Small businesses are often going against large firms or fighting to get attention in the marketplace. They have to provide the best services at the lowest prices in order to gain the upper hand. The main way to do so is to take advantage of technology, flexibility and innovation. There are a few tech trends that smaller companies are taking advantage of to make sure that they continue to grow.
1. Internet of Things (IoT)
The internet revolution is migrating from PCs and mobile devices to the actual physical objects and machines that businesses use every day. These items are installed with an internet enabled microchip that communicates information to a software system for the business to evaluate.
For example, companies are using IoT devices like mobile card readers to update the products in their inventory and in the supply chain on a dynamic basis. Smart cars can automatically tell businesses where there fleet is, how much gas they are burning and their mileage. Smart thermostats help businesses reduce energy consumption by lowering and raising temperatures during active and inactive periods of work.
2. Cloud Storage
More and more companies are taking advantage of the low-cost cloud storage being provided by Amazon, Microsoft, Dropbox and other companies. These services allow small business to access powerful analytical capabilities, securely store information, access data anywhere on earth and avoid disaster with off-site memory storage.
Today, more providers than ever are offering low-cost cloud storage. Perhaps the best feature is that small business do not have to pay the large upfront costs of buying a server and replacing it every few years. Instead, they can access the most up to date storage technology for less than $100 per month.
3. Mobile Ads and Apps
The mobile revolution is beginning to take over the US consumer. People engage with their phones all the time and are impacted dramatically by the ad impressions they receive. Facebook and Google mobile ads can be highly targeted by demographic and geography. Retail stores hoping to attract visitors or residents of a neighborhood can easily identify them by their mobile device and serve and ad to them.
Similarly, companies are creating applications that create an ongoing relationship with users. They may simply provide updated information, be a portal to the website or provide an interactive shopping experience for example.
4. Cloud Based CRM
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools have become a key of modern sales. Not only are the systems used to keep lead and sales contact information, they also provide in-depth analytical capabilities. The provide purchase history, expectations, contract information, pricing and other key data. Sales people have to know these on the go and need to access them through the cloud. At the same time, managers take advantage of the transparency and processing power of the cloud to do in-depth analysis on real-time information.
5. Integrated Suites of Software
In the old days, companies had a system for financial software, sales software, logistics software etc. The department managers came together and discussed their updates and progress. Today, all of those systems are integrated into a single platform or at least easily shareable. For example, the Microsoft Dynamics platform includes the entire suite of operational software. Other systems can be viewed and shared transparently in the cloud so all managers can integrate updated numbers and information into their decision making.
Companies continue to shift sales to the web and mobile, even for services that typically would not seem to be there. For example, Zappos is a shoe company that reached hundreds of millions in sales without any store. They busted the myth that nobody would buy shoes without first trying them on.
Analysts still expect e-commerce to grow 17% per year over the next thee years which is must faster than overall consumer spending. There are also new services like Stripe that allow secure, fast, online purchases easier than ever.
7. Going Paperless
Going paperless is an ongoing trend that is driven by three factors. Firstly, the environmental push to reduce paper products to preserve forests and reduce carbon dioxide. Secondly, it can dramatically reduce clutter by eliminating the need for big filing drawers, random sheets around the room and under desks.
Of course, the major reason is to reduce costs. Companies can eliminate the consistent purchases of paper each month as well as fax machines. Instead, they can simply scan any paper they receive and upload it into electronic files that can now be easily and conveniently stored. The documents can then be stored cheaply either within a single computer or in the cloud.