The three key technologies that will transform your small business
These are exciting and revolutionary times for small business owners. It’s hard to think of another era where so many different areas of technology have advanced so quickly, and in so many diverse ways that are invaluable to smaller entrepreneurs. Today, it is possible for the owner of a small business to have access to the kinds of tools and processes that would have been the preserve of huge companies only a few years ago. It has become simpler to talk directly to our customers, to manage our processes and to work collaboratively and seamlessly on the go, than ever before. Here are just some of the technologies that have made all this possible.
The days of simply cold calling your customers to interact with them seems a very long way away now. As small business owners, technology today has brought us potentially closer to those customers than ever before, allowing us to speak directly to them and to give them richer, more relevant interactions with our products and services. Of course, social media is only one example of how technology does this – instead of dealing with a faceless customer service department, consumers are now much more used to the idea of being able to interact directly with you and your business. If a train is delayed, you’ll tweet about it, and a real person at the train company will probably tweet you back to say sorry.
There are exciting benefits to this, particularly for the small business owner. Social media allows us to travel with our customers as they go on the purchasing journey – and according to research by the experts at Neat.com leads who have been engaged with on social media move through the buying process 25 per cent more quickly. Even more encouragingly, those companies who do bother to interact socially with their customers enjoy a 22 per cent higher conversion rate with those customers. For a small business owner, those margins are huge.
Any technology that reduces your costs, and cuts the amount of expensive equipment you require to store valuable data securely on site has to be welcome. Cloud computing has been hugely transformative, changing not just the way that we access and interact with information, but also how we behave and work day-to-day. As small business owners, we have now have the ability to access huge amounts of information quickly and seamlessly, on the go. Small businesses now have the same access to powerful technology as multinationals, and team collaboration can work efficiently, flexibly and in a way that reduces errors and cuts duplication of effort.
Of course, this all translates into real world cost savings too, with around 82 per cent of companies now saving money by moving their systems on to the cloud. By making complex systems simpler, the cloud is changing way that small businesses run their processes, reducing the operational burden and allowing them to concentrate on the core areas of their businesses
You’ve probably heard of blockchain – the technology behind crypto currencies like Bitcoin – but you may not be entirely sure how it works or how it is relevant to you as a small business owner. Well, in simple terms, the technology creates what is known as a ‘distributed ledger’ – essentially a database or ledger that exists on a networked chain of computers.
These computers periodically create records of the shared ledger, called ‘blocks’, which each contain information on the block before them. This forms a ‘blockchain’ which is secured by powerful encryption. The beauty of the system is that the information in the blockchain is shared on every single linked computer – making it almost impossible to hack.
The potential benefits of this technology are huge. Automated payments – triggered once the transaction part of a blockchain has been completed – could help to improve cash flow. Blockchain can also help to create clear and transparent chains of provenance for goods within your supply chain.
And finally, blockchain technology could also deal a potentially fatal blow to the role of an intermediary. Blockchain allows parties to be able to make agreements or transactions quickly, directly and securely, without the need for a middle person – meaning reduced costs for some, but also presenting real existential threat for those who make their money from working as an intermediary.