The Technology Behind Economic Recovery: Small Business

Feb 25 • Business • 307 Views • Comments Off

Small Business Saturday, the newest shopping holiday in the American lexicon, turned out to be a huge hit in 2011. Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t.

Here are some stats from The Boston Globe:

  •  Hundreds of thousands of consumers registered their American Express cards to receive $25 statement credits when they shopped at a small business on Small Business Saturday.
  • More than 2.7 million Facebook users “liked” the Small Business Saturday page — more than doubling the 1.2 million “likes” in 2010.
  • Public awareness of Small Business Saturday rose to 65% from 37% in 2010.
  • Some 15,000 small businesses signed up and received free Facebook advertising to promote their products and services in the run up to Small Business Saturday.
  • More than 500,000 small business owners leveraged an online tool or promotional materials for Small Business Saturday.

The jump in public awareness can be attributed to the support of massive global corporations, including Facebook, Google and FedEx, and a king’s ransom of small business advocate organizations numbering in the hundreds.

Of course, social media played a large part in the success of Small Business Saturday as illustrated above. Which begs the question, could an event like this have been this successful in the past decade where the Internet was not nearly so social and democratized as it is now?

My vote says no.

The advance of technology has enabled small business to soar to brand new heights, and not just because one of the days of the year was promoted over all the rest.

Mobile Internet has begun the quiet revolution of businesses. In more metro shopping areas you will see tablets and smartphones doing the job previously only done by more expensive, clunky wares. Square may be getting more hype than you can handle but that little piece of plastic and microchips has literally changed everything about payment collection for businesses. Rock bands can charge for merch on the road without worrying about losing cash. Downtown Chicago hotels can cater events and save money on bank fees associated with using a card reader offsite. Moreover, customers who are gradually moving more toward plastic can be better accommodated, again, without the extra cost to the business.

Speaking of cards, while they have been convenient for decades, they will soon be absorbed into the digital world and evaporate from your wallet, alchemized into an app on your phone, thanks to Google Wallet.

What does this mean for small businesses?

When market analysts say that a recession or post-recession is a good time to start a business, they base that on spending trends and patterns throughout history. None of those handwringing analysts could have predicted the technological landscape in which we currently live. Many of the basic, menial tasks it takes to run a business are available at record low prices. The democratization of the Internet has pulled our society one rung up the ladder to the pie-in-the-sky, idealized future we think of when we watch Blade Runner or Tron (the sequel, not so much the original anymore).

As these tech trends continue and the multifarious ways in which we use the Internet in our daily lives becomes more sophisticated, we can expect to see continued growth, and that’s really good news to hear right now.

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