The only way small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can keep up with big businesses is by being smarter, faster, and more agile in their markets. Yet, with smaller teams, smaller budgets, and smaller audiences, SMBs rarely have the capability to compete with their major corporate challengers – unless they equip themselves with the latest and greatest tech.
It takes a lot of effort for big businesses to adopt emerging technology thoroughly and successfully. Because large companies have several hundred employees, multiple office spaces, and an established procedure for accomplishing tasks, it can take months and millions of dollars to integrate a novel idea. Meanwhile, SMBs, with their smaller endeavors, can nimbly embrace tech that promises to improve their practices.
Yet, few SMBs jump when tech trends emerge. The following five trends, which are already boosting SMB output around the world, might convince SMBs to take more risks with new tech.
1. Screenless Browsing
Luddites might wonder whether SMBs have employed “screenless browsing” techniques for centuries as customers can visit stores and browse racks and shelves of products without the help of technology. However, screenless browsing allows consumers to find exactly what they want without looking. With screenless browsing, users interface with an artificial intelligence; anyone who has used Siri, Cortana, or Alexa – or began a sentence with “O.K. Google…” – has already taken advantage of this tech. Leading IT groups predict screenless browsing to dominate 30 percent of web interactions by 2020.
Screenless browsing is especially useful to SMBs because it is safer and more efficient than consumers searching for themselves. While they are engaging in other activities, like driving and exercising, consumers can find and buy the products they want and need, giving SMBs more opportunities to sell.
2. Wearable Devices
These days, wearable devices are so much more than fitness trackers. Smartwatches sync with other smart devices to provide notification of messages and control over automated home systems. Smart glasses have the features of smartwatches plus additional opportunities with AR. Helmets, earbuds, soles of shoes, and compression sleeves can play audio and video, track vital health statistics, and communicate with networks.
SMBs can use wearables in a variety of ways. Some SMBs are giving employees smart fitness trackers to encourage healthy lifestyles and cut back on health benefits spending. Others are urging consumers to use wearable devices to interact with the business in diverse and unique ways. As consumers move away from devices with screens, SMBs gain new and exciting opportunities to build business.
3. Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) has been imminent for several years, with apps here and stores there adopting AR tech slowly but surely. In 2016, the mobile game Pokémon Go represented a major development in the tech, as consumers everywhere got familiar with AR possibilities. Now that nearly everyone has interacted with AR in one way or another, SMBs should feel more comfortable integrating AR opportunities in their shopping experiences. Using screens in stores or branded apps, SMBs can help users visualize products in a real environment, making AR a thrilling and informative tool for businesses and consumers alike.
4. Mobile Payment
Mobile payment is hardly new. In fact, tech leaders have been working on creating digital currencies and transaction options since the early ‘80s. Still, mobile wallets are only just beginning to gain popularity among consumers, which means SMBs should begin adapting to accepting mobile payments. Mobile payments (sometimes called contactless payments) are faster, more convenient, and more analyzable than traditional payment options. Plus, SMBs can use digital wallets to provide targeted discounts and sales as well as develop loyalty programs. Often, all it takes to accept mobile payments is a mobile-capable merchant services provider, which is easy enough for most SMBs to switch to.
5. CRM Tools
The customer might always be right, but there is more to managing customer experience than acquiescing to every consumer demand. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a critical field, especially for SMBs who desperately need customer support to survive the war with big businesses.
Fortunately, the tech revolution has produced a number of exceedingly useful CRM tools. CRM software helps SMBs track real customer behavior, giving them greater insight into what aspects of the business they should improve. Additionally, optimal CRM allows SMBs to cultivate personal relationships with customers — an activity that develops true loyalty amongst audiences and an endeavor that big businesses are most often utterly hopeless at.