4 Technology Trends That Are Empowering Small Businesses
In the wake of the cloud and the mobile revolution, technology has come to play an increasingly important role in today’s small business. Small business technology spending has grown 18 percent since 2010, according to Brother International Corporation. Over 4 in 10 small businesses plan to increase technology spending. Businesses are spending more on technology because of the increased efficiency and savings they’re seeing in return for their investment. Cloud solutions have reduced small business workloads by 42 percent, according to Microsoft research, and mobile apps save small business workers 725 million hours of labor a year, according to CNBC. Two-thirds of small businesses have become so dependent on wireless technology that they would fail without it, an AT&T survey found.
The growing dependence of small businesses on technology makes your selection of technology a crucial decision for the success of your company. Here are four technology trends that can give your small business a boost.
Cloud-based Infrastructure and Apps
The cloud is allowing small businesses to tap into the same resources available to large enterprises without having to invest in a large on-premise IT center. Cloud services such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and IBM Cloud are making enterprise-scale IT resources available to small businesses at an affordable price. Small and medium-sized businesses that migrate their IT infrastructure to the cloud can save an average of 36 percent on operational costs, a TSO Logic survey found.
Cloud apps are also helping small businesses streamline their operational efficiency by syncing data between apps. For instance, cloud-based accounting software apps such as QuickBooks Online, Xero, and FreshBooks can allow you to sync your bookkeeping data with data from other financial software, such as point-of-sale transaction, expense reporting, and payroll software, saving you hours of labor on data entry and reducing the risk of input errors.
Artificial intelligence is another technology tool helping level the playing field for small businesses trying to compete with larger enterprises. AI-powered business intelligence tools can help you make smart, data-based decisions about crucial business functions such as marketing, sales, and operational management. Today’s leading business intelligence tools, such as Microsoft Power BI, IBM Watson Analytics, and Google Analytics, are designed to be easy to use even if you’re not a data analyst.
While most leading AI services are cloud-based, mobile device manufacturers have also started to build on-device AI capability into smartphones, allowing smartphones to run sophisticated AI applications without the delay of waiting for data to download from the cloud. For instance, Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon mobile platforms can run on-device AI applications such as natural language processing, virtual reality, and biometric facial recognition.
The latest mobile processors are also designed to support 5G connectivity speeds. 5G is on the horizon, and companies that embrace it early will enjoy a competitive advantage over latecomers. Where current 4G LTE networks can deliver theoretical download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second, 5G networks will increase this hundreds of times to 10 gigabits per second. This means a video that would take 6 minutes to download on 4G would take 3.6 seconds on 5G.
Using a 5G network will allow small business owners to take advantage of technological innovations that rely on superfast connectivity, such as streaming virtual reality. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are all racing to roll out 5G networks as early as late this year or early next year.
Automated Marketing and Sales Tools
Marketing and sales are essential for the growth of any business, but they can consume an enormous amount of time. Automated marketing tools such as HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot help save time by providing a central platform for managing key marketing tasks such as running social media and email campaigns and scheduling follow-up contacts with prospects. Marketing automation platforms can also help improve the efficiency of marketing efforts through analytics tools that help optimize performance.
In a similar way, customer relationship management apps such as Salesforce, Zoho CRM and SugarCRM can optimize your sales efforts. CRM apps enable you to automatically track contacts with customers, view customer account histories, identify your best prospects, and customize your sales offer to fit buyer profiles. CRM tools can also be used to automate management of your sales force, matching your best available representatives to your hottest current prospects.
Cloud infrastructure and apps can save you money while increasing your efficiency. Artificial intelligence can help you make smarter data-based decisions and run cutting-edge applications on your mobile device. 5G can speed up your communications and allow you to leverage technology that depends on fast connectivity. Automated marketing and sales tools can improve your lead generation and sales conversion rates, translating into higher revenue. Small businesses that embrace these technology trends will enjoy a competitive advantage over rivals who lag behind in adoption. Getting in on today’s technology now will lay a foundation for greater profits for years to come.