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9 Small Business Trends for 2012

1. Daily deals get refined
We've all heard daily-deal horror stories and that daily deal sites such as Groupon (GRPN - Get Report) may not be truly beneficial for small businesses.

But Jerry Nettuno, founder and CEO of Schedulicity, a Web-based tool for small businesses to keep track of their appointments, predicts that as merchants learn from their mistakes, "random go-for-broke deals will evolve into well-thought-out offers."

"This gives merchants the opportunity to strengthen loyalty by offering targeted, hyperlocal deals and offers of perishable appointment-based inventory," he adds. "The more geographically concentrated the consumer base, the better chance of turning deal-seekers into repeat customers."

He also sees digital "coupon books" gaining traction within the next two years to give small businesses an "engaged, active audience" -- another way for businesses to expand on existing consumer relationships with hyperlocal offers.

"We'll see a growth in local offer networks, consumer-personalized dashboards and deals with specific targets in mind versus going out to the masses," Nettuno says.

On the other hand, Scott Hirsch, founder of appsbar, says businesses will do away with digital coupon services altogether, preferring to build it themselves.

"As more people join the apps revolution, smart businesses are learning that there are a host of free tools available to get them involved and get noticed on smartphones," Hirsch says.

Including those of his company. Appsbar is an online resource -- the first, Hirsch claims -- that lets any business, regardless of tech experience, build and publish a professional-level app for free.

"Now businesses can build their own apps, engage with customers on their own terms -- and deliver digital coupons without the headache and revenue sharing presented by third-parties," he says.

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