In a normal year, 600,000 small businesses close their doors permanently. Between March 2020 and February 2021, 200,000 businesses fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no way to create a business plan around a pandemic or natural disaster, but with the right technology, even small businesses are phenomenon-proof. Let’s explore some of the dynamic small business tech trends you can expect to see in 2021.
Artificial Intelligence & Automation
Over half (79%) of small businesses rely on digital tools and solutions to do everything from HR and e-commerce to customer support. But who is manning the helm when small business owners and operators go home, or get pulled away for a critical issue?
Considering that small business is, by definition, small, it’s no surprise that many are using artificial intelligence to future-proof their businesses. Automated and AI-enabled CRM systems collect valuable customer and marketing data, while AI also provides small business with 24/7 customer support, voice-search functions, prediction of customer needs, allocation of targeted advertising, and collection of the most accurate and comprehensive information on all aspects of the business.
It’s estimated that by 2024, there will be more than 1.9 billion 5G subscriptions worldwide (Statista, 2021). This long-awaited 5G technology is the most cutting-edge, super-fast data transfer solution, providing a faster and better user experience. Small businesses are using 5G to stream their content faster, improve customer experience by providing real-time assistance, collect high-impact local and international customer data, and provide a more personalized shopping experience.
Global mobile and tablet internet usage overtook desktop usage for the first time in 2016, and has since steadily increased, with the help of the e-commerce boom and, more recently, global lockdowns. Mobile phones make up 73% of total e-commerce sales, meaning it’s vital for small business to optimize their webpages and applications for mobile and tablet devices, which connect and load faster, are more portable, and provide an extreme level of convenience to customers.
The recent COVID-inspired shift in user expectations has forced every business owner to at least consider digital transformation, or wither and die on the vine, while their peers prosper on the cloud. Anti-digital holdouts found nothing but trouble when COVID lock-downs forced employees to work from home, and customers to buy from home.
Small businesses use an average of between 25 and 50 software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions to manage everything from customer interactions to finance. Many remote and in-house employees rely on PI systems to collect, access and store data in real-time, allocate and contextualize the data, and visualize and monitor their network. Others are bridging the remote-work gap by deploying platforms like Slack and Teams, and ERP solutions to manage everything from HR and customer relationships to accounting. With these solutions, remote employees have access to everything they need, while also feeling supported by management.
Only those with supreme hubris could dismiss the recent string of massive and far-reaching hacking and ransomware events. Malware introduced through phishing emails, exploiting work from home trends and COVID-panic, can sit undetected in your business network for months or even years. Small business is at particular risk – yes that’s right! Most major hacking events of 2020-2021 started with a small and unprotected subsidiary of a larger company. Hackers infiltrate small business faster than large enterprises, and once inside, climb the ladder to the big fish, leaving destruction in the wake. Implementing the right cybersecurity solution, and training employees on digital health practices is the only way of the future.
A small business without a social media presence is the proverbial tree in the woods. If no one sees or hears it fall (or fail), did it really exist in the first place? Social media advertising is one of the biggest small business tech trends of this century – with blogs, YouTube or Instagram influencers, pay-per-click marketing and Facebook and TikTok ads, ensuring your content is on-demand 27/4, and being vouched for by “real people.” For those not ready to embrace the ambiguous “influencer” marketing strategy, social media and digital marketing are the most cost-effective options for both local and global business marketing, sustainability and growth.
Small business owners often feel that no one has their back – and it can be overwhelming. By implementing any one of these cost-effective and powerful technology solutions, your small business will be closer to eliminating the time-consuming daily grind, and able to focus on real and sustainable growth – take steps to automate your success today!