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Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Ninja Standing Desk (Ergonomic Desk)

March 22nd, 2013 ::

Ninja Standing Desk

Standing desks are a growing trend in many workplaces because they help you avoid the health risks involved with sitting all day while building strength and fitness. If you want to try the trend, but aren’t sure about standing for eight hours at a stretch, check out the Ninja Standing Desk. The Ninja Standing Desk is the first portable sit-and-stand desk. It weighs just under 5 pounds and can be stored away in a bag the size of a laptop. The desk can be hung on a door, wall or cubicle, and by adding a third shelf, you can make the desk accessible for sitting, too.

5 Key Digital Trends That Matter to Your Business

March 6th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

How will smartphones, tablets, social media and other digital trends affect the way you interact with your customers, market your business to consumers and sell your products and services in the coming year? comScore’s new 2013 U.S. Digital Future in Focus report took a closer look at what trends will influence business in 2013 and beyond. Here’s what the study found:

  1. Social media matures: Social networking in the U.S. is still dominated by Facebook; consumers spent 5 out of every 6 minutes spent online on social media. In addition to Facebook, which is maturing by focusing on new ways to monetize, smaller social media players making waves in 2013 will include LinkedIn, Yelp, Zynga, Groupon, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram (which is now part of Facebook).
  2. Search flattens out: Although Google is still the strong leader in search engines, Bing gained some ground in 2012. That was also the year when more and more searches began taking place on mobile platforms, signaling a possible flattening of the desktop search market.
  3. Online video matures: comScore says the U.S. online video market is beginning to mature in terms of consumption, but still has a ways to go in terms of monetization. There is more demand for online video advertising space than there is inventory available, so comScore believes this advertising channel will continue to grow, and will become better at precisely targeting viewers.
  4. Smartphone and tablets gain traction: In 2012, smartphones finally surpassed 50 percent market penetration, and Android phones surpassed 50 percent of the smartphone market. Tablet use also surged; as of December 2012, some 52.4 million Americans owned tablets.
  5. Ecommerce and mcommerce grow: Despite continued economic uncertainty, retail ecommerce grew in 2012, outpacing the growth of brick-and-mortar retail by fourfold. Overall, U.S. retail and travel-related ecommerce rose 13 percent from 2011 to 2012, reaching $289 billion. In addition, mcommerce is starting to emerge, with comScore estimating that mcommerce transactions (both on smartphones and tablets) accounted for approximately 11 percent of ecommerce sales.

Is your business taking advantage of trends in social media, mobile device use, online video viewing and online commerce? If not, 2013 is the year to make your move. You can learn more about all of these trends by downloading a free copy of the 2013 U.S. Digital Future in Focusreport.

Image by Flickr user Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com (Creative Commons)

100 Trends to Watch for 2013

January 17th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

As you prepare your small business for greater success in the coming year, be sure to take a look through trendspotting company JWT’s list of 100 Things to Watch for 2013. While you’ll want to peruse the whole list at leisure, here are a few that stood out to us as of interest to business owners:

  1. Allergen-free foods: JWT cites a 2011 study showing that as many as 1 in 12 American children may have a food allergy. That’s twice as high as previously believed. In 2013, JWT predicts that “allergen-free” will become as ubiquitous as gluten-free, with more food manufacturers, restaurants and retailers devoting themselves to allergy-free meals and snacks.
  2. Ambushed by Amazon: Is Amazon today’s Wal-Mart or Barnes & Noble? Like those mass merchants before it, the ecommerce giant is threatening to run all types of independent retailers out of town. With same-day delivery currently being tested in some cities, its Amazon Flow app that shows shoppers in your store how much the same product costs on Amazon, and everything from luxury jewelry to food for sale, Amazon is a major “disruptor” that retailers and etailers will have to take into account. Latest news? It’s reportedly considering opening brick-and-mortar stores
  3. Appcessories: Accessories are taking on high-tech functionality, turning into “appcessories.” Whether it’s smart eyeglasses, wristwatches or wristbands that integrate with tech toys, or even gloves and socks with RFID tags or embedded microphones, companies are creating dozens of ways for consumers to integrate technology into their clothing and accessories.
  4. Coaching brands: Companies now have the ability to gather unheard-of reams of data about their customers. In 2013, they’ll increasingly use that data to “coach” their customers on how to do things better, provide personalized recommendations for products and services, and otherwise provide customized assistance to help clients improve their lives.
  5. Hyper-personalized customer service: In a closely related trend, businesses in some industries are using information about customers to provide extremely personalized service. For example, restaurants can log details about customer preferences and then provide “the usual” cocktail or a gluten-free menu without the person even having to ask. As technology enables bigger companies to provide the kind of personal touch that used to belong to small companies, your firm will have to find new ways to keep pace.
  6. Dads in the aisles: With women working outside the home and the number of stay-at-home dads multiplying, more marketers that used to focus
on moms will need to include dad as well. Whether you sell cleaning supplies, household products and décor, children’s clothing or food, you will need to market to men and take into account how they like to shop, buy and spend.

Read the full report for 94 more thought-provoking trends.

Image by Flickr user Steve Bowbrick (Creative Commons)





10 Menu Trends to Watch in 2013

January 15th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

Do you own a quick-service restaurant? If so, you’ll want to know about the top 10 trends that QSR Magazine has identified for the coming year.

  1. Going local. While truly locally sourced ingredients may be tough for some quick-serve eateries to muster, you can substitute “fresh,” “made from scratch” or “healthy” for the word “local” and get the general idea.
  2. Healthy kids’ meals. No longer is this trend just driven by parents; kids are starting to embrace healthier menu items. The key is using things kids are familiar with: Asian dumplings, hummus, yogurt or sweet potato fries are all healthier options that don’t scare children away.
  3. Economic challenges. While the National Restaurant Association predicts slight growth, rising food costs and stagnating consumer incomes will create challenges for QSRs. You’ll need to be creative with your menu to avoid passing costs on to customers.
  4. Snacks as a meal. Continuing from 2012, this trend will keep growing as consumers demand to eat what they want, when they want it, while also looking for lower-priced items and smaller (healthier) portions.
  5. Vegetables. Moving beyond sweet potato fries and vegetables in sandwiches, steamed and roasted veggies are showing up on QSR menus. Avocado, artichoke hearts, beets, broccoli, cucumbers, edamame, jicama, mushrooms, red peppers, sprouts and zucchini are among the rising stars.
  6. Gluten-free. With nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults claiming they avoid gluten, adding gluten-free items to your menu can greatly increase your customer base.
  7. Trickle-up trends. QSR restaurants are no longer followers of high-end trends but are increasingly leading the way. Because QSR is one of the few growth areas in the restaurant industry, other eateries are looking to this niche for ideas. Fast-casual, one-concept eateries such as burger-only restaurants will continue to be hot in 2013, and there will also be more competition in the QSR niche.
  8. Ethnic food. Ethnic food is moving beyond the familiar staples. Quick-serve Asian food is expanding to include Thai and Vietnamese, while Mexican food lovers are discovering the cuisines of Brazil, Argentina and Peru.
  9. Beverage innovations. Think creative and healthy. Fresh fruit beverages, natural energy drinks, and local products such as house-made sodas and regional craft beer will be hot, as will vegetable-based drinks and smoothies.
  10. Health-care changes. More QSR chains are adding calorie counts and other nutritional information to the menu, whether legally required to do so or not. Customers seem to appreciate this information, so you might want to consider offering it.

How will you incorporate these trends in the coming year?

Image by Flickr user mhaller1979 (Creative Commons)

Hot Trend: Gluten-Free Foods and Beverages

November 16th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you’re a food or restaurant entrepreneur looking for a growth market, look no further than gluten-free foods and beverages. This relatively new category is projected to top $4.2 billion in sales by the end of this year, and since 2008, has grown by an astonishing 28 percent annually, according to the recently released Packaged Facts report Gluten-Free Foods and Beverages in the U.S.

As of August 2012, Packaged Facts reports, nearly one in five U.S. adults either buy or consume products labeled gluten-free, and the share of total shoppers who report they are buying more gluten-free products has doubled.

If you think gluten-free products have a limited audience of consumers who suffer from celiac disease, food allergies or other health conditions that require a gluten-free diet, think again. A growing number of consumers are purchasing these products not because they need them for medical reasons, but simply because they think they’re healthier. In fact, Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle reports, “The conviction that gluten-free products are generally healthier is the top motivation for purchase of these products.”

In addition, many consumers are buying or eating them to support friends or family members who have to follow a gluten-free diet. And more than one-third of consumers in the survey said that foods they buy for other reasons, such as being organic, GMO-free or vegetarian, also happen to be gluten-free.

Going forward, growing awareness of celiac disease, food allergies and related disorders is likely to lead to more diagnoses of conditions that respond to gluten-free diets, Packaged Facts predicts. The growing number of high-quality, better-tasting gluten-free foods and beverages is leading to growing awareness of these foods and further driving demand.

The 28 percent annual growth rate will moderate a bit in the next five years, Packaged Facts predicts, but nonetheless, the U.S. market for gluten-free foods and beverages is projected to surpass $6.6 billion by 2017.

If you’re considering getting involved in gluten-free, what are the most likely areas for success? For packaged food producers, the report says the best-selling gluten-free categories in grocery, drug and mass retailers are snacks/granola bars, frozen dinners/entrées/pizza, and crackers/salty snacks.

Own a restaurant? Consider adding some gluten-free items to your menu or offering gluten-free variations of popular dishes. Be sure you advertise your options prominently on your menu, signage and in social media—people who live gluten-free are always looking for new places they can eat out, and are eager to share the news when they find more options.

Image by Flickr user foodista blog (Creative Commons)


Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Unstuck (Creativity App)

November 15th, 2012 ::


What do you do when you’re feeling unsure or indecisive about your business? Do you call your mentor for advice? Call your mother? Ask a business peer? There’s another option from the creators of Unstuck, the creativity-generating app for iPad users. Unstuck takes you through a variety of questions and activities to narrow down what is making you feel the way you feel, then offers solutions to help you make the decision or get out of whatever you feel “stuck” in at the moment. The Unstuck app is free and can help with everything from business ideas to personal problems.

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Mural.ly (Web Content Sharing)

October 26th, 2012 ::


If you’re working virtually, you need a solution that helps you share and create with anyone, anywhere. Mural.ly has a simple drag and drop interface and provides users with a simple way to collect Web content, arrange it visually and share it with others. Users can share ideas visually and brainstorm with remote teams, and they can do the same with you. Mural.ly uses a pinboard concept based on the premise that entrepreneurial genius needs chaos and collection to succeed; the site provides a place to grow ideas together.

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: The Next Big Zing (Inventor Resource)

October 16th, 2012 ::

The Next Big Zing

The Next Big Zing is a resource for inventors and entrepreneurs who want their product to hit it big. The Next Big Zing works with the inventors to improve their product, concept, packaging and marketing messages to produce the best product possible. The site also highlights the hottest trends and most innovative products on the market through their Next Big Zing Awards. And with the site’s video and ecommerce programs, inventors can sell directly through the Next Big Zing’s site. Products are categorized by the top 12 retail categories, such as food, beauty, health and pets. The application fee is $65 per product.


Web.com Review: Small Business Resource: Create. Work. Inspire Business Edition Workshops: Interactive Business Workshops

August 30th, 2012 ::

Create. Work. Inspire: Business Edition Workshops

Create. Work. Inspire: Business Edition Workshops are a new collaboration between computer giant Dell and Manta, an online community of small business owners. The first workshop is set for September 14 in Miami, then the series heads to Los Angeles in November. The interactive sessions will feature expert speakers on business innovation and other challenges in business growth. You’ll also have opportunities to network with other small business owners, including a cocktail hour networking session featuring treats from local businesses.

Another highlight of this Dell/Manta collaboration is the selection of the “Small Business of the Week.” One lucky entrepreneur will win a Manta premium business listing for one year and be featured on the Manta.com website, giving them exposure to millions of other small businesses in the Manta community. Registration information will be announced here.

How to Do a Patent Search for Your Invention

August 23rd, 2012 ::

By Karen Axelton

Does your small business have a great product idea that could make you millions? If so, the first step in protecting your idea is to do a patent search and see whether someone else has already patented your idea or something similar. Here’s what you need to now to get started.

Begin by figuring out whether your idea is patentable. What is required for this? Visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website for guidelines. Most likely, you will be considering a “utility” patent, which covers a “new, nonobvious and useful” process, machine or product. You can also get a “design” patent for the design or ornamentation of a product.

Do you have a patentable invention? Then you’re ready to begin a patent search. It’s wise to do a preliminary patent search before you start the patent process. That way, if you find out someone already has a patent on your idea, you can avoid the investment of time and money in applying for a patent.

The USPTO website lets you do a preliminary search that covers both patent applications and issued patents. Be sure you also check whether the invention has been patented in a foreign country. You’ll find plenty of resources and links to guide you in the process of searching.

If you don’t find anything at the USPTO site, you’re not done yet. You also need to contact the Patent and Trademark Resource Center. You can find the nearest such center on the USPTO site. Experts at these centers can guide you to patent search resources and even train you in how to do a thorough patent search.

If developing a prototype or designing your invention will be costly, you’ll also want to contact a patent attorney with experience in this area before you invest a lot of money into the effort. You can find registered patent attorneys using a search tool on the USPTO website.

This may seem like a lot of legwork, especially considering that once you file an application for a patent, the USPTO will do its own search. However, by doing a preliminary search, you can save yourself time, effort and hassle in the long run.

Image by Flickr user Clearly Ambiguous (Creative Commons)