In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, small businesses have more opportunities than ever. Many of these call for leveraging technology to their advantage. Embracing the right tech trends can help businesses compete. It enables them to streamline operations, enhance customer experiences, and fuel growth.
But it can be confusing knowing which routes to take. Most small businesses need to choose the route that is going to bring the biggest return.
Below, we’ll explore five small business tech trends. These trends have the potential to drive success. As well as propel your business forward in an increasingly competitive market.
1. Cloud Computing: Expanding Possibilities
Cloud computing has emerged as a game-changer for businesses of all sizes. And some believe small businesses are among the most benefitted. 82% of small to medium businesses report reduced costs after adopting cloud tools.
The cloud offers many benefits. It’s a cost-effective and scalable solution for data storage, software access, and collaboration. By migrating to the cloud, small businesses can save. They cut the need for on-premises infrastructure. This reduces maintenance costs and gives enhanced flexibility.
Also, cloud-based tools and platforms enable teams to work remotely. This can promote collaboration and improve productivity. Working in the cloud offers access to real-time data and apps from any location. This enables small businesses to make informed decisions faster. They can also respond to market changes with agility.
2. Artificial Intelligence: Automating Efficiency
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized the way businesses operate. This year alone, ChatGPT has completely transformed many business apps. We cannot overstate AI’s potential benefits for small businesses.
AI-powered tools and algorithms can automate routine tasks. Such as data entry, customer service, and inventory management. This frees up valuable time for employees to focus on higher-value activities.
Chatbots, for instance, enable small businesses to provide 24/7 customer support. All without the need for more staff or paying overtime hours.
AI also empowers businesses to gain actionable insights from vast amounts of data. This helps them optimize processes, personalize marketing strategies, and enhance customer experiences.
Embracing AI technologies can give small businesses a competitive edge. It does this by boosting efficiency, reducing costs, and improving decision-making.
3. E-commerce and Mobile Commerce: Expanding Reach
The rise of e-commerce and mobile commerce has opened up new avenues for small businesses. They can now easily reach a global audience. Using websites and apps, companies can sell anywhere at any time.
It’s easier than ever to put up a secure payment gateway and take payments online. These “plug-and-play” e-commerce sites and apps can create a seamless user experience. This allows small businesses to build trust and encourage repeat purchases.
Businesses can easily understand customer preferences by leveraging data analytics. They can also optimize inventory management and personalize marketing campaigns.
By embracing e-commerce and mobile commerce, small businesses can grow quickly. They can extend their reach beyond geographical boundaries. As well as tap into new markets, thereby fueling growth opportunities.
4. Data Security: Safeguarding Trust
As businesses increasingly rely on digital technologies, data security becomes paramount. Small businesses are just as vulnerable to cyber threats as larger enterprises. This makes it essential to prioritize data security measures.
46% of all data breaches impact businesses with less than 1,000 employees.
It’s important to put robust cybersecurity practices in place. This includes things like:
Regular data backups
Identity and access management
Advanced threat protection
Additionally, two more tactics to proactively manage risks include:
Staying informed about emerging threats
Investing in employee training
Customers value businesses that focus on their data security. A strong security posture can instill trust and confidence. This leads to long-term customer loyalty and positive brand reputation.
5. Automation and Workflow Integration: Streamlining Operations
Automating business processes can significantly streamline operations. When small businesses integrate workflows they save time and money. Workflow automation eliminates repetitive manual tasks. It also reduces human error and enhances efficiency.
Think about integrating various systems and applications. Such as customer relationship management (CRM), project management, and accounting software. Integration can end silos and ensure seamless information flow across different departments.
Other benefits include:
Enabling better coordination
Optimizing resource allocation
Enhancing customer satisfaction
Small businesses that leverage automation and workflow integration gain a competitive advantage. They operate more efficiently and deliver superior experiences to their customers.
Take an Important Step Toward Digital Growth
In today’s digital era, small businesses have a ton of tech tools and trends at their disposal. But it takes guidance to know what to do and how to do it.
While embracing cloud computing, AI, e-commerce, data security, and automation can help. To stay competitive small businesses need a clear and affordable path. One that makes sense for their business goals.
We can be your digital transformation guide.
Give us a call today to schedule a chat about tech solutions to fuel your growth.
Whether you sell shoes or run an accounting firm, you need some type of technology to operate. Today’s companies aren’t just in the business of selling their own goods and services anymore. They also must master various types of digital tools.
These include software, payment systems, computers, Wi-Fi networks, mobile devices, and more. Companies also need to protect their devices and network.. If that technology isn’t working, it can impact a business significantly.
98% of surveyed organizations say that just one hour of IT downtime costs more than $100,000. The reliance on technology means that every company is now a technology company.
This is the case no matter what products you sell or services you provide. Let’s discuss exactly why this is the case in today’s world.
What Makes Technology a Backbone of Any Business?
1. Technology Is a Critical Part of Business
Even farmers use tech to check commodity prices, sell livestock, and keep their books. Most companies couldn’t operate without their software. Or without databases filled with important information.
IT downtime is so devastating for this very reason. Remember the breaches impacting global meat producer JBS and Colonial pipeline? Those companies had to halt operations because of ransomware attacks.
They both paid the ransom to their attackers so they could begin operating again. Without the technology that’s become a normal part of our day, a lot of companies would close.
2. Customers Expect an Excellent Digital Experience
Customer experience came in first in a survey of top business priorities for the next 5 years. Nearly 46% of respondents said it was at the top of their list.
If a customer has just one bad experience with your company, they will likely go elsewhere. In a digital world, those experiences are often:
Navigating your website
Appointment scheduling ease
Helpfulness of online chat
Response time from customer support
Ability to contact your company via social media
To keep up with consumer expectations in 2023 and beyond, means you need to use technology. From your website to your payment experience, people expect a smooth digital flow.
3. Employees Need Devices to Drive Productivity
How do employees work productivity without the use of a computer, tablet, or mobile device? These devices keep staff connected to each other and your customer data. Devices enable communication and are how much of the work in offices gets done. If they don’t run well, business productivity suffers.
4. AI & Automation Help Companies Stay Competitive
AI and automation help organizations move faster. AI can personalize a consumer shopping experience. Automation can help sales teams close 30% more deals and improve conversions by over 200%.
To stay competitive, companies must integrate technology tools with AI and automation capabilities. This means they need to know the best ways to use these tools. Plus, integrate them well with existing solutions.
5. Information Is Being Generated at a Rapid Pace
Companies generate information digitally at a dizzying pace. Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to go back to all the paper files? You’d need a separate building just for all the filing cabinets.
Files, documents, and customer records are largely digital now. Keeping track of all that information and making it searchable requires technology skills.
6. Vendors/Suppliers Are Leaving Legacy Systems Behind
Think of the vendors you use to run your business. Could you interact with any of them offline only? No email, no digital documents? In most cases, the answer is, “No.”
The companies that you rely on for your business are also “technology companies” in the same way. Most will be leaving behind legacy systems like fax machines and paper documents. Thus, you need to use digital means to interact with them.
7. It’s Difficult to Grow Without Tech Innovation
People are limited by what they can mentally and physically do in a day. Computers and technology have exponentially increased that. They do a lot of the processing and manual work.
The cloud is often touted as leveling the playing field for small businesses. It allows smaller companies to leverage technology to do more affordably.
It’s hard to continue growing your business without the smart use of digital tools. This includes reviewing your technology infrastructure and looking at innovations on the horizon.
8. Business Continuity Needs
Business continuity is about keeping your company running despite any crisis events. One natural disaster could severely impact a building and everything in it. But, if you are storing your data in the cloud and using cloud software, your business can still operate.
Companies that aren’t employing backup systems are at significant risk. Tech solutions create the ability to continue operating from anywhere, increasing business resiliency.
What Does Your Innovation Roadmap Look Like?
Using technology securely and to its fullest can be a full-time job. Give us a call today, we can help take that burden off your shoulders.
The new buzzword around town is “metaverse.” But what does that actually mean for businesses? Is it just something that social media companies need to be concerned about?
According to people like Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, the metaverse is coming. He stated that “Life without AR will soon be unthinkable.” Whether that’s a short-term or long-off prediction, companies need to be ready.
First comes the understanding of what the metaverse is. Metaverse is a general term – hence why it’s not capitalized like a proper name. The metaverse refers to a collective upgrade of the internet to a 3D virtual environment. This would be a world interconnected between various sites. These sites would reflect the immersive games that you see today.
Did Facebook/Meta invent the metaverse? No.
The idea of connected 3D immersive worlds has been around for decades. Several online gaming companies have staked a territory in the metaverse. But their applications are less interconnected.
What’s one of the best representations of the early metaverse? It’s a short-lived software called Adobe Atmosphere. This 3D immersive experience included interconnected online worlds. It also gave people the ability to chat with others. It was a bit before its time but shows how the concept of the metaverse has been around for a while.
The metaverse is getting attention now because technology has advanced. It has begun to catch up to the needs of such a world. This includes fast internet connections and immense processing power. It also includes a delivery method for 3D that works on most PCs.
Are we there yet? Not quite. But the metaverse is picking up steam. Recently, Microsoft announced a partnership with Meta. This partnership is to bring Microsoft 365 apps into the metaverse. This means collaboration in an entirely new way. Microsoft notes that 50% of Gen Z and millennials expect to do some of their work in the metaverse in the next two years.
How Does the Metaverse Impact Your Company?
With companies like Microsoft looking at the future of AR/VR, it could be a reality soon. You can expect the metaverse to touch your own company in some way in the next few years. Here’s a preview of what it may impact.
Where to Advertise
When the internet was first introduced, companies didn’t immediately realize its potential. Now, most companies wouldn’t consider operating without a website. It’s a necessity for driving leads and converting sales.
If the metaverse takes off as a new 3D iteration of the internet, it could be just as important. This means exploring metaverse-type advertising in virtual worlds. Also, potentially creating your own VR site or showroom.
How to Service Customers
As the popularity of social media took off, companies realized customers used it to reach out. Seventy-nine percent of consumers expect companies to respond to a social media message. And they expect that response within a day.
To address that need, many businesses have a social media presence. They use this for marketing and to answer questions and inquiries from customers.
The metaverse may be the next step. If people begin hanging out there, they will expect to interact with businesses in that space. Just like they do now with social networks.
This means companies need to be aware of how customers may be using the metaverse as it grows. Adding a question about metaverse use to a year-end customer survey could be a way to be proactive on this topic.
One of the touted benefits of the metaverse is its ability to enable more immersive training. This could greatly increase training capabilities for everyone from doctors to forklift operators.
Imagine being able to replicate a task more closely in a virtual world. A person could safely make mistakes there. Then they could grow proficient before doing that thing in real life.
Start thinking about the types of training that your employees need. Then, look at ways that a VR world may make the training safer or more efficient. The metaverse may not have what you’re looking for now. But with the pace of technological advancement, it could in a year or two.
More Immersive Remote Team Collaboration
Virtual meetings skyrocketed out of necessity during the pandemic. Now, meeting by Teams or Zoom is commonplace. The next generation of online team meetings may end up being in a virtual world.
As we noted earlier, Microsoft is already working on bringing its apps into a virtual space. Add a few avatars and an immersive setting. Suddenly, you have a completely different meeting experience.
What’s one more way to enhance remote team collaboration in the metaverse? It has to do with building design and maintenance. Imagine being able to walk through a 3D recreation of a space before it’s built. Then fine-tuning the construction while inside that space.
Is Your Business Ready for the Next Digital Transformation?
What are your digital transformation plans for the next 12 months? The next three years? If you’re not sure where to begin, we can help. Contact us today to schedule a technology brainstorming session.
Just five or six years ago, VoIP was still considered a “different” type of business phone system. One that wasn’t the norm. But the pandemic changed that way of thinking. Now internet-based phone systems aren’t simply the norm. They’re mandatory for business continuity.
During the pandemic, VoIP and video conferencing have skyrocketed by over 210%. This is largely due to the move to remote work and hybrid offices. Sixty-seven percent of surveyed companies say switching to VoIP helps improve call handling.
So, no longer is the business phone system tied to a physical location. This enables fluid management of a business with staff spread out over many locations.
Additionally, VoIP significantly reduces costs for businesses. The technology is much cheaper to use than a traditional landline-based system. Calling plans are also often less expensive, and a company can add new numbers for very little cost.
VoIP has several helpful features for small businesses. But owners are busy and may not have time to have all of them enabled.
What are the best features to drive efficiency, productivity, and positive caller experience?
Here are some of the best features of cloud-based business phone systems to leverage.
In many small companies, the person answering the phone also has a lot of other duties. You can free up that person’s time and give the caller a better experience with an automated attendant.
An auto-attendant acts as a company directory. It will forward calls to the correct department or staff member for you. Record a pleasant greeting and ask the caller a few questions. Such as, “Press or say 1 for sales, 2 for technical support,” etc.
The caller gets the person they need without having to explain why they’re calling twice. Once to the person that answers the phone and once to the person they’re transferred to.
Find Me/Follow Me
What’s the most favorite user feature for VoIP? According to 77% of surveyed employees, it’s the Find Me/Follow Me feature. This includes the ability to use a virtual phone number that is accessible from all devices. Staff can also transfer calls from one device to another with ease.
Whether you are on a PC, in a conference room, or on your smartphone, you can get your calls. This feature reduces friction and allows people to give out a single phone number. Callers can then use that number to reach the person via mobile, home office, or onsite office.
Playing pleasant music while your callers are on hold might seem like a small thing. But it can have a big impact on customer satisfaction and lead generation activities.
We found some eye-opening statistics from a study on hold music versus silence. In the study, researchers kept people on hold for 1 minute. Results showed:
On hold in silence: Over 50% of the callers hung up
On hold with music: Only 13% of the callers hung up
Additionally, 45% of the silent group that did not hang up thought they were on hold for 3-5 minutes. They were on hold for just one minute. While on the music side, 56% of people thought they were on hold for less than one minute.
So, you can see the power of activating that one simple feature of your VoIP system. You may notice happier customers and fewer leads hanging up before they reach anyone.
Voicemail Transcription to Email
When you’re coming out of a meeting, going through a string of voicemails can be frustrating. You have to listen to each one to figure out the people to call back first.
Voicemail to email in VoIP services, provides recorded voicemails emailed to you. This also comes with a transcription of the message. You can quickly glance through the emails and scan the text to rank callbacks. No need to listen to every message first.
Ring groups are an especially helpful feature if you have a small team. It allows a group of numbers to ring simultaneously until one person in the group picks up.
This means that another staff member may be able to assist a caller, rather than them needing to leave a message. Ring groups are great to set up for sales teams, accounting teams, and customer support teams.
Another bonus of VoIP phone systems over analog is that you get real-time call reporting. What are your busiest times when you need more staff? Do you have a problem with calls not getting answered fast enough?
Your call reporting can give you insight into those things and more. Make sure you check out these reports and then automate the ones you like so you’ll see them regularly.
This isn’t a system feature, but it’s important to have. If you sign up for VoIP from a company halfway around the world, you don’t have any local support when you need it.
Having someone that can come to your office is important. They can set up VoIP desk phones and help you optimize ring groups, mobile apps, and more. Your business phone system is one of the most important pieces of technology you have. Make sure you have the local support you need to keep it operating reliably.
Looking for Local VoIP Solutions?
Get expert VoIP services and local support. We’ll integrate your cloud-based phone system with your entire technology environment. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Data entry can be a real drag for salespeople. The time they spend on administrative tasks is time away from customer interactions. But that data is vital.
It’s important to capture customer orders, quotes, needs, and more. Lead and sales reporting help sales managers know where to direct their attention. Analytics also help drive more efficient ways of closing the deal.
Microsoft has taken up the mantle of this challenge. It is about to launch a new digital experience for sales teams. Microsoft Viva Sales is part of the “Viva” line of applications. These include things like Viva Insights for improved staff wellbeing. As well as Viva Learning for staff development.
The Viva apps natively integrate with MS Teams and the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. They include automation designed to eliminate boring tasks and enable more work engagement.
Viva Sales is a “CRM helper” application. We’ll go through some of the most asked questions about the app, its features, and when you can get it.
What Is Microsoft Viva Sales?
Viva Sales is an application that will provide sales and lead insights. These insights populate throughout Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. The focus of the app is to cut unnecessary manual entry to give sellers more time to sell.
How Does Viva Sales Work? Is It a CRM?
Viva Sales is NOT going to replace your normal CRM platform. Instead, it connects to your CRM and other sales-related apps. It leverages the data from these connections. This makes it easier for salespeople to get the prospect data they need to enable their work.
Salespeople spend approximately 34% of their time on administrative tasks.
Viva Sales Basics
Some of the core advantages of Viva Sales are:
Eliminate Forms: Data entry for sales professionals is greatly reduced. This frees them up for more customer relationship building.
Powerful Data Leveraging: Viva Sales connects to several platforms. This includes non-Microsoft programs and CRMs. The integration allows salespeople to cross-reference data points and gain valuable insights.
AI-Driven Help: Salespeople will get prompts that are AI-driven. These suggestions and reminders help them along in the sales process with a lead.
Microsoft Viva Sales provides sales-specific insights throughout the various M365 applications. Salespeople natively see important customer details, wherever they are. Including in their Outlook Calendar or when in their Microsoft or non-Microsoft CRM.
Viva Sales Features
Tag to Capture Sales Interactions
Tagging is also known as using someone’s “@name” to get their attention. Tagging is a popular software integration used throughout many cloud-based apps. It’s also used within Microsoft 365.
Salespeople can use the familiar tagging function. They can use it to capture data from another M365 application for a prospect or customer. This includes adding someone to a list of customers by using a tag for their Viva Sales name. The system will capture the contextual information on the lead or customer.
Viva Sales makes it easier than ever to collaborate with your team on a sales prospect or customer. You don’t have to chase down information to copy/paste into a message. Use that tagging function to populate lead information from Viva Sales in seconds.
You can also easily edit or open a lead/customer record. No need to look for and open another app. The process gets you where you need to go in as few clicks as possible.
Call Summaries & Integrated Data
One thing that customers and salespeople hate is a lack of understanding. For example, when a salesperson doesn’t know about a recent customer interaction.
This can happen when company communication systems store data from different sources separately. Such as phone call messages being in one place and a customer’s website chat session being in another.
Viva Sales brings all that customer engagement data together into a single view. This allows the salesperson to see call summaries and capture call action items.
Download & Customize
Salespeople that prefer an Excel view of their contact list can get this from Viva Sales. Download lead and customer lists. Customize the application per the organization’s needs.
When Will Viva Sales Be Available?
Microsoft has announced that Viva Sales will be “coming in Q4 2022.” There is no exact date for the launch yet, but you can be sure that we will keep an eye on this!
Today, we’re observing World Environment Day with a quiz question:
What makes your mobile phone work?
Pixel dust, tiny hamsters on wheels, microscopic pulleys and levers?
Those would all be more environmentally friendly than the heavy metals that live in your phone (though we can’t say for sure about the pixel dust).
That’s right: Your phone depends on heavy metals like cadmium and lead to function. And when the phone has served its purpose and decides it’s time for its soul to go to e-heaven, those heavy metals could contaminate the environment if that phone is unceremoniously tossed in the trash.
It’s not just phones that cause heavy metal pollution when disposed of improperly — computer components, monitors, printers, tablets, smart devices (like watches), and their batteries all contain substances that, when they come into contact with soil and water, create dangerous environmental conditions. It’s called “e-waste,” and it is responsible for over two-thirds of the heavy metals that are found in landfills.
That may sound vaguely ominous — but the public health impact is very real. Heavy metals in landfills leach into groundwater and are associated with high rates of cancer and birth defects. Makes you wish that pixel dust were really a thing, doesn’t it?
So, these devices (like phones, watches, monitors and old TVs) are easy to bury in a dumpster, but we beg you: Please don’t be tempted to just pitch old electronics.
The better idea is to recycle. Recycling is easier than ever, with dozen of locations throughout Chicagoland to drop off your recyclable materials.
We leave you with a closing thought: Why not celebrate World Environment Day by actually enjoying the environment? Put the phone down and get outside. Take your kids to the park. Go for a walk. Enjoy the sunshine. Your phone and laptop won’t mind at all.