Many small business owners agree that technology helps their business grow substantially. Technology enables you to automate your business processes, making operations better, smarter, and more resource-efficient. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, online technologies have proven to be increasingly valuable for small businesses and startups alike.
However, there is a reluctance to adopt new technologies among many business owners for a variety of reasons. These businesses are seldom engaged in hi-tech and advanced technology integration due to poor planning, a lack of expertise, budget constraints, or even a simple aversion to change.
Small businesses can thrive with new technology adoption, whether it is project management, automated order processing, customer relationship management, or deploying marketing tactics.
Keeping an eye on new and innovative technologies helps when looking for new opportunities to make money. Here are some of the latest tech trends for small businesses that you can embrace to improve productivity, generate value, and connect with your target market.
1. Premium E-mail Workspace for Remote Working
Remote working and flexible working hours have been around for some time. But the need for virtual work settings has skyrocketed since the outbreak of the coronavirus. A business-ready e-mail option is, therefore, vital, especially if you are just starting your small business. Fortunately, many free services are available to small business owners like Gmail, Outlook, and Zoho. They come with a host of companion applications and features, some of which are also free.
You can easily acquire multiple e-mail addresses at a low cost and add them to your business domain. These services readily integrate with mobile devices, making remote work easy and convenient.
2. Unified Technology Platforms
Similar to e-mail suites, small businesses have been opening up to new software solutions that integrate many departmental functions onto one platform. That means the core business functions like accounting, administration, and sales are connected to a single software platform, which everyone can access regardless of their location. These platforms are offered on SaaS models as well.
Unified software platforms make it easy for small business owners to organize their staff activity and collaborate with a dispersed team. While technologies like Oracle and SAP are geared towards big corporations, there are many attractive packages for small businesses like ODOO and Netsuite that can be easily integrated with your own servers.
Several companies, including many small start-ups, have started to embrace the idea of unlimited paid time off (PTO), where there isn’t a limit to the number of sick days you have. Instead, the employer and employee work together to decide when the employee can take a day off.
However, with an unlimited PTO policy, you must make sure that your employees are not using it as a way to slack off from work. Ultimately, the key to a successful unlimited PTO policy is trust and a change in mindset about paid absences. Your end goal should be to reduce employee absenteeism rather than escalate it.
Online security is often ignored by small businesses due to the misperception of being too small to be targeted by cyber threats. The reality is that unprotected small businesses are still vulnerable to most cyber-attacks and often get targeted because of the cash flows that they are likely to generate.
Recent years have also seen increased activity in cybercrime operations, with some malicious actors constantly looking to damage reputation, steal sensitive information, and hack bank accounts. In addition to sensitive financial information, businesses have to keep customer information safe. Failing to do so can end up in lawsuits and loss of business. Therefore, it has become critical for any business, whether a startup or a multinational corporation, to invest in updated software technologies to keep themselves and their clientele protected from cyber threats.
Small businesses can opt for off-the-shelf solutions or hire a cyber-security consultant to design more robust hardware-based solutions.
4. Data Management and Analytics
Since most businesses have been going online, we are witnessing a growing need for online databases and reports. Business owners are becoming increasingly interested in business analytics and metrics such as website and social media traffic and data on online consumer behavior to assess the performance of their online marketing channels.
There is a need for skilled experts who can understand the data requirements of a small business and create interesting visual analytics. Data improves decision-making processes by replacing gut feelings with sophisticated models based on informed choices. As the saying goes, data is king, and there are many ways to capture and look at data without the need to invest in a research agency.
5. Enhanced Online Shopping Experiences
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that online shopping is now bigger than ever. Consumers are willing to shop online for the simple convenience of online order processing, home deliveries, and an overall enhanced shopping experience. More small businesses are turning to online payment methods, which involve electronic wallets, mobile phone payments, QR codes, and cryptocurrencies (where possible).
Automation can save time and money by reducing the need for manual labor. This is especially true for businesses involved in industries or locations where there is a shortage of qualified and skilled workers. Automation is helpful for periodic reporting or monitoring services in inventory management. Together with online customer support, automation improves customer relations management so that orders and complaints can be recorded during off-hours as well.
Small businesses can take advantage of cloud-based and AI (see below) systems to automate their processes remotely.
7. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has many applications that are useful to small businesses. These applications include demand forecasting, recommender systems for products, process automation, digital asset creation, risk assessment, and so on. AI technology is already seeing massive deployment in many commercial projects and e-commerce platforms. In the next few years, it might even be impossible to find a premium SaaS solution that operates without AI.
We are also seeing new hardware designed around AI processing. That means small businesses can create in-house solutions for creating personalized experiences for their customers with voice recognition and face recognition technologies.
Small businesses can significantly benefit from AI to automate just about anything, saving precious time and money.
8. Digital Advertising
Startups and small enterprises now increasingly turn towards digital technologies to foster their online presence, increase their market reach, and enhance brand awareness. Social media ad spending on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Youtube has also experienced a surge in the face of strong online competition.
Each platform has prioritized advertisers when developing new features. This means that there are many segmentation options for small businesses that target a very specific audience in the niche markets in which these firms operate.
9. Internet of Things (IoT) Adoption
The Internet of Things, like many of the technologies that we’ve already covered, relies on internet connectivity. IoT uses a range of interconnected sensor devices that can simultaneously capture different data points. IoT is a powerful tool that allows businesses to deeply analyze events in real-time while having complete hardware-level control.
For a small business, IoT opens the doors to customized hardware-level automation and monitoring solutions. There are many affordable IoT starter kits, including SigPro, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino, perfect for anyone who wants to start a small project. With online connectivity and the spread of 4G and 5G networks, IoT devices are ideal for scaling things up when needed.
10. Specialized Freelancing
The role of a freelancer has evolved considerably in the past few years. Gone are the days when businesses only engaged a copyrighter or graphic designer for freelancing. Many startups are outsourcing technical jobs to fulfill most of their business need and requirements, which help in substantial cost savings and better results.
Freelancers for ERP integration, full-stack development, data analysis, and prototyping algorithms are in much demand today. The remote working model is especially conducive to hiring freelancers, affording access to a larger talent pool, specialized knowledge, and the global market.
Technology and innovation give small businesses the ability to improve day-to-day operations, make informed decisions, lower operational costs, and connect more deeply with people. We hope this blog will help small business owners who want to take a more proactive look at the latest tech trends gain an edge over their competition.
Most of these topics are discussed in my two books:
Being A Visionary: Going After Your Vision
Being A Visionary: Going After Your Vision Workbook
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