Online retailers have always competed by offering convenience and low prices, but they’ve lately began to master the art of getting people to buy things they don’t yet know they want.

Inc.com reports that these new start-ups—like Gilt Group, LivingSocial, and Groupon—send locally targeted e-mails (hello, Shreveport, Louisiana!), give huge discounts (50 percent off is the norm), and make customers pull the trigger quickly, sometimes within a matter of minutes.

It’s about making shopping feel too good to be true. And if Groupon’s latest sale offer is any indication, it’s a highly lucrative—if a bit saturated—field.

Radical transparency is so last decade. Privacy and security are the new concerns swimming in the zeitgeist. Blame it on brouhahas over airport body scanners, WikiLeaks, and customer tracking by Web companies.

Look for more upstarts like LifeLock, which offers identity theft protection, and Reputation Defender, which offers a service to remove one’s personal information from websites, to be capitalizing on newfound fears about privacy. And Big Brother, beware.

Predictions are always meant to be taken with a healthy heaping of salt, but we are pretty sure that 2011 will be a year of certain uncertainty, as a volatile economy and an acrimonious political climate make it difficult to plan for the future.

Will more European economies need bailing out? Will President Obama’s health care reform be modified or repealed? Is another stimulus plan in the works?

Entrepreneurs will have to plan for the best, the worst, and everything in between. Well, you’ve always been doing that, right?

Photo by pipp.

Originally posted by Rich Whittle on January 3, 2011 in Featured.

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