A recent report by Bank of America forecasts a bright future for small businesses in 2014. A huge contributor to this anticipated success is the never-ending advancement and accessibility of technology. How a company adapts its business model to the evolving technological landscape largely determines its longevity in the market. Small business owners who spot trends can discover new ways to innovate and gain the upper hand on their competitors. They can also learn how to cater to their customers’ purchasing behaviors using multiple channels in user engagement.
So what are the latest developments in technology and how should you leverage them to your advantage? To help you remain on the cutting edge, here’s a snapshot of the latest developments and their impact on the small business sector.
- Cloud Computing
Cloud computing provides enhanced storage capabilities with the ability to access files from any computer via the Internet. Cloud-based applications such as Microsoft Office365 and Google Apps are very convenient for small businesses because it allows easy, instant collaboration and exchange of multiple documents and files across employees, teams, and companies regardless of their respective locations. SMB (Server Message Block) Group research shows the use of cloud by small and mid-sized businesses will grow from 33 percent to 44 percent over the coming year. Because cloud-based solutions are priced on usage, small businesses can access more technology resources without breaking the bank helping them compete more effectively in the marketplace.
- Mobile Commerce
Small businesses that invest in refining their mobile presence will realize the bottom-line difference in 2014. CNBC reported the top twenty retailers experienced an increase of 55.4 percent in the number of online sales via mobile devices last quarter. By targeting the “on-the-go” market, small businesses can conduct customized marketing strategies based on location and past purchases. Additionally, a survey by the Yellow Pages found that 40 percent of consumers search for local information on their mobile devices daily, so optimizing your website for mobile viewing should be a priority in 2014.
- Social Media Listening
Whether formal or informal, consumer opinions now drive a rich source of intelligence that helps organizations become better marketers. Before social media, it was difficult to know what customers or prospects genuinely thought about your products or services. Today, consumer reviews are growing in power, largely replacing the influence of a small number of traditional journalist-led review services. Social media analysis is fast, relevant, and readily available to obtain valuable consumer feedback that is often hard to obtain from other methods.
- Video Story-Telling
A variety of newer, more visually focused channels such as Pinterest and YouTube have increased the effectiveness of small businesses’ marketing efforts. With consumers’ attention spans getting shorter and shorter, video story-telling will play an increasingly important role in corporate strategy. For small businesses, this form of story-telling poses a challenge in breaking down a brand’s core story into powerful, bite-sized visuals. If skillfully employed, this growing trend provides a huge opportunity for quick creativity that can be easily shared by audiences across multiple platforms.
As consumers become more dependent on Internet access on-the-go, providing Wi-Fi makes good business sense. With the proliferation of tablets, iPhones, and iPads, more consumers will be on Wi-Fi watching videos and using cloud apps than ever before. In anticipation of these significant spikes in Internet usage and traffic, companies should proactively add extra bandwidth and speed to accommodate their patrons.
- Quick Response Codes
Quick respond codes are similar to barcodes and can be usually scanned by consumers using their mobile devices. When scanned, these codes often direct consumers to a company’s webpage and provide them with more information about the scanned product, current discounts/promotions, and much more. In recent news, virtual grocery shopping via quick respond codes was made feasible in subways throughout South Korea.
In the CDW 2012 Small Business Mobility Report, 36 percent of small businesses report that many of their employees have replaced their desktops or laptop computers with their personal smartphones or tablets. An additional 20 percent of IT managers predict more will do the same in 2014. Despite the many advantages of what some are calling, ‘bring your own device to work,” this trend poses significant risks to small business owners. Hackers have created new ways to exploit the vulnerabilities of employee-owned devices to access their employer’s information. To help protect your business, make sure every device has a secure browser that offers frequent security updates. You should also employ Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools that provide visibility and control over the devices accessing your networks, including the ability to locate
lost or stolen devices and remotely remove sensitive data.
- Disaster Recovery
Many solutions will be available in 2014 to help businesses align or optimize their disaster recovery processes. This will ensure faster recovery and stronger protection. As systems become increasingly complex, they will become more challenging for many small business owners to back up and manage at the same time. To this end, there will be an increase in the demand for managed backup services. Additionally, small businesses will begin implementing social media solutions to compensate for the unavailability of traditional lines of communications, i.e. phones, during emergency situations. Because most social media platforms are hosted in numerous locations around the world, they are hardly ever down. This proves invaluable when trying to reach people during dire circumstances.
As these technology trends and others become more prevalent in 2014, small businesses should have a comprehensive strategy that responds to the latest developments in their field of industry. Focus on your business needs and find the right technology that engages your target market and accentuates your productivity and sales growth.