Technology plays an important role in businesses. from increasing efficiency to growing profitability.

But what technology trends for small business are real and essential, and which ones are passing fads?

Although small businesses shouldn’t get caught up in the hype, they shouldn’t be caught sleeping.

Without the budget of large organizations, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) have to make sure that their tech infrastructure can scale, adapt and improve day-to-day activities for their businesses and customers.

Depending on how tech-savvy you are as an executive, you might need a consultant to help you navigate the marketplace, evaluate new ideas and implement the tech trends that can transform and streamline your small business.

For 2018, here are the top technology trends that are key to your business’s success:

  • Mobile Technology is a “Must-Have.” Nearly seven billion people will have a mobile device by year 2020 and statistics show that more and more consumers are interacting with businesses via smartphone.
    1. Mobile-friendly Website – If you plan on running a successful website, especially eCommerce, you absolutely have to cater to mobile users. Online shopping went up by 45% from 2016 to 2017 and BigCommerce revealed that 51% of Americans prefer shopping online.  This trend is only going to continue as more and more people embrace the idea of getting what they want – with same day or next day delivery – without leaving the comfort of their home.  You need to make sure that your website is optimized for mobile search results.
    2. Mobile Apps – In the past, mobile app development meant hiring a high-level developer, which meant spending A LOT of money.  Nowadays, even for non-technical users, there are a lot of off-the-shelf solutions like https://buildfire.com, https://bubble.is or https://appsheet.com (Google Sheet-driven apps), so there’s no excuse to not get on this tech bandwagon.
    3. Mobile Payment US ranks 5th among cashless countries, behind Canada, Sweden, UK and France. In-store mobile payments are becoming so common that the volume of mobile payments is expected to reach 80% growth by 2020.  It’s also predicted to be used by 56% of consumers by the same year.  By becoming an early adopter of mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay—as well as other in-app, in-browser or P2P payment platforms—you are positioning your small business for success.
  • Head for the Cloud. The reality is, on-site software, bulky hardware and IT services are expensive to maintain. Cloud-based solutions offer greater scalability, security, efficiency and greater access in a borderless work environment. Gmail, Office 365 and Dropbox are typical examples of cloud computing that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime and on any device.  The ability to use the same flexible technology that industry leaders or even Fortune 500 companies use, but at a much-reduced upfront cost, gives small businesses a level playing field.
  • Do more with Data and AI. Business Intelligence (BI) makes for better decision-making and by 2020, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be in the top five investment priorities for CIOs.  As businesses move to the digital space, there’s an ever-increasing opportunity to track, collect, process and analyze consumer data in order to generate actionable insights that improve the customer experience, brand loyalty and overall business performance.  The amount of data generated can be overwhelming and this is where AI comes in.  Big data used to be the sole domain of large corporations, but with SaaS, small businesses can now take advantage of AI algorithms with tools like Salesforce’s Eintein, Crayon or Acquisio.
  • Prioritize Information Security. Your company’s first priority should be to set up a regular computer backup Now, while onsite backup like CDs and hard drives are great for quick recovery in case of a computer crash or virus, it won’t help you in situations like fire, theft, or flood, or lost data. Cloud-backup services like Carbonite provides an offsite repository for your files, while cloud platforms such as Xero and Receipt Bank enable you to easily maintain your audit records with an app.  You can further protect your data by implementing 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) for your online accounts and using a password manager to generate and store secure passwords.
  • Use Chatbots and “Live Help” for Customer Service. Live Help, a familiar technology that has been around for years, is a widget usually found on the lower right-hand corner of the web page with an agent on standby to interact with customers in real-time.  The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) will help make Live Help smarter by learning from its interaction with customers, providing actual live agents more time to address more complex issues.  On the same note, Chatbots are now being used by more companies to assist customers, from finding products to providing shipping notifications.  These customer-focused technologies are helping shift the focus from customer service to customer success by enabling consumers to reach their goals faster. Internet communications pioneer Jeff Pulver said that this would be the “new interface for business to business, business to consumer, and consumer to business communications.”

Don’t get left behind.

These small business technology trends aren’t futuristic: these are developments that businesses are embracing now.

Maybe even your competitors.

Share this article with your colleagues, executive team or CIO. Assess where you’re setting a trend, keeping up with the pack or lagging behind.

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Chris Parker

Chief Marketing Technologist at CGP Holdings, Inc.
Founder and Chief Marketing Technologist of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com, the leading IP address lookup site. Chris has 15+ years of experience building and managing high traffic web sites. Web developer, programmer, IT Guy.
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