No matter the industry, emerging technologies continue to reshape how businesses operate. Whether expanding their consumer base, improving operating efficiencies, or increasing customer or staff engagement, small business owners can now employ technology that, as recently as a few years ago, was available only to large companies with big budgets.
However, unless technology is critical to your small business, spending money on software may not be top on your list of priorities. In addition, the rapid pace at which technology changes can make it hard to determine where to invest your limited budget. Here are a few of the top trends to watch in 2019 that could play a vital role in the growth and efficiency of your business.
Cloud computing uses cloud hosting to store resources and data, allowing users to access it anytime, anywhere, and from any computer or mobile device. Cloud technology delivers considerable power to small businesses by saving time and money and improving productivity and security.
With the growth of in cloud-enabled Software as a Service (SaaS), businesses can now take advantage of robust software and data storage technology without the considerable cost of building their own computing infrastructure. As a result, more owners of small businesses looking to simplify operations, improve performance, and make it easier for their customers to access services are expected to seek the benefits of cloud computing. A study by Capterra found that nearly 50% of businesses surveyed that generate $5 million to $100 million in revenue are budgeting for cloud computing this year.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a rapidly growing technology that is transforming the way business is done every day. AI has already emerged as an essential solution for many companies with large amounts of data. Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Amazon are using AI technology to boost the customer experience, and leading advertising and marketing firms use it to better understand the market and the customer.
As AI technology is implemented into an ever-increasing range of solutions, from voice assistants to personalized customer experiences, small business owners are likely to begin employing it more often to automate manual tasks and make operations more efficient.
CRM Software and Chatbots
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software manages, controls, and builds customer relationships with the aim of improving service and satisfaction. Small businesses are becoming increasingly more open to using CRM applications that interact with customers, analyze data, and automatically recommend services or products to customers.
One example of this is chatbots, which in recent years have proven to be a popular technology application for small businesses that provide 24/7 customer service. A chatbot is a software or computer program that can be easily incorporated into any website and used to communicate with the help of AI. Because of their ability to answer customer questions inexpensively, accurately, and in real time, chatbots enable small businesses to handle a larger volume of inquiries without the expense of bringing additional staff on board.
Adopting new technologies brings with it an increased need for data security. As the value of a small business’s data increases, so does the potential damage that could be caused if that data is compromised by a digital security breach. Nonetheless, many small business owners do not take cybercrime seriously, even as an alarming number of small companies are the targets of cyberattacks.
According to a survey by Insureon, only 16% of small business owners think they are susceptible to a cyberattack, yet 61% of attacks occur at smaller businesses. Cyberattacks can cost small businesses from $84,000 to $148,000 per incident, and 60% of small businesses that are hacked go out of business within six months of a breach.
The level of sophistication of cybercrimes is also becoming more advanced, so small and midsize businesses must recognize the importance of data security. Business owners will need to ensure they have a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery solution in place to stay protected. At the very least, this should include installing cyber security software on all computers and mobile devices and ensuring you have remote computer backup in the event your business is attacked.
Marketing personalization is quickly becoming a viable strategy for offering high-value content that speaks directly to customers. Consumers want more authenticity from the brands they favor, and small businesses need to be more personal and dynamic in their promotional approach. This is fueling the rise of influencer marketing in a growing number of industries.
Influencer marketing is word-of-mouth marketing that focuses on tapping the expertise of key leaders in relevant industries. These influencers can help businesses deliver their brand message to their target audience in the form of a recommendation from a trusted third-party source. Working with influencers means understanding the needs of your business and doing research to find the ideal influencers in your market.
In line with influencer marketing, social media advertising will continue to grow as a cost-effective and efficient way to reach specific audiences. This dovetails with the trend towards personalization, as more consumers want to see ads for the kind of products or services they are interested in buying. Small businesses will need to create unique ad content that engages customers through their preferred social media channels in order to be effective in the digital world.
When it comes to budgeting for business technology, it’s equally important to stay on top of the trends and remember there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The wisest tech investments will be those that help your business grow today and tomorrow.
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