As technology progresses, there are have been a number of new solutions available for small business owners. While some aim to increase productivity, others are designed to help companies interact with clients more efficiently. This has allowed smaller businesses to grow in a variety of ways and has reduced the discrepancies between them and large corporations.
Certain areas are growing faster than others, such as cloud-based software and tools for remote workers
. For many businesses, this has changed the way they acquire talent because they can hire employees from anywhere.
This trend toward remote work has been developing over the past decade, but it has become even more common thanks to newer tech solutions that allow workers to share and collaborate on projects from different locations.
Better technology has also made it possible for small businesses to have a hand in markets formerly dominated by bigger companies. Startups and small businesses now have access to data and software that is affordable and allows them to compete like never before.
Top 5 important tech solutions for small business owners in 2019
There are many small business technology solutions coming out every year that can give an edge to small businesses. We’ll discuss what they are and how they can help your small business.
1. Software for a remote workforce
While remote work has been possible for many years, it’s now even more of an option for businesses that wouldn’t normally consider it. Much of this has to do with an increase in productivity and collaborative software. Apps that offer greater communication such as Slack
provide employees with a channel where they can easily keep in touch with one another.
Some of these tech solutions have been available for a while - BaseCamp launched in 2004 - but they have become more refined and accessible. In 2019, we’re likely to see more options for remote workforces. This could then lead to more competitive pricing which then benefits smaller companies working on leaner budgets.
As remote work becomes more commonplace, businesses need software that can help them keep up.
The rise of SaaS technologies
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies are thriving thanks to the rise of remote work. More software is being created to fit certain industries, which has led to a growth in these types of businesses. This means that you can purchase software that caters directly to the types of products or services your business sells. These applications are directly designed to work with your company and its technological needs. Integration with other apps has made it simpler to keep track of important data, while it is also easier to track customer engagement than ever before.
Customer service has also been enhanced in a number of ways through the use of chatbots and technology-guided returns, while software that only provides one function is being phased out for applications that can handle a number of tasks at once. The ideal application is one that provides a suite of services, including data management, customer support communications, and performance metrics.
For the rest of 2019 and into the future, software will become more refined and allow for greater communication and flexibility for a workforce that’s not in a traditional office setting. As the software also becomes less expensive, small businesses can make their names in industries that have been dominated by giants. With greater tools for building relationships with customers and analyzing data, small businesses are bound to run more effectively and competitively.
2. The emergence of 5G
While flashier technologies such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality
typically attract more interest, the technology behind what will make these possible is just as interesting and potentially more important. We’re talking about the impending upgrade from 4G wireless networks to 5G. It’s long been speculated about when 5G will become widely available for mobile devices, and it’s looking like 2019 is the year.
With 5G, network speeds are expected to increase up to 100x  their current rate, meaning that performing online transactions, deliveries, and data collection will be faster and easier than ever. This also opens up new possibilities for mobile. As more customers choose to make transactions with mobile payment apps, for example, a faster internet connection can be important for small businesses to keep up.
Better internal productivity
5G opens the doors for better internal communication, too. One of the main issues of having a workforce located in a number of places has been problems with WiFi connections and latency. A fast 5G connection can help reduce these issues by offering faster transference of data and enhanced coverage around the globe. This greater connectivity will allow small businesses to work faster while also avoiding technical issues, which can help improve productivity.
As digital technology solutions update for more effective integration between software, 5G can speed up workflow and reduce download times for large files. It will also make it easier for employees to deliver items to clients, whether it’s an online product or a physical one.
3. AI and data privacy
While it may seem like technology of the future, AI is already being used by a variety of companies. In fact, you may already be using it yourself. Navigation apps, streaming services, and ride-sharing apps all use some form of AI technology. And as it becomes smarter, AI is going to be involved in almost every industry, which then creates new jobs and provides more data for small businesses to reach customers.
For many small businesses, AI will be used to track customer behaviour and provide insights on trends. This is already incorporated into some e-commerce platforms, but with better, more refined data, it can provide companies with information for advertising and marketing. AI will only continue to get better at predicting behaviour patterns while offering analyses of purchases.
Larger businesses and corporations may use AI differently. Automated robots are being introduced to the workforce with programming to make calculations, such as redirecting harvesting equipment on farms for greater yield. In the future, small businesses may employ kiosks to help customers with purchases or to answer any questions they may have with a product.
However, even for small businesses, bots are likely to make a difference in how transactions are performed online. In the near future, it’s possible that most purchases won’t need to be supervised by a human and that bots will be able to provide a better shopping experience for customers. Many businesses are looking to find a balance between AI and human interaction
in order to increase functionality and customer satisfaction.
The debate over privacy
As more information is gathered and utilized by AI, there are growing concerns about privacy and how customers can be affected by handing over their data. Just as larger companies should be concerned with security breaches
, the same goes for small businesses, especially those offering e-commerce solutions to their customers.
As e-commerce becomes the preferred way to shop for many users, businesses of all sizes are figuring out how they can use data from multiple channels as a way to anticipate customer behavior. Of course, this lends itself to ethical concerns related to privacy and how much access businesses should have to customer information. Privacy will be a big issue within the next few years, and it could end up affecting how companies market themselves.
4. Mobile sites and payments
In addition to better AI in e-commerce, more companies are also looking to how they can take advantage of trends in mobile. Smartphones have been credited with more than 50% of online traffic , meaning most transactions are completed on a device other than a desktop or laptop computer.
This also means many small businesses have to consider new methods of marketing, including mobile apps, which have become easier than ever to create. Depending on the industry, these apps can offer features like video chat, improved customer service, and the ability to easily purchase products. Using an app can further develop relationships with a client base while also giving you a leg up over competitors who haven’t yet taken advantage of mobile.
While you may conduct your business operations with a computer, it’s important to know that your customers are mostly on mobile. In addition to considering an app, it’s crucial to optimize your website for mobile browsers. You’re bound to lose customers if they struggle to use your site on their smartphones or tablets.
Payments go mobile
More widespread use of one-touch payment options is on the horizon. Some businesses have already made the leap by installing terminals that work with a smartphone or watch, and this will only become more common as the tech is easier and more affordable to implement.
Mobile payments offer a fast and simple way to make a transaction by cutting out the time it takes to swipe or insert a card. Advanced encryption also makes the process more secure for the customer.
While most of the companies that are currently accepting mobile payments are established corporations, it won’t be long before smaller businesses can jump on the bandwagon. By scanning a barcode on a phone, customers can avoid long lines and complete purchases faster and more efficiently.
5. Better inventory management and analytical tools
Improper inventory management can lead to over orders and cause issues with cash flow. While small business owners may not immediately jump to inventory management as a major need, it’s crucial to have a dedicated system for tracking which products are going in and out.
This has led to the creation of software built specifically to track inventory for small to medium-sized businesses. For greater insights into which products are doing well and which need to be revised or marketed better, a program that analyzes inventory can make a huge difference for a business unaware of how well a product is selling. Thankfully, there are plenty of applications that have been created for this, such as Cin7 and TradeGecko.
Inventory management software often offers integration with other software in order to provide small business owners a better sense of where they can improve. This information can include which payment method is most popular, which products may be underperforming, and when transactions seem to reach their peak. This type of data lends itself to helping companies perform better, even if they’re small and only selling a few different products.
2019 will be an interesting year in terms of technological advancement for businesses. Faster communication, more data, and better automation are paving the way for new advances in a number of different industries. Small business owners can benefit greatly from the new technology trends this year, and by staying on top of them you can increase your bottom line and improve your customer’s experience.
About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.