As technology continues to reshape the way we do business, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that powerful tools – such as artificial intelligence and the IoT – are only an asset to bigger companies.
But this isn’t true. In fact, the ubiquity of connected devices is driving more opportunities for small business owners to shine than ever before.
Things move fast, and for small businesses, the only choice is to embrace digital change and learn how to reap the benefits of various new technologies. To get started, here are six small business technology solutions that companies of all sizes can use to their advantage.
How Small Business Technology Solutions Can Excellerate Growth
The Cloud refers to a network of software and services that exist and function on the Internet, rather than on your local computer. The popularity of cloud computing continues to rise among small businesses because it allows them to outsource their infrastructure. Rather than building complex IT infrastructures around their companies, small businesses can utilize Cloud technologies to aid in email hosting, online backup and recovery, web hosting and productivity solutions.
Additionally, the Cloud would lower any costs by increasing the value of physical hardware. Businesses would be able to do more with less physical equipment and they would see less need for rack space, IT requirements, etc., which would save money that can be used elsewhere. By using the Cloud, small businesses would also see better collaboration and more flexibility. Being able to utilize the Cloud from virtually anywhere makes it easy for employees and others in the workplace to collaborate together wherever they are in the world.
Small business owners simply must tap into the power of social media marketing to attract new consumers. About 2.5 billion people worldwide currently actively use social media and this number is expected to increase to about 3 billion by 2020. Social media allows companies to promote products and services, provide promotional offers and personalized services and engage their customers outside of the traditional marketplace. Digital and social media marketing represents a paradigm shift in the way small and large companies advertise their products and services.
With virtually every single person and every company owning a social media page, it only makes sense to increase your web presence through these channels. Aside from promoting your products and services, social media offers businesses a way to listen to their customers and better market themselves to their consumers. Understanding your target audience is key to creating a loyal customer base and a successful brand.
Technology in the realm of “artificial intelligence” is improving rapidly. What we have available to us today allows businesses to build predictive models using their current data sets – which could tell a company how to adjust and grow its business with greater acumen. Intelligent voice assistant services like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home are now company aids as well, helping to place calls and access information on the Internet hands-free, as well as carry out specific business requests. AI tools of this nature make it easier to streamline day-to-day operations, thereby encouraging growth in productivity.
One specific example in which businesses are utilizing the power of AI tools comes in the form of Amazon Alexa’s “Starbucks Reorder.” Although still in its beta stages, Starbucks Reorder works with Alexa to provide consumers a voice-controlled way to place their Starbucks orders or check their rewards balance. As bigger companies find new ways to cater to their consumers, smaller businesses can expect these strategies to become more widely used and take them into consideration for their own processes.
Mobile and Online Payments
The number of mobile all-in-one devices is at an all-time high, and it’s almost impossible to imagine that this growth will stop in the near future. Consumers regularly access company websites through their mobile devices, meaning that using a mobile site that’s only semi-functional could lead to loss of business. The popularity of in-store payment apps, which allow users to pay for purchases through their device, is also on the rise – Microsoft Wallet, Android Pay and Apple Pay are among the most popular apps of this kind.
By allowing your customers the option of mobile and online payments, you offer a convenience that many modern consumers would prefer over physical in-store payments. They are also easy for anyone that has a mobile smartphone and allow your business to get paid faster, decreasing the time spent on any billing you would otherwise need to physically send.
Consumers today expect companies to deliver fast, reliable customer service. Since most shoppers are “always on”, brands must add new technologies to engage their customers anywhere at any given time. A chatbot is an artificial intelligence computer program that interacts with customers. By using chatbots, small business owners can help their clients solve quick-response needs. The technology also leaves more time for live customer service representatives to address more complex issues.
Aside from customer service, using chatbots gathers valuable customer information. Chatbots are able to utilize conversational commerce (buying an item through a conversation with a chatbot) and conversational advertising (chatbots advertising through a conversation with a customer). Through these conversations, chatbots are able to collect and store customer information that will help with advertising and purchasing in the future.
The “Internet of Things” (IoT)
The IoT is the Internet of Things – the expansive network of small, physical devices across the globe that connect to the Internet. Because the IoT encompasses virtually any connected device, businesses are able to communicate and connect to their consumers in a variety of new ways. They are able to collect data on a more detailed and qualitative level than previously done and can create more effective advertising, targeted towards more specific demographics.
By using the IoT, small businesses will even be able to expand to new markets and reduce their operating costs. As small businesses collect customer information through the IoT, they will be able to better cater to their target audience and provide better customer service, fulfill customer needs and make business operations easier.
Keeping Up with Technology
Technological change is constant, and if you cannot move forward and harness these tools to your best ability, you will inevitably be left behind in their wake.
If you open the door to different small business technology solutions and digital opportunities, you’ll quickly see how simple it is to begin building new relationships and taking on new projects that improve your bottom line.