A few weeks ago, I walked into a restaurant that I had happened to notice out of the corner of my eye while looking for a place to spend my lunch break. The owner perked up the second I opened the door, most likely due to the fact that there was no one else in the business eating or ordering food. I quickly ordered one of the lunch specials and sat down awaiting my food. While sitting there, I decided to look up the business online with my iPad to see if I could find him on Google or other search engines. Based on his current lack of clientele, it was little to my surprise that there was not much information regarding his business online; I couldn’t even find a website. Clearly, his business was not moving with the future. From my experience as a digital media consultant, almost every business I have been that is dying—or perhaps teetering on the brink of bankruptcy—lacks most aspects of an online presence. Restaurants that rely on walk-in traffic now have more problems than ever before. Ordering food on sites like Foodler and campus.com dominate the younger markets and take away from the walk-in traffic that the younger crowds used to provide.
Today, it’s easier than ever before to find great deals online, order, and wait for your food while you watch the Miami Heat play the Celtics. This is going to be a huge problem for restaurants and other business owners who stubbornly believe that their quality products and services are enough to keep their business afloat. I cannot tell you how many times a struggling business owner has told me that he or she has been there for 30 years, and that online marketing is a desperate ploy for larger companies that do not have a good reputation or a quality product. Perhaps 20 years ago this was true, but with web technology powering forward despite the sluggish world economy, this is no longer the case. Consumers automatically look to the web to find better deals simply because it is much easier and faster to do so online as opposed to trying to find something inexpensive by walking around a mall or a street packed with businesses.
Muving With The Future
You may be asking: Why is it that most small and medium size businesses have so much difficulty when it comes to predicting and keeping their business up to date with information technology trends? They seem to lack the foresight that larger companies have, because they often do not have the resources to hire market research analysts and an IT department to keep them on track when industry trends change or make volatile shifts. In addition, most individuals and businesses make linear predictions rather than preparing for the economically mercurial times in which we now live. The IT industry makes exponential gains because the basis for the IT industry, the computer, approximately doubles in speed or capacity every few years as processors, graphics cards, memory chips, and hard-drives become steadily more powerful. IT industry trends also change rapidly because of how fast phenomena can go viral; for instance, MySpace was “the next big thing,” but when Facebook charged onto the online stage, the pioneer of social networking become “old news” remarkably quickly. It only takes a few years—sometimes less for a better more well designed site like Facebook—to conquer a competitor MySpace.
Predicting IT trends makes evaluating a websites value a daunting task for investors, especially when a Facebook can take out a MySpace in only a few short years. So, you’re probably asking yourself, what is the next big website to go down are, and who are the newcomers waiting on deck to hit the home run? No one can know for sure, but we have a few sites on our radar that we believe have some serious potential, and some others that are ripe for the takedown. The rise and fall of these sites could transform the web. In addition, small businesses would be wise to keep a close eye on web trends in order to ensure that they are found on the emerging sites that are relevant to their business. If they lack the foresight to do this, they may be left in the dust, as most of the big conglomerates that have the resources to follow the trends won’t be caught making such a mistake.
We have three big time sites that we see falling off the charts this decade, as they seem to be losing momentum that they gained in the last one. Number one on our radar for sites to go down in the next decade is Yelp.com. They have been sued for unethical business practices and their business model is, to be frank, awful. Small and medium size businesses hate Yelp’s sales teams because they can essentially manipulate the way reviews are seen on their site to gain the dependence of small businesses that rely on yelp for their reputations. They do a poor job of providing accurate and non-biased reviews, because most reviews are either very positive or extremely negative. People generally take the time to provide a review because they had an either exceptional or dreadful experience with the business in question, so the instance of a reviewer posting a moderate and objective review is relatively anomalous. It’s only a matter of time before a better review site comes in and takes them down.
Site number two on our takedown list is Yahoo.com. They have been rotating executive management for the last several years, and it doesn’t seem like they are anywhere close to finding a coherent direction in the IT industry. Without such direction, they seem clueless to many, leaving them further and further behind the two major search engines—Bing and Google. Last but not least, we foresee the demise of not really one website, but a bundle of similar websites that we feel are just simply lacking any dynamic improvements or initiatives that will make them competitive in the social media phase of this decade. These are the “Yellow Pages,” “Super Pages,” and other websites that were transitioned from yellow pages companies into online directory websites. Generally, these websites merely consist of directory information or a business profile, and they lack features that make them stand apart from the competition when it comes to viewing information about businesses. As the web grows into a more interactive space for sharing content and information about businesses, these websites and companies are sure to fall behind.
There are three sites that are starting to emerge as big contenders on the worldwide web, and it may be only a few years before they become household names. First is the latest dating craze, Okcupid.com. The online dating industry is a multibillion dollar industry with plenty of room to grow, and it is only a matter of time before we see the first major multibillion dollar dating website. One in five relationships start online, but imagine if that number grew to one and three. Okcupid is free to use, which is a huge advantage over the other online dating sites that make you pay to talk to other members. Eventually, advertising revenues from a free-use site could offer more of a profit than a pay-site, particularly when dominated by a user that is easy to market to—“single-and-looking” individuals. It sounds harsh, but business is business; particularly if a the information on a registered user allows you to target their age and gender, advertising on such a site could be remarkably precise and provide a windfall of profit from vendors such as those selling perfume, makeup, weight-loss programs, flowers, chocolates, etc. The second best site that we believe still flies under the radar is grooveshark.com. Why buy music when you can stream everything you want, as well as building and managing all your playlists with all the tools of pay music sites at your disposal.
The third site that is storming onto the online scene is Pinterest, the interactive photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manipulate a variety of digital collages of pictures related to themes that interest them. It has integrated itself particularly well with social media fronts such as Twitter and Facebook, which has undoubtedly contributed to the site’s achievement of attracting 10 million visitors faster than any other website. Watch out for Pinterest and the other sites discussed above, and do your best to join them in moving with the future.