I’m going to make a few predictions for the remainder of 2011 and 2012.
Charlie Sheen and the producers of Two And A Half Men, unable to ignore the riches of another season, will ultimately reconcile. The latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie will bomb. The Mets will not make the playoffs. President Obama will win the Democratic primaries. I will pay more in health insurance, not less. Check back and see if I’m right on these. I’m pretty confident.
But not as confident as I am about a few trends that will affect my company, and other small and medium sized businesses. In the next two years, I predict that at least three killer apps will emerge that will have a significant impact on us all. Are you ready for them?
Killer App #1: Mobile payments
I recently discovered a great way to save money. I don’t carry cash. This way none of my teenage kids can dig into my wallet when I’m not around and walk away with ten dollar bills to fund their pizza fix. Instead all they find are useless credit cards. Well, in a couple of years they won’t even be able to find those. That’s because I’ll be doing it all on my phone. As will most of my customers.
First some facts. Information Week says that 38% of small and medium sized businesses already depend on mobile apps. American Express is working on a new e-wallet application. Microsoft, Apple and Google are implementing near field communications (NFC) technology for mobile payments in their next generation of products. As we speak, Google is testing an Android payment system in New York and San Francisco. PayPal is teaming with innovative companies like Blingnation to bring mobile payments to its customers.
Mobile payments are the next killer app. How will it all work? It’s not that complex. Your customer’s credit information will be embedded in a secure application on their phone. You will have a wireless terminal connected to your cash register, or stand alone, that will communicate with their phone using NFC technology, or something similar, to transmit data. Using the touch screen or camera on the mobile device, the technology may incorporate fingerprint, eye scan or some other type of security if necessary. Your customer waves her phone over the terminal. The transaction is recorded. A receipt gets 康齒堂箍牙 mailed all around. The transaction hits your bank account and accounting software with no more human interaction.
Is your business ready for this? You really should be. Because soon, a customer’s going to walk in your door and ask to pay for a product using her smartphone. At first when you tell her that you don’t accept payments that way she’ll understand. But after a while, when more and more of your competitors and other businesses are taking smart phone payments she’s going to stop being so patient with you and take her business elsewhere.
Will this cost us more? What do you think? Of course it will! We’ll have to pay hundreds for new smartphone scanners and sign up for services and absorb additional fees and charges. You know this is going to happen. You know that the people who are really going to get rich off this are the companies I mentioned above. But it won’t stop us. Because we’re going to need to provide this capability to our customers in order to stay competitive. It may even drive more business our way. And save a little time in processing too. We’ll see.
Killer App #2: Lockers
Last week Amazon announced that it would be providing up to 20GB of storage to its customers for anything they want – music, videos, ebooks, etc. They call it a “cloud locker.” One thing’s for sure – this locker will smell a lot better than my gym locker. And say what you want about Amazon, but these guys not only spot trends well in advance, they also start trends of their own. I never thought people would go for ebooks when they were first introduced. Now I see that Amazon’s sold around eight million Kindles in 2010. Shows how much I know.
But I do know this: storage space is cheap. And finding new customers is expensive. So we’re always looking for ways to keep our customers close to us. And what better way to keep them close than to give them “lockers” to store their stuff? It makes it easier for them to keep coming back to us to buy new products. That Jeff Bezos is a smart dude. And the fact that he’s bald makes me like him that much more.