Who won’t be glad to see the back of 2009? Not many, I guess. It’s been a memorable year, albeit not necessarily for the right reasons. There’s always a silver lining, however, and I do believe it’s been a fabulous learning curve from which 2010 will undoubtedly benefit.

So indulge me while I share a few predictions for business trends in 2010 (this comes with the proverbial disclaimer; the views expressed here are not necessarily those of the management so don’t make any decisions based upon them, and certainly don’t blame them if it all goes horribly wrong).

The first trend is what is being called “nowism” by those in the know. It’s defined as the desire by instant gratification-seeking consumers to embrace anything real time with more passion than ever before – and it’s being fuelled by the social media explosion.

In short, it means that your customer will want everything. Immediately, if not before. And woe betide your business if he doesn’t get it; his review of your poor service will be Tweeted, blogged about, Facebook-ed and a video of his rage against your machine will be posted on YouTube.

Look what happened to Domino’s Pizza when a video of two employees fouling food was posted to YouTube; the company didn’t move quickly enough to reverse the damage and more than a million people watched within 48 hours. It took Domino’s two days to respond, but when they did they launched a corporate Twitter account and posted a public apology on YouTube. According to BusinessWeek, Domino’s was the latest company to learn the hard way just how quickly a brand can be damaged in a Web 2.0 world.

With even more people sharing real time reviews of everything they do, everything they buy, watch, attend, wear, join, listen to and so on, and with even more search engines tracking and grouping these live reports by either theme, topic or brand, the next 12 months will be a dream come true for customers learning from a real time stream of experiences from fellow consumers.

This increased customer expectation brings obvious opportunities; if you engage with your customer, outperform expectations, deliver what you’ve promised when you promised it, then you will find the real time reviews will drive sales.

Granted, everyone makes mistakes, but if you manage to right a wrong straight away and keep on top of negative publicity in the social media ether then you have a second chance to win over your customer. Alternatively, you can involve your customers in your development processes and growth plans from day one and eradicate the possibility of unforeseen bad reviews when you launch.

This trend leads straight into the next one and that is collaboration; 2010 will see even more entrepreneurs sharing information and experiences. This collective learning from the successes and failures of others – particularly lessons from the recession – will be fundamental to the growth and success of businesses over the next 12 months. It’s simply the kids’ lesson of share and share alike, communication with your peers could be the difference between your own success or failure.

Dynamic pricing, the next trend on my list, benefits from this widely-shared knowledge – if you know the market, you know what your customers want and when they want to buy it, and you know what your competitors are up to, you can price accordingly. I’m not suggesting you compete on price (we all know where that leads and it’s not a good place) but change your prices “dynamically”.

Using information gathered from customers – from where they live to what they buy to how much they have spent on previous purchases – dynamic pricing allows smart online companies to adjust the prices of identical goods to correspond to a customer’s willingness to pay. The normal response to sales figures will no longer be enough; instant response – daily, even hourly and individually – is where you will find the competitive advantage.

I reckon this pulling-together and increased communication will also mean we see much more “co-opetition”. Market share will no longer be divisive but collaborative; instead of competitors fighting to carve up their share of the pie, rival companies will begin to work together to bake a bigger pie.

On a slightly more serious note – compliance, or lack of it, will be big in 2010. The new media-savvy Information Commissioner has promised a crackdown on non-compliance. When Chris Graham took office he warned he would name and shame those companies that fail to comply with the law and said:” There’s a well-funded regulator that will hit you hard if you get it wrong … if you don’t take this stuff seriously it’s going to bite you in the bum.”

And for those businesses looking for credit to fund recovery or indeed growth, expect a change in the information the lenders will require you to divulge.Three year business plans and audited accounts from 18 months ago will no longer be acceptable; in an economic environment where things change monthly, weekly and increasingly more often, daily, banks and credit agencies will want to see up-to-date monthly management accounts before parting with their dosh. And if you remember a previous column of mine, you’ll know that the majority of SMEs don’t actually produce monthly financial information, so take heed.

I was never very good at sums at school (and I haven’t improved with age) but I can spot a common denominator when I see one. It’s communication, great communication – online, offline, dialogues and debates, with peers, competitors, customers and lenders – that will be at the heart of every successful business.

So, nowism, real-time reviews, collaboration, dynamic pricing, co-opetition, compliance and a real need for accurate up-to-date financial data are my key trends for 2010 but to be able to capitalise and commercialise on these, make a profit and delight your customers it will take a certain kind of business person; read next week’s blog to learn the personal characteristics essential for the leaders that want to make it in the next 12 months.

This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday, Nov27’09 – http://www.scotlandonsunday.com