Technology is advancing everyday. As we become more and more digitally connected, technology is altering the way we live and work. In many ways, these advancements cause monumental changes in businesses operations. Even smaller corporations are shifting toward a more technologically progressive future to meet the expectations of today's consumers. To better understand where SMBs can benefit from the latest technologies, here are the top tech trends of the year.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
It seems as though one can’t discuss technology trends without mentioning AI. This year saw revolutionary developments in the power of this technology and its impact on daily life. Big businesses and SMBs are diving head-first into the benefits of AI and its potential implications on marketing, customer service, employee engagement and more. Business giants are rapidly implementing AI. Mark Hurd, AI pioneer, claims 80 percent of enterprise applications will feature AI capabilities by 2020. Similarly, 53 percent of small and mid-sized businesses are also using or planning to use AI technology within the next one to two years, and 39 percent of them believe this technology is critical to their business, according to Capterra research.
AI-powered platforms such as Acquisio enable businesses with modest budgets to advance their marketing efforts. By utilizing AI solutions, smaller companies can determine their best marketing strategy based on intelligent operations management and sentiment analysis algorithms that analyze customer engagement within their campaigns. Automation is also especially useful for smaller companies as it saves money by removing the need for hiring additional marketing and advertising staff.
As SMBs generally have less staff than their larger counterparts, tools that facilitate greater efficiency are a major asset. AI enables SMBs to improve customer support with tools that can organize customer tickets, answer online questions and notify employees when human assistance is required for a specific issue. The implementation of AI allows managers to dedicate their resources in a more efficient manner while also increasing customer engagement.
For example, chatbots are being widely adopted by businesses of all sizes to streamline marketing and customer service. Because 48 percent of consumers would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other means of contact, this automation is becoming increasingly necessary.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said it best, “The cloud services companies of all sizes...the cloud is for everyone. The cloud is a democracy.” Regardless of its connotation with large corporations, the cloud is actually a crucial development for SMBs. Providing access to technologies that previously have been out of reach, cloud computing vendors are now offering packages specifically curated for freelancers and sole proprietorships. This technology allows users to access, store, and share data from anywhere, anytime, from any mobile device or system. Depending on a businesses’ needs, online subscription-based vendors offer starter packages to improve invoicing, expense tracking and reporting—all while bettering security and productivity.
Transferring to a cloud computing application will not only improve business practices in the long-term, it also offers short-term benefits. These include expedited services, because it’s easier and faster to migrate to the cloud than buy and install a server. Businesses will no longer need to purchase hardware and software and hire someone to maintain them, further lowering costs.
Internet of Things (IoT)
At its start, many SMBs were hesitant of jumping on the IoT bandwagon. During this past year, as it’s continued to grow at an increasingly fast pace, the IoT gained recognition as a tool for helping SMBs reach their goals. Through the connection of any applicable device, machine or structural component, the growing network makes it possible to easily collect, share and use disparate data. Gathering this data is important; Gartner estimates the IoT is growing by an astonishing 5.5 million things every day.
Adapting to an IoT-powered management system enables businesses to greatly increase their product-tracking and communication abilities. Cost-effective RFID — or radio-frequency identification — tags, which contain detailed information on inventory, can be placed on a product and remotely connected to technology to create real-time visibility into products’ locations and quantities. Additionally, these tags can improve the efficiency and accuracy of inventory maintenance by automatically updating inventory as items are sold and setting up items for reorder.
As consumers are shifting away from cash, IoT-powered card readers allow for improved mobility and can save businesses money in the long run. Square, for example, can be used on a personal device and charges a flat processing rate of 2.75 percent for in-person transactions. With consumers becoming increasingly digitally-centric, a convenient card reader is necessary for almost any business.
This year has proven to be a historic year in technological advancement. These advancements are reshaping what it means to be successful in business and how businesses will connect with consumers going forward.