Operating a small business means always doing more with less. But by embracing some of latest innovations in technology, you can increase efficiency, boost productivity, and even grow collaboration within your company.
Just about every small business can benefit from investing in new technology to streamline its processes. But there’s not one perfect solution – it’s about finding the right tools to do your tasks the right way. By introducing just a few of these technologies into your day-to-day operations, you’ll see that there’s no shame in being “small.” In fact, by operating a smaller business, your operation has a few competitive advantages over larger companies that cannot move quickly or respond in time to new trends. Being smaller means being more versatile, with the ability to make fast decisions.
Consider the following solutions as you continue to grow your company’s tech acumen and digital expertise:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a constantly growing network of people, physical products and animals that are connected through the Internet via unique identifiers. This new area of technology is helping to merge our digital lives and our “analog” experiences. With everything online, business owners have a greater ability to automate marketing, collect data, determine buying patterns and intentions of customers.
The cloud is a vital productivity tool for all small businesses. Using external servers to process, manage and store data, cloud storage lets your company keep files in a safe and remotely accessible location. If you have employees working remotely or digital teams checking in virtually, the cloud keeps their work running smoothly alongside in-office workflows.
Cloud storage also frees up capital expenditures that would be used for hardware and also provides automatic software updates as well as disaster recovery. This increases the flexibility that your company has with its data. It encourages collaboration between remote and in-office teams and eliminates the security threat of a lost or stolen laptop.
Social Media Sites
Social media can go a long way towards growing engagement between a business and its customers. Massive exchanges of personal data are sent each day — in real time — containing the thoughts and opinions of people who are purchasing your products and using your services. Don’t let your company miss out on these valuable insights and opportunities.
Today it’s no longer a choice whether or not to connect your small business to social media. Having an online presence can make or break your ability to business, no matter which industry you’re in. In fact, according to the 2016 Small Business Technology Impact Study, “36% of people surveyed in the study indicated that they might choose not to do business with those small businesses that have no website.”
That said, the social media landscape is changing all the time, and you’ll need to stay on top of trends to compete as effectively as possible. Try looking towards automated software that will help you schedule your social media posts so they appear at the optimal times of day for your target audience. This will free up your schedule and let you turn your focus towards other aspects of running your business.
On the subject of “automation”, let’s turn towards it’s next logical progression – artificial intelligence. Technology boasting an “AI” edge can help automate many of your company’s more mundane and routine tasks. For example, some AI softwares compile data from different reports and then use “smart” algorithms to determine profitability and value.
AI technology in the form of “virtual assistants” has also become popular in the last year. Products like Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home speaker aid in streamlining tasks by helping business owners accomplish things around the office hands-free. These devices are sleek-looking obelisks with one special feature — they contain a machine intelligence that’s able to fill an office space with music, monitor alarm systems, deploy daily reminders and even submit food orders for a crew of hungry workers. Some businesses are even using her to automate lights, televisions and more.
AI-powered chatbots, the relative of Siri, Alexa, and her cohorts, are intended to mirror the experience that a customer would get when they talk to a real live person. Chatbots can be deployed through a simple user interface. This AI service lets customers get the “human” customer service experience they prefer, while freeing up your actual customer service department for more difficult problems.
Mobile Payment Apps
Many customers are now using mobile payment apps when they step up to pay for their purchases. After the introduction of Apple’s mobile wallet solution “Apple Pay” in 2014, the trend began to catch on and has now become a popular alternative to traditional credit card or debit payments.
It’s relatively inexpensive for your company to implement a mobile payment program, and it’s one of the surest ways to encourage quick sales from new customers. The first benefit is the ability to track inventory and customer trends. Learning the habits of customers is important, and provides valuable data. It also increases the speed of checking out, which encourages more customers to complete the sale. Research by Adobe Digital Insights actually discovered that “including mobile wallet options increases cart completion by 10%.” By offering your customers more flexible options for payment, you’ll be able to widen your reach and grow your customer base. A small business can also integrate a loyalty program into an app.
Investing in your business’s future means taking the time to consider which technology tools will aid in your continued growth. Smart tech is here to stay, and there number of ways you can integrate these solutions into your current business model is limited only by your imagination.
Kate Voss is a writer and blogger based in the Windy City of Chicago. Fueled by coffee and chocolate, she’s an MSU alum with a passion for recycling and refurbishing old furniture.