As a small business owner, you face unique challenges: diversifying your client base, money management, workforce management, long work hours, deciding who to hire–all while seeking increased revenue growth. Competing with large companies then, both locally and globally, can be difficult.
However, there is good news. We are seeing a rise in business technology tools that you can leverage to drive small business growth and performance. According to Business Consultant JT. Ripton of Bplans: “Continuous innovation around cloud-based software solutions and increased competition for market share have made sophisticated technological tools available and affordable to smaller businesses.”
Here are 8 business technology trends that will allow you to compete more effectively.
1. People are working remotely
Remote working is the new “buzzword”. A survey of business owners by Virgin Media Business predicted that “60 percent of office-based employees will regularly work from home by 2022.” The rise of productivity applications and collaboration platforms such as Slack and Basecamp supports this trend.
For some, remote working will not be applicable. For others however, when you want to outsource certain activities, you increase the size of your potential talent pool. Applications like Skype can assist with video interviews.
You can also overcome geographic limitations by adopting a virtual workforce. Seek freelancers through platforms such as Upwork. Due to the lower cost of living in other countries, outsourcing has become a realistic option for small businesses on a budget.
2. Marketing is increasingly automated
There is a proliferation of marketing automation software that handles CRM, funnel management, website optimization and social media scheduling. The development of applications such as Buffer, Hootsuite and Eloqua are a testament to this.
Leveraging this business technology trend simplifies your marketing practice while not denting your budget. With social media scheduling software such as Buffer, you can plan schedules in advance. Social media posts can be sent when you are out of the office and over weekends when you are enjoying downtime with family. This saves you time and money, allowing you to focus on generating revenue.
Further, Eloqua takes care of CRM, funnel management, and website optimization, and ensures that targeted messages are delivered to customers at the right moment during their buying cycle.
3. Small businesses are creating apps
This business technology trend is driven by increased access to affordable app development tools such as Appy Pie and Power Apps. Also, small business owners are realizing that they need to capitalize on mobile’s dominance over the desktop to drive increased leads.
Appy Pie and Power Apps allow you to easily create small business apps across operating systems, at a fraction of the cost.This is even possible if you are a non-technical user. The platforms also offer integration with video chat software, like Agora.io, for improved customer communication.
No longer are apps only accessible to large organizations. Zip Schedules for instance let’s you, the small business owner, create and schedule your next work schedule in minutes with their online schedule maker. You too can increase brand credibility and prestige by creating cost-effective apps.
4. The digitalization of CRM
I probably don’t need to tell you the importance of customer communication. In an age of digitalization, this is increasingly important. And there are many CRM applications that can assist – Salesforce, and Insightly. Insightly is free and integrates into your social media. If you have a tight budget, it’s a good place to start.
Through offering a complete Customer Relationship Management system you enhance the customer experience. You also streamline your internal business processes by offering a single location for all customer data. The data you collect can then be integrated with your automated marketing software for improved marketing focus.
5. Small business is creating e-commerce platforms
People are increasingly shopping online. Reduced shipping fees are most certainly a factor, with 58% of consumers saying they are willing to add items to attain free shipping. Similarly increased mobile usage is contributing to the proliferation of M-Commerce, with Forrester estimating mobile payments will reach $142 Billion by 2019.
The increase in consumer online shopping and M-Commerce proliferation presents a unique opportunity to create online storefronts for you to increase brand awareness and drive sales. There are many tools at your disposal, such as Magento and Shopify.
For a low-cost alternative for small businesses, try 3dcart. Once you have your storefront setup also consider integrating with an application such as ShoppingFeeder, which helps you market your products on these channels.
6. New payment methods are being adopted
New payment methods are also increasingly emerging. Stores and restaurants are accepting mobile payment options via applications like Apple Pay and Pay Pal. Other options include Lifelock Wallet and Google Wallet.
By adopting this technology, not only are you streamlining your payment process, but you are letting consumers know that you are forward-thinking.
7. Smart inventory management is taking off
A recent study in 2015 by Wasp Barcode Technologies highlighted that 46% of small businesses, with 11-500 employees don’t track inventory. Business technology solutions have emerged that can help you if you are among this statistic.
QuickBooks, for small to medium businesses, is a business accounting solution. It is a highly adaptable business technology solution that can integrate with several CRM platforms. You can utilize the activities to account for stock, improve sales potential and ensure a steady cash flow.
8. Business intelligence is becoming more accessible
You know all those fragmented data sets you have? Not sure what to do with them? Feel like you don’t have the time? Historically, BI has been solely accessible to big businesses that can afford to sift through, store and visualize big data. However, the growth of internet technology and big-data solutions has made BI solutions accessible to small business.
There are plenty of examples. Tableau is a simple platform which provides you with detailed interactive data. QlikView combines back-end calculations with the front-end user face. No longer are separate business intelligence tools like dashboards and reports required. Cyfe is one of the leading business dashboards, providing advanced analytics, monitoring, and tracking in real-time. And it can be integrated with marketing, sales, social media and SEO optimization.
These business technology tools can be extremely powerful when combined with smart inventory management. Simply put, BI gathers the fragmented data and translates it into usable information. This allows you to make more informed decisions and streamline business operations.
There we have it, eight business technology trends that will drive small business growth. No doubt, more trends will emerge. What business technology trends are you leveraging for your business?