7 Biggest Small-Business Trends in 2013

Tickers in this article: AAPL GOOG IBM INTU NEWT

This year, there will be a "steady return to traditional, old-fashioned client service, empowered with new digital tools, such as mobile scheduling and coupons, online sentiment tracking and mobile credit-card processing," he says.

The tools will expedite non-core business functions and allow service professionals to focus 100% on delivering great client service, he adds.

Dan Wernikoff, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit's (INTU) Financial Management Solutions division, says more small businesses will use customer feedback to drive the bottom line.

"With the presence of more social media channels than ever, in 2013, small businesses will start using customer feedback gathered through Facebook, Twitter and others, to influence business decisions. By harnessing the power of their networks, small businesses will be able to make small- to large-scale changes to give their customers what they really want," Wernikoff says.

6. Major clouds ahead

"The businesses that were up and running shortly after tornadoes and hurricanes were those that did most of their business online," while those that had their information stored on computers in their offices lost nearly everything," says Barry Sloane, CEO of Newtek (NEWT) . "Look for businesses and families to put most of their critical information online where it's safe and easily accessible."

According to the IBM 2012 Tech Trends Report, which surveyed 1,200 professionals who make technology decisions for their organization, nearly two-thirds of respondents plan to increase their company investments in cloud-based technology.

"We expect cloud to become even more ubiquitous among small businesses over the next year," says Ed Abrams, vice president of marketing and strategy for small businesses at IBM (IBM) .

More and more, small businesses are seeing the cloud as a way to grow business and access advanced technologies that once seemed affordable only for larger competitors, Abrams says.

The tools can be delivered with so-called usage pricing models, which means small businesses don't have to pay for the cost of the software upfront and can essentially rent these advanced tech tools on a monthly or annual basis, Abrams says.

Small businesses will be armed with "insights and capabilities once only available to corporate giants, creating new ways to operate more efficiently, find new customers and improve bottom-line results," he says.

Additionally, by implementing a cost-effective, flexible, scalable platform, businesses can shift budget and resources to more strategic business investments.

"All of this is critical over the next 12 months as small businesses look to drive their own business security and growth, and as they look to differentiate themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace," he says.

7. Tablets will become must-have devices for small businesses.

Mobile technology in general, but specifically tablets, like the Apple (AAPL) iPad mini and Google's (GOOG) Nexus 7, will be a big priority for small businesses in 2013.