Mystic Meg I am not – but it is very clear to me that there are some key trends emerging that will help shape the business and entrepreneurial world in 2013. By following these trends the right entrepreneurs and investors could make their fortunes, existing businesses could adapt their business models to save money and win customers and consumers will never look back.
So, deep breaths and crystal balls to the ready - here are some key trends we would all do well to watch in 2013.
The payment revolution
Up until now payments have been a pain for businesses. Payment processing has long been an oligarchy - dominated by a handful of providers, Small businesses needed a network of merchant accounts, terminal providers, and more, all with myriad fees, just to accept the most popular credit cards.
But a payment revolution has recently led to the democratisation of payment services. iZettle has just launched in the UK – allowing businesses to take secure payments anywhere and everywhere via iphone, iPad or Android.
The payment revolution promises to be a boon to existing businesses and retailers. It could also spark a revolution for the likes of market stalls, events, pop-up shops, restaurants, delivery services and charities.
This, combined with the continued emergence and use of mobile wallets on smart phones and NFC technology that alerts users to local sales, offers and deals, will mean that any businesses which don’t build mobile compliant sites for phones and tablets could end up being downwardly mobile.
The wisdom of crowds
2013 should be the year that crowd funding comes of age in the UK, changing the way many businesses and projects are backed.
The concept is a relatively easy one to appreciate. You put your business or product on one of a growing number of crowd sourcing sites and ask people to back you with donations – and a growing number do.
The launch of Kickstarter in the UK has kick-started the debate on the importance of crowdfunding. Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has hosted more than 70,000 projects. About two fifths of these have been funded - raising more than $345m for entrepreneurs.
Businesses or individuals pitching on the site typically offer a range of perks in return for money. Pledges can be anything from £1 to thousands of pounds. Success stories have become legendary. For example, video games console Ouya, which raised $8,596,474 after initially asking for $950,000.
Crowdfunding is on the crest of a wave at the moment with sites like Indiegogo also proving popular if you have a product to sell. Played right, a good crowdfunding project can help prove the popularity of a product as well as providing some much needed cash.
Riding this wave is a growing number of new crowd investment services – in which would-be investors can buy shares in the business instead of perks.
Services like Crowdcube, Seedrs and newly launched Bank to the Future allow investors to back businesses they like, with anything from the price of lunch upwards.
Yes, these are high-risk punts on early-stage investments (and investors need to be aware of this and educated about the risks) but, over time,these sort of crowdfunding services could attract a new crowd of investors where, previously, business angels have feared to tread.
Spacehive has pioneered crowdfunding for communities allowing us to back local projects - from playgrounds to public spaces.
And more crowd-solving services will no doubt emerge in 2013 - where businesses ‘ask the audience’ for their help.
3D-printing technology is not new in itself. It has been used by designers and engineers for many years. 3D objects are created by sending a digital file or scan to a printer which then builds the item layer by layer.
Rapidly falling technology costs could herald an industrial revolution which could start in earnest in 2013.
The revolution is likely to begin with designers, start-ups and small businesses, who can finally compete with the big boys and offer cost-effective bespoke and small-scale production runs.
Then, when prices fall enough, these 3D printers are likely to be the must-have new gadget at home - stimulating our creative juices and creating a new generation of budding designers and products.
The growth in 3D smart phone apps and communities will also gain pace and momentum in 2013.
Glued to the box
The TV could make a comeback in 2013. Rapid growth in internet usage has created a generation of Facebook couch surfers. But internet TV could take off in 2013 with the likes of Google and Apple TV gaining traction and bringing services we know and love to a bigger screen.
New TVs with significantly enhanced picture quality are already emerging and 4k TV, described by some industry observers as "the HDTV experience on steroids" - with four times the resolution of your current set - could begin to catch on in 2013.
3D televisions are likely to get wider adoption when you don’t have to wear those annoying glasses. Also watch for the rise in second screen services and businesses - where audiences can interact with what they’re consuming, whether it’s a TV show, video game or movie.
Bigger, better and more interactive - watch this space.
A growing number of start-ups, businesses and entrepreneurs are turning to businesses that have a strong social impact and that try and solve some of the big problems in the UK and globally.
The launch of Big Society Capital, funded by unused deposits in dormant bank accounts, and tasked with investing in the social sector, will help stimulate the market place.
A growing band of entrepreneurs backed by the likes of organizations such as UnLtd and Nesta can help innovation, technological advances and social impact. And, finally, bigger companies are waking up to the fact that putting something back can help rather than hinder their bottom line.
Social impact and investment looks set to be a growing and enduring theme in 2013 and beyond.
I could go on… I haven’t mentioned augmented reality and Google goggles…but, suffice to say, 2013 promises to change the face of many industries.
Businesses and entrepreneurs would do well to embrace rather than ignore what’s hot in 2013 or risk being left out in the cold.
Andy Yates is an experienced entrepreneur, business mentor, advisor and angel investor and helps a portfolio of exciting growth businesses reach their potential including Huddlebuy, Europe’s largest business money saving website.
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