority of one partner over the other partner.

Loss of trust and mutual respect.

The most destructive situation for any business partnership is the loss of trust between individual partners.

Employees, vendors and customers eventually take notice to a dysfunctional environment.  Customers will discreetly seek out other service options. Employees will spend more time gossiping than working.  The longer it takes confront and solve partnership conflicts, the less a company will be worth to the partners or potential business buyers.

Successful partnerships thrive on their ability to confront difference of opinions on strategy and decision making that result in mutual solutions that strengthens the organization; fosters an environment of open communication, engagement, execution and sets forth clear divisions of the individual partner’s roles and responsibilities. Properly formed and effectively executed, a business partnership can open opportunities for continued growth and profitability while greatly enhance individual fulfillment.

Technology Trends in 2014: Breaking Out

Social Media and Big Data

In 2013 mobility, big data and the cloud environment emerged as three of the top technology trends, disrupting many well-established norms long observed by technology businesses, marketers and IT professionals.  Consumers who were once tied to a stationary world of computing and collectively leashed by techies, marketers and system applications began to find the established boundaries of technology broken.  With the explosion of mobile computing devices, consumers escaped their captors to become not only observers but participants and creators of content, products and media.  Today’s technology users are more empowered; know what devices and services they like using and expect not only to be able to use these at leisure, but at work as well.  The explosion of cloud computing has unleashed new trends that now extend to everyone from enterprises to small and medium sized businesses (SMBs).  In 2014 it is expected that the personal cloud will replace the PC at the center of users’ digital lives.

The growing number of connected devices and machines is radically changing the business and IT landscape. Cisco Systems’ Internet Business Solutions Group predicts that the number of Internet-connected devices will hit 25 billion by 2015 and reach 50 billion by 2020. The firm also forecasts that 99 percent of physical objects will eventually become part of a network.  “With 80 to 90 percent of data today existing in an unstructured state, big data tools are essential for distinguishing the ‘signal from the noise,'” says Menka Uttamchandani, vice president for business intelligence at Denihan Hospitality Group, “with all the unchecked collection of data from smartphones, wearable devices and pads, it is essential that we transform a growing mountain of data into knowledge.”  Managing and understanding all the data poses not only challenges but opportunity in the coming year.

We are going to see a huge increase in location-based marketing”, says Nancy Bhagat, Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Intel.  “With the rapid proliferation of devices, and the explosion of the “Internet of Things”, people will be carrying, utilizing, and depending on their devices more than ever.  As part of the increased dependency, there is an increased expectation of services and personalization.  Some marketers perceive that the proliferation of data collection devices have consumers both welcoming and resisting technology’s growing presence in their lives. For many, technology serves as a gateway to opportunity and an enabler of hyper-efficient lifestyles, but those who are most immersed are starting to question its effect on their lives and their privacy, resulting in a desire by many users to find balance.

Indicative of the user trend to participate more freely and collectively in the IT space, consumers will continue to explore and demand mobile apps like Waze, a community based mapping, traffic and navigation app.  Now comprised of more than 70 million users, Waze is a GPS-based geographical navigation application program for smartphones with GPS support and display screens which provides turn-by-turn information and user-submitted travel times and route details. The app allows users to connect, collect, process, share and utilize common, real-time data to improve their and other users commuting experiences.

Banjo, is another collaborative user application that promises opportunities to “See what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world, to connect with people you never knew before and find something new every time you explore.” It boasts that it will take you beyond your network, live into what is happening anywhere you want to go.  Available for free in the App Store and in Google Play, it is indicative of consumers growing demand in 2014; to not only observe but to actively collaborate in their experiences with the digital world. Clearly, in the coming year, consumers will be demanding and expecting more from their digital experiences, allowing marketers more opportunity to connect their brands with eager, participating consumers.

The tremendous growth of social media has made it a valuable marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. Social media networks have become mandatory places for online advertising strategy and in 2014 marketers will need to pay close attention to their respective brand engagements, where content will reign supreme in successfully targeting consumers.  Integration and coordination of message with brand identity across everything digital will be essential to capturing and advancing market share in highly competitive fields. In the coming year, Facebook will complete a decade of its existence and it is expected that the world’s number one social media site will keep on targeting mobile devices and giving advertisers chances to target their advertisements to an ever more mobile consumer. Whichever way the other social media networks go, in 2014 almost all marketers will realize that it’s absolutely essential to spend money and time on social media endeavors.

During the past few years, the explosive growth of online social media sites like Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest has resulted in billions of people connecting with marketers. They will be mandatory tools in 2014, and really effective companies will have exclusive, creative resources dedicated to managing their social media strategy.  In this continuously changing and innovating technology era, marketing approaches will need to innovate and change with the advancements in communication technology if companies are to continue to retain a loyal customer base while successfully achieving real dynamic growth.