The future of the internet

Written on the 11 December 2008

So what can we expect the internet in 2009?  And how will at affect your business? 

While none of us are getting around in flying cars yet, technology is definitely advancing rapidly.  Exhibit A the internet.  It seems like every day something new is invented for the web podcasts, YouTube, blogs, content management systems and it's become an integral part of our lives. 

As business owners, we really must keep up-to-date with it otherwise our businesses will miss out on the potential results.  So as the internet continues to evolve, what should we expect from it in 2009? And what will it mean for your business?

Increased use

Firstly, you should expect the internet to be even more widespread than ever.  A recent report released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) showed that 73% of Australians regularly use the internet and with the Federal Government's plan to roll-out high speed broadband access across the country in 2009, internet access will skyrocket. 

Results-focused websites

If you are serious about tapping into the power of the internet in 2009, it won't be enough to just have an online brochure masquerading as a website.  You will need to upgrade your flat 5 page basic website to a fully-functional, dynamic website that offers users real value and is a central part of your business.  Your site must be engaging and informative (think case studies, photo galleries, newsletter signups) and it definitely should be linked to a content management system so you and your staff can easily edit it.

Higher standards

As consumers start demanding more from the websites they use, small businesses must increase the functionality of their websites to compete with their bigger rivals.  Business owners will rely on their website developers for these standards, but because smalltime backyard developers can't keep up-to-date, businesses will switch to larger, more reliable internet partners.  As a result, expect to see the bigger internet companies opening up offices around the country so businesses have access to a higher level of service and better products.

More online shopping

If you need any more proof about the power of the internet, take note - 54% of respondents in the ACMA study made a purchase on the internet in the first quarter of 2008. And as the financial crisis tightens everyone's budgets, more people will be turning to the internet to conveniently research their purchases.  If your business is service based or you don't want to sell your products online, don't be fooled into thinking you can get away with a basic website.  According to a Swinburne University report, 83% of Australian consumers research online before they go in-store to make a purchase or sign up for a service, so you still need a great website to capture these customers.

Growth of search engines

In the past, it's been important to have a presence in the search engines.  In 2009 and beyond it will be absolutely essential - Google is consistently the most visited website in Australia (Hitwise, 2008) and around 235 million searches are conducted worldwide every single day (Comscore, 2008).  Getting to the top of search engines will only get more competitive, so hire a professional to optimise your site for you.  Also, advertising on search engines through programs like Google AdWords is another effective marketing tool for driving traffic to your website and boosting sales.

Focus on online marketing

In 2009, the number one way to save money (and make money) in business will be online marketing.  25% of Australians watch less television and 17% read less magazines and newspapers because of the internet (ACMA, 2008), so smart businesses will be directing their marketing budgets online.  It's far easier to target your marketing online and because it's so cheap compared to traditional mediums, the ROI is huge.  The best online marketing resources for businesses will be email marketing, search engine advertising, social networking and blogs.

Rise of social networking

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few years, you would have heard of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.  More than 75% of Australians adults use them to stay in touch with their friends and family (Forrester Research, 2008) so they will become a huge resource for businesses in 2009.  Set up a group on Facebook for your business and offer special discounts and added value to members get all your existing customers to join initially and then use 'tell a friend' marketing strategies to grow the group.  Also, make a profile for yourself on LinkedIn and start utilising the business contacts and alliances you make on there to reach more customers.

Increased censorship

The biggest change facing the internet in 2009 is censorship.   The Federal Government is about to launch its internet filtering system which blocks 'unwanted content' through Internet Service Providers.  Their intentions are honourable, but the ramifications of trying to control the world's last remaining free media will be widespread internet speed will suffer for all Australians and because the technology isn't perfected, businesses could easily find their sites blacklisted.  This is definitely an issue to keep an eye on in the coming months, so stay tuned.

2009 will see a continuation of a lot of the trends we have seen in the past few years with the internet.  The best way you can prepare for the new year online is to get yourself a reliable, up-to-date internet partner and maximise every opportunity that the internet offers your business.