Emerging technology trends seem to be announced daily—and they all come with promises of reshaping how your business operates. While this can be overwhelming for a small- to medium-sized business, these organizations can now employ technology that was once available only to large enterprise corporations with huge technology budgets. Every year, technology becomes even more accessible to companies of all sizes. In this article, we’ll discuss five tech trends your business needs to invest in immediately.
1. Incorporate the Internet of Things into daily strategies.
IoT-connected devices have been one of the biggest trends over the past few years. And while many of these devices are designed for home use—like smart refrigerators and thermostats, there are plenty of applications to use IoT in your small business.
For example, smart locks use digital keys that can’t be lost or stolen—and they can be quickly created and removed for employees and suppliers alike. They provide detailed logs of who opened the door and when, which can help your business understand how the doors are used. These can be paired with connected cameras that automatically upload footage to the cloud so you can review the recordings any time you need to.
In the retail world, RFID tags can be added to merchandise to assist not only with mitigating theft, but which also automatically update inventory as each item is sold. Small businesses can take advantage of smart tools that monitor devices and sensors to ensure equipment remains within specified tolerances. Further, mobile card readers (like Square) are increasingly replacing cash registers in businesses of all types.
2. Artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed up daily tasks.
If you’re a small business, one of the most exciting technology trends to invest in is narrow AI. Narrow AI targets and executes specific tasks and is especially useful in manufacturing. There, it’s combined with robotic-process automation to perform repetitive tasks.
AI sounds like it’s something only enterprise companies can afford to use, but it’s making big inroads into technologies accessible for businesses of all sizes. AI can help you offer increasingly personalized experiences to customers by maximizing your time and automating manual tasks, like data entry.
Additionally, AI is being used to augment analytics to improve decision making. Your business’s data is a treasure trove of information that’s nearly indecipherable in its raw form. Augmented analytic applications analyze your data and convert it into actionable steps. From social media content to purchasing history, AI and augmented analytics will empower you to make your business goals on objective data rather than gut instincts.
3. Telecommute, with improved remote technologies.
Many American workers spend at least a portion of the work week telecommuting. By hiring remote workers, a small business can employ the best team members irrespective of their geographic location. And, in many cases remote employees use their own equipment, which can eliminate some of the company’s costs associated with purchasing, maintaining, and replacing technology like computers, printers, and mobile phones.
New technology and services that make that make telecommuting more attractive and feasible help people collaborate and communicate in real time, just as if they were physically located in the same office. These can include video conferencing, instant messaging, and others.
4. Leverage customer relationship management (CRM) software and improve customer service and satisfaction.
Any application that your team uses to interact with customers, analyze data or recommend products and services to customers is part of the CRM family. This type of software helps your team manage, control, and build customer relationships. In addition to contact information, CRMs log your team’s touchpoints with prospects, including emails, phone calls, voicemails, and in-person meetings. Some CRMs offer the ability to track deal stages and reasons for closed-lost and closed-won deals.
Your CRM provides a complete record of your team’s entire interaction history with a prospect that’s easy for anyone to access. Best of all, you’ll never have to search through chains of emails or manually reconstruct a timeline of touchpoints again.
5. Optimizing your content for voice search.
Nearly every business in existence is aware of using search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to help improve ranking in search engine result pages from Google, Bing, and others. At the same time, consumers have been increasingly relying on AI assistants like Siri or Alexa to perform a variety of tasks.
Now, those two are merging—voice search is changing the way people find content of all types—creating new avenues for small local businesses to boost visibility. People are using mobile devices and smart speakers to search using their voices, and when they do, their queries are structured differently than when we type terms into a search engine. Organizations of all types can benefit from optimizing their content to improve where they fall in a voice search.
To help propel your business and your customers’ businesses going forward, it’s important to stay abreast of technology innovation. The technology trends to invest in over the next few years include artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), voice search, and more. Organizations can employ these technologies to expand their customer base, create more efficient in-house processes, and increase engagement from both customers and staff.