All companies can benefit from technology, but small businesses have more to gain because effective use of solutions can help them compete with their larger peers. For example, a modest retailer that runs an easy-to-use ecommerce site can outperform a bigger one with a less accessible online presence. A small manufacturer that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to manage its inventory can be highly profitable compared to a larger one that loses money on materials that go to waste.
Yet smaller companies often have fewer resources to devote to major technology purchases. So, they must be strategic when deciding which solutions to invest in. Here we examine several technologies that have the potential to boost small business success.
The 5th generation of wireless technology, known as 5G, offers greater reliability and lower latency, which translate into big benefits for small companies. The low latency feature of 5G supports better communications with employees, customers, clients, and vendors. Employees feel more integrated with the team no matter where they’re working, leading to higher retention rates. Customers and clients can take advantage of video-based demonstrations and assistance. And vendors can keep in closer contact, resulting in improved services.
In addition to people, 5G helps small businesses manage equipment. Internet of Things (IoT) applications, being highly dependent on wireless technology, will become even more useful with the widespread deployment of 5G. For example, companies can benefit from sensors used to track the health of equipment to create more predictable maintenance and replacement schedules, positively impacting cash flow.
The following video explains more about the benefits of 5G for small businesses.
AI can help with just about every aspect of business. For smaller companies, such uses are even more important. The following items are just a few examples.
- Decision-making. AI systems can gather relevant information from a variety of sources to help decision-makers determine next steps, such as where to locate a new physical store.
- Customer care. With information about a customer’s past purchases and communications with the company, AI can use chatbots and other features to be more responsive and helpful.
- Productivity. The automation of business processes made possible by AI increases efficiency and productivity.
- Marketing. By compiling information about current and possible customers, AI can help marketing professionals develop more personalized and targeted campaigns.
The years 2020 and 2021 brought opportunities for small businesses to use cloud services in new ways. Many companies found this technology invaluable as they made a transition to all-online work. Digital workspaces were essential for helping teams stay connected and gain access to important information.
But the ability to help workers access information from anywhere isn’t the only reason cloud technology is growing. It’s also useful for storage and processing, especially in conjunction with other technologies, such as AI. Various cloud companies specialize in certain functionalities, so many companies use a multicloud approach for the greatest effectiveness.
Additionally, the use of cloud services can be ramped up or down depending on company needs, meaning small businesses needn’t spend on on-site hardware they may never use. Moving certain computing expenses from capex to opex helps establish a more predictable cash flow.
Customers are at the heart of every company, so customer relationship management (CRM) is critical for any business, no matter the size. To ensure the best possible connections with customers, a robust platform is a must. CRM applications help companies keep in touch in productive, enhancing ways, connecting various communication channels (phone, email, chat, social media, etc.) in one place.
A CRM system can also be used to track purchases and analyze profitability. For example, which customers or clients are spending the most money with you? Which are spending it on your most profitable offerings? What circumstances (such as time of year) push them to spend more? The answers to questions like these can help you attract more customers that are a good fit for your business.
The CRM can help you understand not just customers’ behavior, but your own. Could your sales team be better about following up with customers who are close to buying? Is your marketing missing the mark? Improving your processes can add up to a significant rise in revenue.
Online shopping is bigger than ever. One reason for it is that retailers have found ways to remove barriers, giving consumers more confidence in buying things they’ve never seen in person than ever before.
A good example of this phenomenon is furniture. Customers can use any one of several large online furniture retailers to order pieces for every room in the house and return them if they don’t work out. Another good example is clothing. Amazon and other retailers allow customers to order articles and try them on before deciding to purchase, removing the “what if it doesn’t fit” barrier.
Small businesses can take advantage of these strategies and innovate to build a strong ecommerce presence. Web-based stores are also a more cost-effective way for small companies to promote and sell their wares than expensive brick-and-mortar locations.
Technology + Strategy = A Winning Combination
With so many technology solutions available, small businesses must be careful to avoid the temptation to adopt something just because it’s the latest big thing. The approach more likely to lead to success is to start with the end in mind. Determine the outcomes you want to achieve, such as percentage of revenue growth or market penetration. Develop strategies to reach those milestones, then research possible technologies to support them.
What works for one company may not work for another, even within the same industry. Look at the potential effects, not just on the high-level functioning of the business, but also on the individuals who will be most impacted by the change. Considering these factors may make technology decisions more complex, but also likelier to be more successful.