As a business owner in today’s volatile market, it’s more important than ever to adapt to change to sustain a competitive advantage. This especially holds for small business owners who make up a staggering 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. With this large of a stake in the marketplace, it’s important to find the right solutions for your business that will help you stand out.
Owning and operating a small business is often met with a slew of demanding challenges. Finding solutions to help alleviate the stress that is often symptomatic of being a small business owner can be important for your wellbeing as well as your company’s wellbeing. It’s also important to remember that your competitors are likely experiencing similar hardships as you, but it’s how you choose to handle these that will prove who has the edge over the other.
The solution to many issues that arise for business owners today can be found by investing in available technologies. We exist in a world where incredibly advanced technology that was once thought to be unimaginable is now in existence. For years, this technology was rarely made accessible to small business owners. However, in recent years, advancements have made that make technology more readily available for all – regardless of budget.
From core infrastructure technologies to advanced artificially intelligent systems, the realm of possibilities is virtually endless for small businesses to decide between. Because of this, it’s important to conduct your research ahead of time. It’s important to know which technology makes the most sense for your business to invest in to reach it’s set goals and objectives.
Let’s take a look at eight technologies that your small business could be missing out on by not implementing it.
Chatbots are becoming so deeply integrated into our daily operations, that we often forget we are even using them. It’s not exactly a revolutionary technology either, as their use in business has been in existence for a long time now. However, advancements have armored chatbots with incredibly more human-like functionality thanks to the power of artificial intelligence.
With these new capabilities, chatbots are helping to streamline marketing and customer service capabilities. Experts agree that by year’s end, nearly 25% of all customer service operations will be automated by a chatbot. Traditionally, customers were interacting solely with business owners themselves or representatives from a call center. These options, far too often, prove to be time-consuming and costly.
Thankfully, many providers, such as social media giant Facebook are powering small business owners with the ability to use free or inexpensive chatbots to service their customers. The interface that many chatbots operate on is easy for customers to interact with and for business owners to gather data. Intelligent bots can help streamline payment processes, influence purchasing decisions, and answer questions in real-time. This is an affordable way to provide better customer service while freeing up time to focus on other aspects of operating the business.
Using these bots in your operations can also help increase your marketing and engagement methods. Chatbots can help drive sales to your site by targeting customers who may be interested in engaging with your brand and social media sites based on previous activities.
Customer interactions are often one of the most important aspects of a small business. For this reason, you mustn’t rely too much on this technology and remain true to your authenticity and customer relationships. Start with a simple customer service bot before diving in too deep.
You may be surprised to see technology as simplistic as a website on this list, but surprisingly, only 64% of small businesses have a website. For the remaining two-thirds of owners, this is an opportunity that should undoubtedly be invested in. Thankfully, you don’t need to be all that technologically savvy to build a simple web page in today’s world. Whether you hire an external website builder or utilize a guided software program, many options are available to help you build a well-performing website.
It’s no surprise that consumer preference for online shopping has increased over the years. With new generations relying more on their devices, these numbers will only continue to grow. Consumers want to be able to quickly locate a business relevant to their Internet search query when finding a product or service. If your company has no online presence, how can you expect to be located by these Internet-dominated generations?
Operating a website can help increase your audience size from a local perspective to a more global reach. Your website needs to be well-executed and engaging as customer interactions can have a significant impact on your success. However, even the smallest of businesses can find success in hosting just the necessary information on an online platform.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
So your business already has a website, or you’re planning to build one soon, but are you investing in search engine optimization (SEO) to boost your site? A false perception of SEO often revolves around seeing it as a complex process that is irrelevant to small businesses. Yet, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. A well-promoted website with high search visibility is a strong force to be reckoned with.
Organic-search traffic is the leading driver of traffic being sent to a website at 51% of all Internet searches. This number is comprised of the number of visitors on your site who landed there after searching a site such as Google or Bing. This is where SEO optimization comes into play, as your website needs to stand out at the top of those search results.
A few of the leading services in the industry for building reputable websites such as WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace are beginning to implement simple SEO tools directly into their platforms. This can be cost-effective and resourceful for anyone who may be unfamiliar with SEO. Additionally, there are several paid and free external options available to boost the performance of your website. You can read more about these options for increasing your SEO here.
4. Cloud Computing
The use of cloud computing for small businesses can help reduce costs, time, and resources. Cloud-based computing programs such as Gmail and Dropbox are gaining popularity with small business owners for their flexibility, security, and accessibility. With cloud-based operations such as this, the process for signing up and implementing is much more simplistic than purchasing a server, installing it, and regularly maintaining it. Additionally, projects and data can be accessed conveniently at any time, from any device and any location. This can significantly improve workflow capabilities, especially for widespread teams.
Cybersecurity is a serious concern for many business owners. Falling victim to a cyberattack of any magnitude can become a costly and stressful issue to have to deal with. Cloud-based software programs help mitigate this issue as they can perform regular scans to uncover security issues and quickly patch itself. The security of cloud-based computers is much stronger than traditional servers, as it is harder to breach. Regardless of your computing methods, it’s always important to train employees and stay alert to cyber threats as a small business owner.
5. Mobile Banking
Want to save your business significant time spent on bookkeeping? With mobile banking services, this can become a reality. Scrambling to find receipts/statements during tax season can be a headache inducer for many businesses. By switching your financial operations to a mobile banking provider, you can stay on top of this information throughout the year so you will be better prepared when tax season rolls around.
This technology is significantly more convenient and faster to set-up than traditional banking methods can be. Many providers even offer low to no transactional fees, which can save you operational costs in the long run. With the convenience of mobile banking, account holders can easily view and approve payments or make deposits on the go.
Mobile banking platforms can also be useful when multiple owners and decision-makers are involved. The platform powers these employees with valuable insights into spending, revenue, and balances, allowing users to analyze the provided information to create finer tuned budgets.
6. Internet of Things
The Internet of Things or IoT has been a buzzword in the business world as recent advancements in the technology driving voice search and connected devices. The term simply refers to the millions of devices that are connected to the Internet, harnessing and sharing data across the network and with each other.
With many consumers gaining interest in IoT devices, the focus is beginning to shift towards applied IoT device usage in business management. As these devices are becoming more innovative by the day, and with millions now available, businesses are faced with many options to choose from. Thankfully, they are also available at relatively low costs. Here are a few examples:
Mobile Card Readers
Payment processing should be easy, and with mobile card readers, it can be. With a small device attached to a tablet or mobile phone, this system can replace outdated cash registers by making purchasing a more simplified process for the customer and shop owner.
These tags are great for streamlining and speeding up inventory processing. They will automatically update as items are sold and automatically reorder inventory when a product gets low. This can maximize your efficiency and help you maintain accuracy.
Voice assistants are becoming increasingly more abundant. Smart speakers and other devices that have Siri, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant built into them can be useful in automating your daily tasks. Want to write a note down? Want to order office supplies, or schedule a meeting? These devices can help you do so by simply giving a voice command.
Ensuring that your business is secured, whether you’re there or not, is important. Using smart locks and security cameras can help ease your peace of mind by allowing you to keep tabs on the premises from your mobile device. If any unusual motion is detected, you will be alerted, an alarm will sound, and you can alert local authorities immediately.
Smart Lights and Thermostats
We’ve all forgotten to turn the light off or turned the heat down, but this can become a costly habit for any business owner to make repetitively. With smart controlled lights and thermostats, you can easily turn these devices off or adjust them, helping you save on your utility bill.
Even with IoT devices and chatbots at use in your organization, you may still be missing out on a critical technology available to you. The transaction of information between this technology is all collected and stored in a database that is accessible to you as the business owner. It’s up to you to analyze this data and use it to make more informed decisions. In the end, your customers will be satisfied by receiving products and services that are targeted uniquely to them, and you’ll be able to allocate your budget and resources to high priority areas better.
An active marketing campaign is important for any business to succeed. With this data, your strategies can soar to new levels by better segmenting your consumers and predicting their needs and wants with factual information rather than intuition.
8. Marketing Tools
Whether you’re just getting your business off the ground or looking to break into a new segment, it’s important to diversify your marketing efforts to stand out from competitors. There are many technologies available to help you along the way. For example, if you’re looking to design a logo or create social media collateral, there are design tools that make this process easy for anyone by providing templates and tutorials.
If you’re looking to create content for a monthly newsletter that will alert customers to new products or highlight promotions, turn to an automated newsletter service that makes design, creation, and even response rate analysis simplistic, email newsletters can be a great way to engage with your customers. Social media is excellent for this purpose as well. Though managing these accounts can be hectic, there are ways to schedule posts ahead of time and manage all platforms simultaneously.
Regardless of which technologies you chose to invest in, you’re sure to see a return on investment by adapting to these innovations and staying ahead of the curve.