Are you struggling to find solutions for your business?
You’re not alone.
Small business owners all over the globe face similar challenges, struggling to stay successful and one step ahead of their competition.
But there are answers.
In 2017, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) made up 99.7% of US companies. The key is harnessing technology for business to solve the hurdles smaller companies face.
Not so long ago, technology was only available to large corporations with huge budgets. Today, technologies used in business are leveling the playing field for companies everywhere.
Small business, big hurdles
Most small business owners would agree that running your own business is hard.
Finding new customers, solving the cash flow conundrum, and juggling time demands are constant challenges. Add a vital factor like building your brand, delighting existing customers, or hiring great staff and overwhelm isn’t far behind.
Keeping a company moving forward can be an uphill battle. It would help if you had an edge. Technologies in business help smaller operators keep up with—or even pass—their bigger competitors.
Here’s a look at some emerging technologies for 2020 and how they could play out in your business.
New technologies and the problems they solve
To understand the impact of technologies in business, imagine how you would use them. What problems could they solve for you? Some of these solutions aren’t new. But, the secret lies in how they are evolving.
1. Artificial intelligence
We interact with artificial intelligence (AI) all the time. It’s everywhere. You’re probably using one or other AI application in your day-to-day business already. So why is it popping up in this list again?
As Giuseppe Licari, founder of GreenJinn said, AI is “set to be … one of the most exciting and unprecedented moments in the history of technological development.” That was in 2018 and AI continues developing at a dizzy pace.
Almost all technologies in business rely on some form of AI. Any time computer software engages in human-like activities, like learning or problem-solving, it is using AI.
Today, artificial intelligence is exploding. Computers don’t need any human help to analyze data and draw conclusions.
Messenger and chatbots are revolutionizing the small business world. The use of messaging apps like Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp and Slack are skyrocketing. By 2020, 25% of customer service and support operations will add virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across their channels, according to Gartner.
Experts tell us most customer interactions will be handled without a human by 2020. Chatbot systems are capable of so much more than answering customers’ questions. They can do other business tasks, like collecting user’s info, organizing meetings and reducing overhead costs.
For your business, online chatbots save time and money by automating customer support. They reduce your staff needs—saving you money— and are available all the time. Customers get an instant response from systems like Facebook Messenger, which has over a billion monthly users.
Of course, creating an interactive agent that users trust could be improved. And this is where NLP comes into the picture as we see below.
2. Natural Language Processing (NLP)
NLP extracts interesting patterns from text and other unstructured data. Businesses are flooded with data from product documents, marketing campaigns and pricing playbooks, for starters.
NLP technology mines these text documents for meaning, finding trends and similarities in the data. It adds context to customer interactions by understanding the emotional tone in text. Already 40% of businesses worldwide are tapping into the power of NLP, using the technology for:
- Call Center Operations: High-volume consumer contact needs voice to text, NLP and machine learning to quickly pinpoint important customer inquiries.
- Analyzing Brand Sentiment: Know the emotional tone of social posts and trending opinion, elements NLP identifies in textual data.
- Recruitment: NLP is the backbone of targeted selection and recruitment systems.
For your business, using NLP can boost customer satisfaction; help to find great staff, grow your brand and attract new clients. NLP can make your chatbot seem, well… more human, more attuned to the customer’s moods and emotions. And when your customers have a great experience, they’re more likely to buy.
3. Cloud computing
Every time we use the internet, we’re using cloud services. It’s still taken time for businesses to switch their systems and in-house data management to the cloud, but that’s all changing.
As small companies realize they can ditch the on-site software, clunky hardware and expensive IT servers, they’re flocking to the cloud. With shrinking upfront costs, the flexibility for growth and improved customer experience, there’s lots to love.
The ubiquitous examples are Gmail and Dropbox; accessible anytime, anywhere, with virtually any device. The cloud is always on, always available. Everything we do is backed up on the cloud and accessible from anywhere.
All of which means work never needs to stop!
Goodbye work-life balance. Hello, healthy budget.
But there are aspects of the cloud business still needs to figure out. Protecting all that data for one. There’s a new buzz around public clouds, private clouds, and container-based options, all part of the ongoing progress in cloud solutions.
For your businesses, cloud computing and cloud storage are budget-friendly and efficient. Projects can be edited and modified in real-time by team members anywhere in the world. The “Cloud” can help you cut costs and work smarter.
4. Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT market includes software, hardware, systems integration, and data and telecommunications services. According to Microsoft, 94% of all businesses will be using IoT by the end of 2021. Worldwide, projected end-user spending on IoT solutions was revised upwards and now the total market is expected to reach $1,567B by 2025.
Our lives generate data continually. From our daily steps to the food we like; hobbies, holidays, purchases and what we look at before we buy.
All this information contributes to the gigantic Internet of Things (IoT), a parallel universe where your data ends up. Here it is analyzed, compared, stored, regurgitated and shared across the myriad interested parties who mostly use it to help our everyday lives.
Consumers score with systems targeted to their needs and wants. Businesses can use these insights to deliver better products and services. And better insights allow them to make more informed choices.
For your business, IoT devices can record and transfer data, keep an eye on key processes and improve efficiency. IoT devices eliminate the guesswork. Companies know what’s happening instead of relying on assumptions. Copious data helps analytics and AI systems find hidden patterns of use or behavior.
5. Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR)
We have the gaming industry to thank for the development of virtual reality headsets and augmented reality applications.
These cutting-edge technologies can transform business communications but their real specialty lies in retail applications. Show your product from every angle, try on new glasses—virtually—or take a walk through that house you want to buy.
From improved customer experiences to staff training, the use of AR and VR is almost unlimited. This is technology that captures the viewer’s imagination and helps your brand engage with its audience.
At the heart of AR and VR is the customer’s desire to be entertained. It’s where storytelling enters a new dimension. Imagine building an AR or VR experience where a customer could “use” your offering in a virtual world? They become the “hero” in their buyer journey. No samples needed.
A virtual environment lets customers develop strong connections with a product or service, making a purchase more likely.
For your business, VR and AR can be your secret weapon in the fight for new customers. It gives you an edge on the competition. VR and AR technology can also personalize the employee experience when hiring and training workers. This increases productivity and cuts HR costs.
The Bottom Line
Every company around the globe feels the impact of technology in business. New business technology products are designed to make it easier and simpler for you to thrive as a business owner.
Small companies don’t need a dedicated marketing department or a bank of customer service specialists to flourish. All you need is flexibility and enthusiasm to implement new technologies in business and reap the rewards.