We live in an age of constant technological increase and change. The birth of the modern internet in the late eighties created a new frontier, enabling innovations such as virtual communications and cloud computing. Businesses and consumers have benefited from countless web-enabled innovations that make living and working easier every day.
Every day seems to bring a new invention that is predicted to change the world or change the way we do business. As a small-business owner, it can be hard to predict what your customers will want in the future and which technologies should you invest in now to future-proof your firm.
Selling your products on Social Media
The question for small businesses isn't should we put our products on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, but which platform should we focus on.
Shopping on social media is more popular across the board, but Snapchat and Instagram in particular are vying for brands to start selling their wares directly on their platforms--Snapchat through their Shoppable Snap Ads, Instagram through their Stories. Find an expert and invest in this technology and you'll see results, your clients are on social media platforms all day long on their cell phones.
Expensive IT servers, on-site software and bulky hardware are now a thing of the past. Small business should flock towards a new model, which reduces the upfront costs of running a business, offers the flexibility to grow, and gives an improved customer experience. Hosted servers and applications such Gmail and Dropbox are typical examples of cloud computing: they can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, from a variety of devices. With cloud solutions small business can level the playing field. A 10 person company can afford and use the same technology as the 5,000-user industry leader. Small business owners need to look at how they currently support their business and determine which services can be moved to the cloud for their cost savings and to improve their business efficiency.
Marketing automation software has made it easier for small businesses to conduct marketing activities with greater efficiency, removing the need to hire dedicated marketing professionals.
Among its advantages are the ability to automate daily marketing posts, segment messages and set up processes that trigger specific responses based on actions taken by the customer. Also, automation software links seamlessly with CRM platforms, bringing marketing and sales together, providing each with a 360-degree view of the customer or prospect.
The rise of the virtual workforce means that tools which facilitate collaboration are critical to keep your teams on the same page and producing at a high level.
A 2015 survey conducted by Virgin Media Business predicted that 60 percent of office-based workers would regularly work from home by 2022.
Hosted VoIP phones systems with collaboration solutions built in such as YipTel Accession Meeting make collaboration between disparate work groups more accessible and efficient. Good tools will also offer a mobile app to support managers who are constantly on the go. They establish a virtual, chat-based workspace that allows team members to chat, call, save documents and collaborate in real-time, without restraint any time and from anywhere.
High Speed Fiber Internet
The days of running your branch office using a cheap local cable circuit isn't getting the job done anymore. Too many mission critical applications have moved to the cloud meaning everyone needs a robust, dependable connection. Every office is now running hosted Voice over IP phones, connecting to cloud based servers to run transactions and to connect to corporate software. Small business needs to invest in fiber optics which have recently come down considerably in price with dedicated speeds of 100mb x 100mb or more for as little as $150 a month. In locations where fiber is not available redundant broadband connections using SD WAN is recommended.
Live Chat and SMS
Successful companies will shift their focus away from customer service and focus instead on customer success — helping customers reach their goals as quickly as possible. This can be done online and through mobile, using a variety of digital technologies that include text/SMS, social media, chat bots and live help. Hosted VoIP Platforms such as Jive and YipTel can facilitate such omni channel support.
One component, live help offers a widget that resides in the lower-right-hand corner of the website with an agent on standby who can engage with customers in real-time at the moment of need, to answer questions, provide guidance and recommend products or resources tailored to the individual customer. SMS text from your desktop to remind customers of appointments, new offers and late bills allow you to communicate with customers wherever they are.
Whatever the technology (and there are a lot of options) small-business owners need to make sure they have the technology infrastructure that allows them to be agile, flexible and adaptable. Without the budgets of large organizations, you shouldn’t get caught up in the hype, but look at the individual business cases of each technology and the day-to-day improvements it can make to your business and customers.