Learn how these tech trends can improve your small business and lead to greater efficiency, employee productivity and customer satisfaction.
Small companies are rarely first out of the gate when it comes to new technology. Shifts in the corporate world tend to be spearheaded by large, established players. Consider Amazon pioneering drone deliveries, for example. Or Carlos Slim, Mexico’s biggest billionaire, pushing for four-day weekends.
This is understandable. Small business owners don’t have the time or resources to experiment with emerging tech. But failure to implement new tools and systems after they’ve been proven effective is a mistake, one that will quickly put you at a disadvantage in relation to your competitors.
In this post, we’re going to look at seven key trends that are impacting small and medium-sized businesses. Understanding them will help you to position your company for the best possible chance of success in the coming years.
1. Feature-Rich Customer Relationship Management Apps
Customer relation management apps are nothing new. Businesses have used them for decades to keep track of sales, manage customer details, interpret data, and more.
Over the last few years, however, a growing number of solutions which cater specifically to the needs of small businesses have entered the already-crowded CRM market. These tools are inexpensive, easy to use, and very heavy on features. What’s more, they integrate with virtually every part of a company’s existing tech stack, adding a layer of automation that can save hours of employee time every day.
Take the time to compare CRM software for small businesses and pick a solution that meets your unique requirements.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Most people understandably feel intimidated by terms like “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning”. Yet while the concepts at the core of these new technologies are complex, that doesn’t mean small businesses can’t use them to their advantage.
Artificial intelligence enables business owners to implement autonomous systems that can improve a variety of customer-facing and internal operations. Benefits include improved customer journeys, streamlined employee management processes, automated data syncing across software, and more.
Numerous options are available in the form of AI-as-a-service apps, which may be offered as standalone solutions or as part of a broader feature-kit.
Chatbots make up one aspect of the broader uptake of artificial intelligence on the part of businesses. Chatbots integrate with messenger apps like Facebook and Whatsapp (or natively installed live-chat boxes) and mimic human interactions.
They have a range of applications and enable businesses to provide support, process purchases, and notify customers of important, time-sensitive updates. Because chatbots are available 24/7, they’re also very convenient.
With a growing number of people opting to make purchases through messaging apps, it’s imperative for small business owners to leverage chatbots. What’s more, user-friendly chatbot platforms mean that a lack of coding knowledge needn’t be prohibitive.
4. Deep Analytics Tools
Small business owners and managers often struggle to deal with large quantities of data, especially in the manufacturing sector, where factory floor IoT sensors and supply chain data signals can quickly turn into overwhelming firehoses of information. Hiring a dedicated data scientist is usually not possible, and outsourced packages are costly.
So how can small businesses leverage data when making important decisions?
Analytics apps do the heavy lifting when it comes to drawing meaningful, actionable conclusions from large swathes of data. And we’re not just talking about straightforward reporting features that tell you about your overall conversion rate and website traffic.
These services process vast amounts of data, encompassing every aspect of your customer journey, employee activities and business ecosystem as a whole, delivering practical insights aimed at achieving concrete results. Whether you want to optimize your workshop floor’s efficiency, recognize pricing trends before it’s too late or even just make sense of all your manufacturing data, today’s most valuable analytics software products make it easy for non-technical users to win with data-driven management approaches.
Employees that work for small companies usually spend hours every week on straightforward and low-level but absolutely necessary tasks. These might include things like data entry, appointment scheduling, customer support, and so on.
Recent tech innovations, however, have made it possible for small businesses to take advantage of automation tools, even without in-house expertise.
These tools, which are easy to use, will enable you to build a fully-integrated tech stack that can handle a range of everyday tasks, without any direct input from you or your employees. One notable example is Zapier, a company which has grown exponentially over the last few years. It’s a simple solution that lets users sync their apps and automate tasks, even when native software integrations aren’t offered.
6. Remote Working
The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for what was already a growing trend in regards to remote work. Companies that let employees work from home have seen a range of benefits, including lower office costs, greater productivity, and increased wellbeing.
If it’s feasible, you should consider letting your workforce operate remotely, even if only for a few days a week. What’s more, small businesses should build a feature-rich, integrated software infrastructure that enables employees to collaborate irrespective of location.
As flexible working opportunities become more commonplace, companies also need to think about how they will position themselves in the job market to attract the best talent.
7. Influencer Marketing
Consumer habits are shifting away from more traditional forms of media like television towards online content. What’s more, paid ads are offering an ever-diminishing return on investment and use of ad blockers is at an all-time high.
Conversely, newer methods of promotion, such as influencer marketing, are proving increasingly effective, both in terms of reach and cost. Small businesses should formulate strategies to take advantage of these new opportunities sooner rather than later.
While change can be difficult and confusing, it also creates opportunities. This is particularly the case when it comes to technology. Small businesses that effectively leverage new tech can achieve a variety of positive outcomes. These include more efficient, streamlined processes, higher-quality customer journeys, and happier employees.
What’s more, user-friendly and cost-effective apps provide small businesses with a means of implementing innovations without the need for specialists. So now there’s really no excuse for lagging behind.