It has been over a century since Charles H. Duell, the Commissioner of the US patent office in 1899 declared that “everything that can be invented has been invented.” The numerous innovations of that time were so impressive that many felt there could be no more. Ironically, today the advances in technology are equally mind-blowing to us, and yet, there is no end in sight.
Another saying went “if you build a better mousetrap, people will buy it”, and yet modern technology advances according to the demands of the public, not vice-versa. Modern inventors do not have to wait for the voice of the users to know if their ideas will make money. For this reason, technology trends represent marketing demand more than ever before. This makes it important to follow the hottest trends, to keep offerings current, to keep up with market demands, and to discover the most promising service and sales opportunities for the future. Following are some of the most important hosting trends of 2014.
Hosting Has Become a Commodity Offering
In past decades, customers chose their providers for a variety of reasons. Initially, there were only several large companies from which to choose. Later, a proliferation of companies arose as entrepreneurs discovered that they could simply gather a few servers and open their doors for business. Competition helped lower prices, but few of the hosts of that time competed on customer service. Businesses were challenged to find companies that could guarantee the basic hosting spec required of all online service: percent down-time.
This left a market gap that was eventually filled by high-quality providers that could give both businesses and private parties the ability to get high quality service and good customer support at a reasonable price. As hosting providers offered more services such as web page report, server storage, and design tools, even more high quality providers entered the market. Today, there are so many that potential clients have hundreds of choices of providers.
Hosting Companies Measured Against Performance Metrics
In response to the huge number of providers and the need for businesses and individuals to make an informed choice, review sites began to emerge. These sites use targeted ads as a business model, rating groups of providers and providing links to the visitor’s eventual choice. Some sites focused on a few key parameters for the hosts they reviewed, while others offered dozens. In 2014, the largest trend was for visitors for all review sites to focus on performance parameters over such other features as customer service, ease of use, and available tools. In 2015, experts expect that this trend will induce hosting providers to focus on their performance metrics in order to gain the best reputation on the review sites, and in turn, garner the greatest market share of new or converted clients.
URLs Offer Additional Branding Strategies
Almost everyone today knows that website addresses begin with “www” and that most end with “.com”. Those sequences of characters are even programed onto dedicated keys of some modern devices. Because www is common to all addresses, it is not brand-able. Similarly, the .com extension pushed out “the competition” – including .net, .biz, and others – in the same way an early business adopter with high barriers to entry stymies competition. Once a company snared the doman.com address, the domain.net version generally got less attention, and by lowered familiarity, had the cast of a second-class citizen. At that point, the extension was generally only effective for specialty entities, such as .org of non-profits and .edu for educational facilities.
However, these extensions, known as TLDs or top-level domains, have gained a resurgence. It may have begun with the use of geo-specific TLDs to indicate the country of origin, such as co.uk for Great Britain or .es for Spain. Recently, generic TLDs (aka gTLDs) have become available. Geo-specific gTLDs include such extensions as .Vegas and .NYC. This allows service to define themselves as local to their target markets. The cost of such extensions is much less than the original .com address, making the use of gTLDs an effective way of differentiating businesses from their competition.
Generic TLDs have also come to include other creative extensions. gTLDs such as “.florist” or “.shoes” grabs attention, sticks in customers’ minds, and shows exactly what the business offers. As business compete in commodity markets, the ability to use gTLDs to provide differentiation and market advantage becomes crucial. Hosts can work with clients to provide meaningful gTLDs.
Websites Become Responsive to Match the New Mobile Environment
When PCs were king, websites competed on content. Today, if a website is not mobile-friendly, it may be bypassed for a competing site with a responsive web design. This effect is easy to see. As modern tablets are often given away in provider promotions, almost anyone with a cell phone can now afford a tablet. A useful experiment is to visit a non-marketing site, such as one that publishes technical papers, and try to read. Non-responsive websites appear on mobile devices by either requiring the user to scroll horizontally, moving the scroll bar back and forth for each line, or to shrink the font to fit the web document, until the text is essentially non-readable. Responsive sites adjust their content to fit the target device screen, making the websites easy and attractive regardless of screen size.
In 2014, metrics companies showed that responsive storefront sites had a 60% higher conversion rate than those that were not responsive. This advantage of mobile-centric websites is expected to increase in 2015. Hosting providers can offer the tools to aid businesses in creating responsive websites.
Security Concerns Continue to Increase
Unfortunately, keeping pace with the technology explosion has been the ability to create malicious software. The power of e-commerce systems lies in its ability to engender trust in online shoppers. Even in 2014, many would-be online shoppers have been discouraged by the regular breaches of large companies, and the inability of Internet security systems to put an end to identity theft once and for all. For this reason, in the coming year 2015, hosting providers can help protect their business clients by offering security tools such as SSL certificates and malware removal. They can also ensure that sensitive customer data is backed up, critical software is updated on schedule, and firewalls retain the latest security measures.
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