You would have to be hiding under a rock to be unaware of the new technological revolution we find ourselves in. Every day there’s another breaking news story on cybersecurity, augmented reality, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence and smart technologies.
Technology isn’t just improving the lives of consumers, it’s changing the ways in which businesses perform and operate. Technology is emerging that caters to consumers, making everything from technical support to the payment process more seamless and efficient.
The question is, as a small business owner, how can you effectively use this technology to better serve your customers?
Take a look at the following technological breakthroughs. They are a great way to engage audiences, while also increasing your collaborative abilities and security infrastructure.
In short, here are the technologies that small businesses can’t live without in 2018:
1. Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots
While implementing artificial intelligence sounds like a costly investment reserved for only large businesses, small businesses can embrace the AI trend by implementing intelligent chatbots across their website, mobile apps, and other media. Microsoft's Bot framework enables companies to customize smart chatbots to their customers' needs across a variety of mediums.
Many businesses have a Frequently Asked Questions page on their site. Microsoft's Bot framework enables them to transform the FAQ content into an intelligent bot. E-commerce small businesses can also use chatbots to help make the purchasing process more efficient, with bots aiding in the payment process and reminding consumers about special deals or an item they’ve had in their cart for a while.
The platform-based flexibility and low-cost investment of chatbots make the technology very appealing for small businesses, who recognize that consumers would rather engage with a bot than sift through large chunks of text to find the answers.
2. Mobile Accessibility, and Payment
Mobile web browsing surpassed desktop browsing over a year ago, making a mobile-friendly website a must for any small business. We've also seen the emergence of mobile payment options, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Square.
These seamless payment methods make the checkout process more convenient for customers. They can simply hold their phone near a store’s NFC reader, rather than having to pull out cash or a credit card. Their phone doesn’t even have to make physical contact with the reader. These technologies also make checkout faster, allowing stores to process more transactions in a given time frame.
3. Seamless Collaborative Tools
Digital collaboration isn't anything new. Email has been around for what feels like forever, and Google Drive only helped make email more collaborative.
Still, surveys show that 42 percent of businesses are using platforms like Slack, Skype and Google Hangouts for collaboration while embracing the future for these digital platforms. Big companies are the earliest adopters of these collaboration tools, though small businesses can also benefit from their ease-of-use, low cost and ability to access from anywhere. Microsoft Teams, unveiled in late 2016, looks to be the next big player in the digital collaboration field. Its integration with Office 365 will make Microsoft Teams particularly appealing for small businesses already utilizing Office.
Regardless of a small business' collaborative platform of choice, it's clear that digital collaboration platforms will only continue to rise in popularity and usefulness in the future.
4. IoT Security
The Internet of Things (IoT) helps bridge connected devices with a business’s existing infrastructure, both digital and physical. The potential for IoT is exciting, though small firms remain wary due to security concerns, especially with tech like cameras, locks and alarm systems involved.
In a 2017 study of 593 IT security practitioners, 58 percent said they were concerned about the hacking of their IoT devices, making it one of the most prominent perceived threats. As a result, the market can anticipate seeing small businesses invest time and resources into legitimate IoT security, both by working with security firms and implementing IoT authentication, encryption and security analytics. Protecting critical infrastructure from cyber threats will be a focus of small businesses as IoT becomes a prominent player in day-to-day operations.
Seize the Tech in 2018
Small business owners will likely seize upon these various forms of technology, which will come to play a crucial role in everything from supporting infrastructure security to enhancing the consumer experience.
About the Author
Nathan Sykes is a technology and business blogger from Pittsburgh. When he’s not thinking about IoT, AI, and cybersecurity, he can be found cheering on the Pittsburgh Penguins with a beer in hand. To read more by Nathan, check out his blog, Finding an Outlet.