The following trends I've noticed may affect everything from how you travel for business and run building operations to your recruiting practices and product design. Keep your eye on them.
1. Business Bars at Hotels
I've been waiting for this one to catch on. The idea is to meld the formal business center in a hotel with the casual eateries you'll find next to the lobby. Business travelers can expect to find free iPads, charging stations, and even a personal workspace along with the shrimp appetizers and drinks. One example in New York is the Eventi. You can "check out" an e-reader or iOS device, print over wireless, and charge up easily.
2. Co-creation for Products
This trend may have started with Apple when it gave customers the option to etch a private message or their name onto a new iPod. Essentially, co-creation is when a customer has the ability to choose design specifications, colors, and even functions for a new product. Companies like Proper Cloth (custom clothing) and Chocomize (custom chocolate bars) have perpetuated the trend. In 2013, more companies will offer custom options. And, with 3D printing picking up momentum, you can expect even more in the realm of individualized products.
4. "Smart" Businesses
What if your business could operate with more intelligence, and without as much direct involvement from your staff? The concept of a "smart" business covers many facets: You might use the cloud to automate your accounting system, especially when it comes to disaster recovery and back-ups. Your building control systems might recognize when you have enabled security for the night, and automatically adjust the temperature. Your Wi-Fi network, normally used for accessing the Web, provides access to the lights, security system, and video surveillance.
5. Talent Communities, not Career Sites
The idea of building a "talent community" started a few years ago in larger companies, but the trend is now picking up steam in small business. Essentially, your company builds connections with both job seekers and those not currently on the hunt. Instead of a simple career site and an Apply button, a talent community is more of an ongoing social platform you build to engage with potential employees. The concept moves you from a passive wait-and-see recruiting model to more of an always connected, digital approach.
6. Social Gifting on Facebook
Large companies like GAP and Old Navy already are using services like Wrapp to provide gift cards on Facebook. Individuals can purchase a gift card, send it to a friend, and then the friend can make a purchase by redeeming the card via a smartphone. In the future, you may see social networks as a gifting mechanism, something taking the place of real gift cards--and real gifts.
7. Hotspot 2.0
When you travel, connecting to a data network can prove challenging. Once you enter a building, your chances of maintaining a 3G/4G signal decrease. Hotspot 2.0 is a new initiative, developed by companies like ADTRAN, that will make it easy to roam from an outside 3G/4G signal and then attach to a hotspot network without having to search for a Wi-Fi signal or login. Your phone will maintain a data connection automatically.