At last check, America was hosting more than 30 million small businesses. The ones that plan for the latest technology trends will hold a distinct advantage over their competitors. Here are six tech-related trends that business owners should anticipate. Perhaps one or more will have a direct impact on your business.
1. The growth of automation software
Artificial intelligence (AI) and related automated technologies were once considered too big to affect small businesses. That’s rapidly changing now. The evolution of AI is making it a viable option for small businesses in a number of business processes, including:
- Email marketing
- Customer service
- Data entry
As AI apps filter down to small businesses, the businesses that climb on board will be better able to compete with larger companies. In addition, the growth of automation may create a startling new number of business opportunities that will interest entrepreneurs.
2. Work from home
Futurists predict this trend will quickly become the new normal for millions of small business employees. Attitudes toward remote work are changing. Once, owners and managers feared that it would lead to lower productivity. However, the facts indicate just the opposite. Studies show that employees who work from home are more productive, thanks to fewer distractions and time saved on commuting. Small businesses will increasingly experiment with telecommuting, at least for part of the week. Owners may actually save some operational costs, and employees will save on commuting. The result should be a more productive environment.
3. Social media marketing
The number of small businesses who latch on to social media technology to market their offerings will continue to accelerate. Platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook continually refine their technology to improve marketing return on investment for their customers. Small business owners are becoming aware of the value of social media influencers. These are professionals who have large followings and who can help bring your offerings to the attention of their many followers. If you want to get the biggest bang for your marketing buck, consider engaging a social media influencer to help with your marketing campaigns.
4. Freelance economy
The same technological progress that animates telecommuting makes it easier for millions of people to develop side hustles that form the genesis of new small businesses. The freelance, or gig, economy allows folks to monetize what were once hobbies and to work as consultants/contractors to multiple clients. As telecommunications becomes faster and more reliable, it becomes easier and cheaper for professionals to compete online as graphic artists, writers, webmasters, marketing consultants, and many other gigs. For example, one leader in the field, Upwork, provides complete support services to facilitate small business gigs for freelancers, and its influence should grow in 2020.
5. Customer support
Consumers increasingly favor online customer support over phone calls. Real-time chats allow specialists to handle customer inquiries and complaints. This has a couple of side effects. First, it encourages customer interaction among people who don’t like to talk on the phone or to wait in queue for the next available representative. Second, the growing use of AI provides online capabilities to solve many problems online before the intervention of a human. Third, it allows easier rationing when customers need to speak to a person to solve a problem.
6. Shifts in investments
Small businesses may have to replace aging technology to successfully compete. The growth of cloud computing and the introduction of 5G networks are but two examples of where business owners may need to revamp antiquated equipment and unproductive practices. Although this may require an initial investment in hardware, software, and expertise, the cost will be well worth it. Companies who rely on older technology will find themselves at a disadvantage to nimbler, tech-savvy competitors.
This article originally appeared in IOU Financial.