Utilize Key Tech Trends To Help Grow Your Small Business
Six key tech trends to consider for small business
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only constant is change.” Though he lived about 2,500 years ago, the phrase applies perfectly to technology trends in small business. Rapid changes have transformed technology for small businesses in the last several years, and it appears change is only going to accelerate from here.
Technology trends for small business in 2019 are all about flexibility, automation and productivity. The time and money you spend now could pay off in time and money saved in the future. Some of these technologies change the way your customers shop and how you market to them. Others change how you perform necessary tasks for your business. And a few of them may change how you do business altogether.
We’ve put together a list of six key tech trends for small business, followed by tips on how you can identify the trends most relevant to you.
Though cyberattacks on large businesses tend to grab the most attention in the news, cybersecurity is an issue every small business needs to have a handle on. According to Barkly, a cybersecurity company, small businesses account for 58% of businesses affected by malware attacks. And in 2017, the average cyberattack on a small or medium-size business cost over two million dollars. Start learning more about how to protect your business with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Top Ten Cybersecurity Tips.
Innovative Payment Methods
Small businesses now have a variety of innovative options to take payments at point of sale and online. At the point of sale, mobile and digital payment methods like Apple Pay allow customers to pay without carrying around a lot of cash or using their credit cards. According to some estimates, Apple Pay currently has over 252 million users, which comes out to about 31 percent of the active iPhone install base. Point-of-sale systems like PayPal and Square also accept multiple payment methods.
Taking payments online provides a convenient and secure option for buyers and sellers. PayPal is a popular online payment system, and other options include Popmoney and Amazon Payments. Accounting software like QuickBooks can also accept credit card payments and bank transfers automatically to your bank account. In addition to the potential cost savings, using a well-known, secure online payment method could also give your customers confidence that their ID and financial information is safe.
Small businesses in all kinds of industries are making their marketing and lead generation more effective with marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These platforms could reduce the time and staff needed to market to customers and help optimize the entire process.
There are many of these platforms on the market for you to consider:
- HubSpot: Marketing automation software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. HubSpot is a user-friendly all-in-one solution favored by beginners.
- Marketo: Marketing automation software that provides many of the same services as HubSpot. It is best utilized by businesses with some experience in marketing campaign management, as well as access to developer and designer resources.
- Constant Contact and Mailchimp: Two different user-friendly email and digital marketing software solutions (with many of the same services) to manage e-mail marketing campaigns.
- Salesforce: This powerful sales, customer service and CRM software is cloud-based, allowing full access to your business’s customer data, and it’s accessible from anywhere, providing a more streamlined alternative to software located on a company’s own server.
Small businesses with only a few people may be able to tackle human resources tasks one by one, but as the business expands, that may become too much to handle. A recent ADP study showed 70% of small businesses handle their HR tasks as a side job by the owner or another key employee. These tasks can eat up to 35% of their time, taking them away from primary responsibilities.
HR software has become a viable option to organize and complete a wide variety of tasks. HR software can help with payroll, onboarding, benefits administration, recruitment, 401(k) management, employee time tracking and more. Popular options include Zenefits, BambooHR, GoCo, Gusto and Zoho People.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the internet of everyday devices, enabled by embedded computing devices. This internet allows these devices to send and receive data. As 5G, the fifth-generation cellular capability, comes to market, the IoT will have even more connectedness. 5G will be able to transmit data ten times faster than the current highest capability.
Here is how the IoT is being used by some small businesses:
- Remote monitoring allows machines to be monitored without a worker standing at the machine. Sensors on machines can provide visibility into operations that could increase quality and productivity.
- Inventory Management uses sensors and radio frequency identification (RFID) chips to track products in factories, warehouses, retail stores and other facilities. This provides information valuable for helping to increase efficiency, maintaining quality, improving security, optimizing floor space and more.
- Mobility is enabled by the IoT, helping workers stay connected to the business and to each other no matter where they are located. This can help improve efficiency, convenience, collaboration, customer service and more.
- Efficiency and productivity throughout a small business could be improved by the IoT, because of the amount of data it provides. Companies are using the information that the IoT provides to help optimize everything they do.
As Entrepreneur magazine points out, business owners have many reasons to be hopeful that the IoT will offer their business greater efficiency and productivity.
Though the tech giants like Amazon tend to grab headlines with their drone initiatives, consulting firm McKinsey & Company says start-ups actually drive most activity, with more than 300 new drone companies entering the market in recent years. Small businesses in several different industries are putting them to good use. Video production companies are capturing dramatic photos and videos for their clients. Architects and construction firms are using them for surveying land and constructing 3-D renderings of client projects. Drones can also be used to supervise and inspect work sites remotely.
Drones also have the potential to shake up delivery and courier services. Many large companies are experimenting with the use of drones to make deliveries, but regulatory issues remain. In the future, small businesses may use drones to deliver a product, rather than a package carrier or courier.
How to determine which technologies may benefit your company
You may already be a pro at utilizing some of these technologies. How do you know whether the others are relevant? Some of the technologies above, such as cybersecurity, HR software, marketing automation, and innovative payment methods, are applicable to almost any business. But others may not be worth the investment of your time or money. Your industry association may have online resources covering new technologies. You could also find out if other small businesses in your industry are using the technology and enjoying success. If it’s worked for them, it’s probably a technology that you’ll soon need in order to compete.