Technologies from the 1990’s are nearing extinction. Just think, how often do you see people using pagers, flip phones and dial-up modems?
Regardless, many businesses still handle transactions with point-of-sale systems that look no different than they did over a decade ago. Payments are one of the last core business technologies that’s still begging for the mainstream adoption of a more mobile and user friendly alternative, and e-commerce has swooped in to alleviate the cashier’s pain.
Early returns from the 2012 holiday season indicate that e-commerce’s demand and potential is going exponentially. Cyber Monday pulled in a hefty $1.46 billion  last year – more than any other year in history.
A reality where our nation does the vast majority of its shopping on screens is not far off, and we’re seeing systematic industry shifts that prove e-commerce will soon be ubiquitous. Almost all major corporations are already on board, but 2013 is teed up to be the year small businesses untether themselves from dated POS systems and bring their businesses to where their customers are most – online.
And here’s why:
Mobile Payments Open a New Realm for E-commerce
2012 yielded an explosion in the mobile payments services. This busy space is pioneered by Square , but apps like Google Wallet  and ISIS  are also popularizing the idea of ditching cash and plastic in droves of paying by screen. Many have speculated that the mobile payments space is fragmented  and cluttered  (and we can’t say we disagree), but there’s no denying that this new avenue for displaced purchasing has brought e-commerce further into the mainstream.
As major brands like Starbucks  and Walgreens  continue to push their remote payments solutions, the sheer prevalence of online purchasing will eclipse small businesses relying solely on the cash register. Customers are more comfortable than ever paying remotely, increasing the demand for e-commerce options across all businesses selling goods and services.
Sophisticated – Yet Simple – Web Tools
Developing a money-maker site is now easier and cheaper than ever. A host of online marketing technologies now offer freemium versions, and thanks to advancements in tag management, adding a ‘Pay Now’ button to your website is as easy as adding an app to your smartphone.
With simple website applications available at little to no cost, small businesses are running low on excuses for dated, stagnant sites that don’t serve their businesses. A few tools that make implementing e-commerce options fast and easy include:
- Shopify : With monthly fees starting at $30, Shopify provides the features needed to build your own complete online store, including beautiful design templates, hosting and marketing and SEO.
- Volusion : $15 a month gets you Volusion’s basic set of services, including e-commerce software for those starting an online business or already actively selling online, mobile compatibility and built in social media tools.
A Leveled Playing Field
We are now entering our third decade of the Web, and it continues to evolve at a neck-breaking pace, generally set by enterprises like Amazon. These companies continue to set the standard for the consumer online experience by enlisting strategies that not only drive traffic, but conversions.
This year will be the year that the small business takes advantage of these strategies in order to stay competitive. Website personalization, which includes tailoring the website based on things like age, location and interests; loyalty programs and unique offers will be easier and cheaper to implement than it ever has before. All of these strategies are important to a strong Web presence, and in unison, help you build a brand as professional and compelling as the giants in your space.
A few great options for getting started include LevelUp  and Belly , great loyalty program apps, and personalization / optimization solutions Optimizely  and Visual Website Optimizer .
While taking your business online was once a complicated process, we’ve reached a tipping point in website technology where it’s easier than ever for small businesses to have a robust, personalized online presence. These industry developments and the democratization of e-commerce tools have poised 2013 to be the year the emerging businesses meet their customers on the screen with a digital presence as dynamic as their storefront.
Gold  Photo via Shutterstock