New Smartphone from LG, Cloud Management Services from Staples Make Small Biz Headlines

If you want to run a mobile business, you need mobile specific tools like a smartphone and a cloud management platform. This week, small businesses got a few new options. First, Verizon called a new LG smartphone perfect for content creators. And Staples launched a new cloud management and records storage solution.

You can read about these new services along with more small business headlines in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Technology Trends

Verizon Calls New LG Phone Perfect for Content Creators, But Why?

The V20 from LG (KRX:066570) was announced in August, and it is now available online from Verizon (NYSE:VZ) targeting content creators. Today’s smartphones are more than just phones, and manufacturers are addressing different segments with a range of models.

Staples Adds Record Storage and Cloud Management for Business

Small businesses looking for record storage or cloud management services just got another option from a familiar source. Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) is partnering with GRM, a leading provider of information management solutions, to offer these services under the Staples brand. Staples Records and Cloud Management offers a range of specific services that businesses of all sizes can choose from.

Windows 10 Adds New Dimensions with 3D Paint and PowerPoint

If the upgrade of Paint to 3D by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) works, this might be what catapults the technology for mass adoption. For over 30 years the Paint app has remained popular because it is easy to use, and thankfully Microsoft hasn’t forgotten that. According to the company, it will be just as easy to capture, create and share in 3D with the revamped app.

Office 365 Users, GoDaddy Will Encrypt and Archive Your Email

If you use Office 365 on GoDaddy (NYSE:GDDY), a new service will protect your email with an encryption and archiving service. The increase in security by GoDaddy and others in the tech industry highlights the threat landscape in the digital environment, which is very high.

3 MacBook Pros Focus On Productivity — But Are They For Business?

The revamped MacBook Pro line of laptops has arrived with 13 and 15-inch models almost four years after the last noteworthy upgrade. And this time around there are more changes, both inside and outside. A Look at the New 2016 MacBook Pros Externally, they are smaller with the 13-inch coming in at 14.9 mm thick and 3 lbs, while the 15-inch is slightly bigger at 4 lbs and 15.4 mm.

Microsoft Touts Surface Book i7 as Ultimate Laptop — with Ultimate Price Tag

Coined the ultimate laptop by Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), the new Surface Book i7 packs a punch, in terms of performance and the bruising your wallet will take. The announcement of the new i7 comes just as Microsoft released Surface Studio, another bruiser that is squarely aimed at taking on Apple’s stronghold among creative users.

Economy

UPS Sees Profits Jump 14 Percent with Ecommerce Driving Growth in Shipments

Riding high on booming ecommerce in the U.S., UPS (NYSE:UPS) has posted a profitable third quarter. UPS 3rd Quarter 2016 Results Domestic Shipments Drive Growth In the third quarter, international operating profit went up 14 percent to $576 million, achieving the seventh consecutive quarter of double-digit growth. What’s more, average daily package volume grew 5.7 percent in the U.S.

Amazon Sees Third Quarter Sales Increases of 29 Percent – in Part Due to New Biz Opportunities

Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) third quarter results are out. This quarter, the company posted $32.7 billion in revenue in the third quarter, up 29 percent. Q3 2016 Amazon Results Key Highlights Among highlights shared by the online retail giant, some are especially significant for small businesses.

Why Small Business Share of U.S. Inventions is Declining

Small businesses are accounting for a smaller fraction of new technology creation than they used to, at least according data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). That trend has many policy makers and pundits concerned that our innovation system is handicapping small business. While that explanation is possible, I think a more basic story accounts for the trend.

Hispanic-Owned Businesses See Revenue Spike, Says Biz2Credit Report

Hispanic-owned businesses are on a roll, reveals a new study. According to the Biz2Credit Hispanic Small Business Credit Study, Hispanic-owned companies had average annual revenues of $202,327 in 2016, up from $68,540 the previous year. The number of loan applications by Latino entrepreneurs made through Biz2Credit.com grew by 68.7 percent in the past 12 months.

Employment

Obamacare Enrollment Opens Today With Impacts for Self-Employed Solopreneurs

Open enrollment for individuals and families wanting to apply for health insurance through Obamacare starts today. Depending on where you live, you can either go to Healthcare.gov or your state’s healthcare exchange website. Self-employed businesses and solopreneurs with no employees  should also use this option.

#SalaryWins Twitter Chat Explores How to Get the Best Employees on a Budget

If you want your business to be successful, you need to hire the best team possible. But the reality for small businesses is that it’s not always possible to spend as much on hiring as large companies. That doesn’t mean that you have to settle when it comes to your team though.

Retail Trends

Are Starbucks Cups Brainwashing Customers? Some Think So (Watch)

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is in hot water (er – coffee?) again over a special cup design. The design features a variety of different people sketched all over the cup. The cup is green with a white circle in the middle where the Starbucks logo would normally go. The company has said that the design is supposed to represent unity.

10 Awesome Tips for Using Gift Cards to Boost Your Holiday Sales

Whether you own a retail store, beauty salon, restaurant, housecleaning service or other local business, gift cards can be a great way to spark new holiday sales. Gift cards aren’t just for big, national chains anymore; in fact, a new study reports, half of U.S. consumers are very open to buying gift cards from small, independent retailers.

Hair Care Company Faces Lawsuit, Investigation – and Possibly Worse (Watch)

Hundreds of people who purchased hair care products from Wen by Chaz Dean got a little more (or less) than they bargained for. According to a class action lawsuit against the company and direct marketing company Guthy-Renker, 200 women from 40 different states have reported hair loss, scalp irritation and rashes after using the products.

How the Election is Impacting Halloween Spending (Watch)

People are spending more money on Halloween this year than they ever have before. And you might have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to thank for that. Before this year, 2012 held the record for highest amount spent on Halloween. And there was even an uptick in 2008 even though the country was in the middle of a recession.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Aulta Specializes in Watches for Surfers

If you have an active lifestyle, traditional fashion brands might not provide enough durability when it comes to clothing and accessories. But Aulta is different. The company, which was founded by three friends who love to surf, makes watches for surfers and others who have active lifestyles. Read more about the company in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Operations

10 Lessons Your Small Business Should Learn from the Podesta Email Hack

The email hacks — not the other email problem — impacting this year’s Presidential election should be a stern warning to any small business owner. Cyber attacks are on the rise and you don’t have to be the campaign chair of a Presidential candidate to be a target. In fact, if you’re a small business owner, you’re more likely to be targeted.

Airstory Gets Your Team Collaborating on Content — From Anywhere

There are many small businesses that specialize in creating content for websites, and when Airstory becomes available by the end of the month, it could make it much easier to do so. Airstory is a collaborative cloud-based content creation platform for planning, writing, editing and kicking ideas around with your team. It works no matter where they are or what device you are using.

Feds Short-changed Small Businesses Out of $200 Billion in Contracts in 2015 Alone, Says Advocacy Group

The United States government agency responsible for supporting entrepreneurs has been accused of short-changing small business owners out of $2 trillion in federal contracts over the last ten years.

QuickBooks Users Can Now Accept Payments Through PayPal

Intuit Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU), QuickBooks’ parent company, has announced that QuickBooks users will soon be able to send an electronic invoice from Intuit QuickBooks Online and seamlessly accept payment from their customers through PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL). Yep, now small businesses can accept PayPal payments through QuickBooks.

Taxes

5 Changes to Information Returns — Coming in January

The year 2017 may seem like a long time from now, but it will be here before you know it. There are some important changes impacting businesses required to file certain information returns. The sooner you gear up for this tax responsibility, the easier your filing responsibilities will be.

Image: LG

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

2016 Is the Year Small Businesses Must Develop Mobile Apps

Apps are no longer considered merely a “branding exercise” for small businesses. Business owners are becoming wise to the marketing power a well-designed, intuitive app can bring. From simplifying online purchases to providing easy-to-access information, the benefits are undeniable which is why small businesses must develop mobile apps to stay competitive.

Why Small Businesses Must Develop Mobile Apps

In previous years, the rising cost of custom app developers made apps an impossible expense for small businesses. The recent growth of software development kits that streamline the app development process and allow even non-coders to create a fully-functioning app have dramatically reduced the cost of creating an app.

The affordability and fast development times these kits allow has encouraged more businesses than ever to create their own apps.

As social media use continues to rise, consumers are becoming more open to engaging with brands on a day-to-day basis, even if they aren’t specifically loyal to or purchasers of that particular business. Business owners and marketers are capitalizing on consumers’ desires for interaction by producing entertaining mobile apps. While being fun to use, informational or inspirational, a common characteristic of these apps is that they feature a strong call-to-action to persuade the user to purchase a product or in some way benefit the company in question.

What Types of Small Businesses are Making Apps?

A 2015 analysis of 40,402 apps created with an app development platform found that while “expected” businesses such as restaurants and gyms were highly prevalent, others such as golf courses, hotels, politicians and plumbers were also on the rise.

But why are these industries building more apps? Well, as the ease of building apps increases, so does the amount of potential functionality. One-off investments in systems such as in-app payments or bookings can save businesses money in the long-term as they reduce the amount of time their staff needs to spend fulfilling orders, taking payments or completing bookings.

For businesses that meet potential clients at various locations, the ability to show data or portfolio pieces offline using an app can make the difference between closing the sale and losing the prospect to a competitor.

How are Small Businesses Benefiting from Mobile Apps?

A recent survey showed that 62 percent of the businesses asked already had apps or were in the process of building one. Of those, 20 percent used their apps purely for branding purposes, 30 percent have revenue generating apps and 50 percent use them for support and engagement.

We spend 174 minutes on mobile devices every day. Mobile sales are estimated to have reached $74 billion in 2015 — up 32 percent from 2014. Thirty percent of all online purchases by Millennials are done on mobile devices. This jumps to 33 percent for moms and 43 percent for U.S. Hispanics.

However, apps aren’t just for commerce businesses. Push notifications can be used by any niche to put your brand name directly in front of the smartphone owner. Apps can be used for any type of activity: booking systems, file uploads, vouchers, newsletters, digital magazines, support, providing information, logging exercise or nutrition, showing videos and so much more.

Even businesses that you wouldn’t have thought would benefit from an app are proving critics wrong by producing innovative and engaging apps. For example, an independent pet food supplier could have an app that encourages users to upload comical photographs of their pets for a chance to win a prize. A product for new mothers could build a community of local mums and arrange meet-ups. A realtor could create an app that compares local house prices now to five years ago. The possibilities really are endless. All it takes is a little imagination to devise a system that consumers will enjoy engaging with.

What Does the Future Hold?

The projections around app driven revenue are staggering. Non-game app downloads are estimated to grow 23 percent in the next five years, exceeding $182 billion in 2020. Smartphone adoption in emerging markets should see mobile app store downloads more than double between 2015 and 2020.

Current data about mobile purchasing across the different age groups gives a strong indication that in 5-10 years, everyone is going to be a mobile shopper. Sixty-nine percent of millennials buy products on their smartphones, compared to 53 percent of Gen Xers and 16 percent of Boomers.

The increased market share and spending power this brings will make apps a necessity for B2C businesses in order to streamline a consumer’s journey from product browsing to payment.

The above statistics are also good news for digital agencies that offer mobile app development. As more businesses adopt apps, the demand for their services grows. The development of new ‘smart products’ such as virtual reality and wearable technology may compound this further as apps will need to be adapted to work on new online platforms.

Mobile Phone User Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Microsoft Nokia Acquisition: Good For Small Businesses

Yesterday’s news that Microsoft will acquire Nokia for $7.2 billion is probably good news for both Microsoft and Nokia, and also for small businesses.

Naysayers – and there are a lot of them – use words like it’s “too little too late” and that Nokia “can’t save” Microsoft.  For instance, industry observer Vivek Wadhwa sees lots of problems on the horizon for Microsoft. He says the answer is for Microsoft to break itself up into nimbler pieces.

Others, such as Business Insider’s Henry Blodget, see it as a “smart move” but one not likely to be successful because it’s too much of a Hail Mary pass, in his opinion.  If it works, it can win the game.  But chances are high it won’t work, for a variety of reasons.  For example, he notes that the big party in the mobile space has been tablets, but that Nokia has a nonexistent tablet offering.  Microsoft, on the other hand, has tablet offerings, but they have been high priced and slow to catch on.

The Microsoft viewpoint was aptly put in an announcement sent to members of Microsoft’s Voices for Innovation community, by Jonathan Friebert, Microsoft’s public policy manager, who explained:

“This deal adds to the momentum of Windows Phone and will accelerate growth as the next billion people come online using mobile devices. In addition, the transaction provides Microsoft with leading geospatial and mapping technologies. The integration of hardware and software will strengthen the position of the Microsoft ecosystem and provide a wide range of choice to consumers worldwide.”

Why A Microsoft – Nokia Combo is Good For Businesses

For businesses that are Windows shops, having a range of Windows smartphones and tablets is an attractive thing.  It provides a real alternative for businesses.

Apple and Google’s Android dominate the consumer mobile devices market today.  It would be a hard row to hoe, to try to gain substantial market share there. But for business users … by combining forces Nokia and Microsoft have the potential for a stronger offering for the business market.

Businesses need that.  For business users, there’s real benefit to being able to use a phone and tablet that integrate seamlessly with your desktop or laptop  computers.  It’s efficient.  It puts less burden on businesses that use Windows.  There’s less of a learning curve.

When a device makes it easier to conduct business, then small businesses and enterprises have a real reason to choose a Windows smartphone or a Windows tablet.

That’s especially true with tablets. Until recently there was somewhat of a void in the marketplace.  Yes, iPads and Android tablets are fun.  But for business users they have limited business value.   If my own Google Nexus tablet is any example, it tends to get used mainly for entertainment and occasionally on business trips when I have to write something longer than an email with two or three sentences.  It’s not very functional when it comes to the heavy lifting of business work I do.  My little 4-year old netbook computer is unpleasant to use for entertainment purposes, but far more useful than my tablet when it comes to real work, despite being old and slow.  Consequently, I often carry both on business trips — one for watching movies and catching up on email and social media, and the other for real work.

Some think that Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia is as much about tablets as smartphones.  It gives Microsoft access to hardware technology and access to Nokia’s distribution network.

To date, Microsoft has had limited success with tablets.  After the market failed to positively receive its stripped down Windows RT tablet, Microsoft reduced the price.  Its Surface tablet with full Windows 8 was better received, but pricey and so Microsoft also dropped the price of the Surface tablet.

Yes, Microsoft was slow to the tablet and smartphone party.  But there really is a place for good Windows phones and good Windows tablets in the business world.  Those that prefer a unified operating system across all their devices were essentially out of luck before Windows tablets and phones. They were forced to pick one of the big industry leaders, Google or Apple, for the operating systems on their mobile devices instead.  Now they could have more options, if the Microsoft – Nokia acquisition is successful. For the sake of business users, we hope this acquisition will lead to more mobile device choices.

Images: Wikipedia

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Up Your Social Media Game with These New Instagram Features for Small Business

Up Your Social Media Game -- Take Advantage of These New Instagram Features for Your Small Business

Since paying more attention to my visual branding, I’ve come to really love Instagram. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’m pretty much obsessed with Instagram.

If you’ve been on the image-heavy social media platform lately, then you may have noticed some new Instagram features like live video streaming and short stories a la Snapchat. You now also have the option to make your profile a business page.

I’ve been experimenting with these new Instagram features and have found a few ways to use them in your marketing plan. Here are just some of the ways I’ve been taking advantage of all the new stuff on IG.

New Instagram Features

Show Behind the Scenes Using IG Stories

I was recently traveling for a client that hired me to create, teach and film a few business classes for them. Since I was traveling and working with some awesome people, I figured it would be a good idea to show my Instagram followers some of the behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a professional blogger and social media influencer.

I used new Instagram features like Stories and Boomerang (technically not new but they added it to the IG app) to show things like camera setups, sets, a tour of my hotel room and the goofy stuff we did on breaks.

Teach Something Using IG Live Video

During our lunch break, I decided to use one of the new Instagram features to teach my audience something. More specifically, I used the live video feature to show them live footage of what was going on and introduce my followers to some of the people I was working with.

For example, I was working with a local mastermind facilitator and yoga teacher who was interviewing me for my client. I got her on live video to talk about what we were doing and she even gave my followers some yogic hand stretches for the office.

Market Your Products and Services

Another thing I use the new Instagram features for is to market my products and services. For example, I created a few stories right before going on air for a radio show. This showed them the behind the scenes I already mentioned, plus I was able to share a tip about how bloggers and business owners can get free PR.

From there, I directed them to an on-demand class I sell that teaches them how to get free PR for their businesses. I simply put the link to the sales page in my bio and let them know the class was available for them to purchase.

Granted, it’s important to note that I’m always sharing valuable content. I don’t only use the new Instagram features to try to make sales. That’s simply one piece of the overall marketing pie.

Show Them You’re Human

I’ll use Boomerang to make goofy videos and post them to my Stories. I’m somewhat goofy by nature and it shows my followers a side of me that’s different from my normal “business-y” stuff.

People relate to people, so make sure you’re using the new Instagram features to show people that you’re real.

Final Thoughts

When used in the aforementioned ways, the new Instagram features can certainly be a real game changer for your marketing plan. There’s no longer a need to go on different apps for different features which makes things a whole lot easier.

Instagram Photo via Shutterstock

More in: Instagram

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