Small business technology trends for 2018 — and beyond!
Today’s solution is tomorrow’s bottleneck in the world of tech and modern business, so it is in the best interests of every small enterprise to be aware of the latest trends in order to stay ahead of the curve. From the proliferation of mobile and the maturing of the cloud, to the growing threat of online hacks and attacks, there is a plethora of exciting opportunities and pressing challenges for SMEs to consider. Here, we take a look at six key trends for this year and beyond.
Almost a fifth of consumers in the US now regularly use their smartphone to purchase items in-store and online, which is a notable increase on the figure from just three years ago. Consumers in Europe and the rest of the world are also embracing mobile options such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, so it makes sense for SMEs to diversify their payment initiatives to capture more sales and reduce cart abandonment rates.
Mobile tech is forecast to become the de facto method for payments by the end of the decade, according to Visa. It has even been claimed that physical wallets could be rendered obsolete in less than 15 years. A further study by MaRS has revealed that mobile payment apps are equally popular with younger and older audiences in Canada. Any small enterprise should now be looking to leverage these options to drive sales, reduce expenses, improve cash flow, increase access to actionable data, and integrate loyalty and reward programs.
The shift to mobile has also driven a new wave of embedded communication options for marketing and sales. A growing number of consumers now rely on their smartphones to browse the web, search for products and complete purchases online. Proactive enterprises are embedding buttons such as click-to-call within smartphone apps so consumers can contact a customer service rep in a simple and intuitive manner. Serving consumers with real-time communications not only meets their needs more readily and elevates the user experience, but also drives sales on both websites and apps.
The specter of online attacks, breaches and hacks has become a more pressing concern for small enterprises during the last 18 months. Almost two-thirds of data breaches in 2017 targeted businesses with less than 1,000 employees. Furthermore, the costs of these incidents are spiraling due to the devastating consequences of downtime, loss of sensitive information and long-term impact on brand reputation.
Every SME should attempt to build a working environment with security at its core. It is easier to implement business-wide measures when every department is working together to ensure data is safe and crises can be responded to appropriately. Attacks are increasing in frequency and severity, so it is important that you overhaul password schemes, update software and applications, encrypt hard drives and databases, and monitor the threat landscape on a daily basis.
Document management and CRM
The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) industry will be worth $40bn by the end of this year, according to Forbes. CRM is not a new concept, but the recent transition to the cloud has transformed its usefulness for small enterprises. Salesforce — one of the industry’s biggest vendors — claims cloud CRM can turn a fledgling startup into a “strong and vibrant” modern business.
CRM software basically allows you to scale your business as you see fit. It organizes operational data and increases cross-team collaboration, while also empowering employees to make more informed decisions. CRM can transform anything from contact management to nurturing leads and managing sales cycles effectively. A recent report from IBM shows investment in CRM is improving productivity, sales quotas and customer relationships significantly, while driving down labor costs. When deciding on a CRM solution, focus on features such as ease of use, customization, security and third-party integration.
Hybrid cloud solutions
Hybrid cloud is a solution which uses both the public and private cloud to support the critical functions of a modern enterprise. The traditional rhetoric surrounding cloud computing often touches on the pros and cons of both options in isolation. However, 2017 has seen the emergence of a more balanced approach — using the best of private and public to meet the needs and objectives of a business.
The combination of virtualized, onsite and collocated infrastructures is often the smart solution for SMEs. The public cloud drives cost savings and flexibility at scale, but certain functions are best suited to an onsite setup. This is due to concerns about security, control, regulations and compliance. A “pick and mix” approach allows you to pursue a variety of different operational directions and leverage existing IT investments.
Mobile device management
Mobile device management (MDM) is another key challenge for small enterprises due to the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. Employees now use smartphones and tablets to access sensitive business data such as emails, file sync and share schemes, and CRM software — both at work and at home. MDM systems offer the required protection and necessary oversight to keep this data safe, but various studies suggest SMEs are not taking the threat seriously.
Data is arguably a modern enterprise’s most valuable asset. This viewpoint has been reinforced by recent high-profile hacks, attacks and breaches. An MDM system will give you complete control over your company’s data, allowing you to enforce security and compliance policies, automate and distribute security tools, grant and deny data access, and delete data from devices that are no longer being used or have been stolen.
The trends covered here highlight the sheer scale of the technological challenges facing corporations across the globe in the digital age. Digital transformation, the Internet of Things, big data, analytics, cyber security and artificial intelligence are just a selection of the tech advances which will shape business during the next decade. Fortunately, enterprises can now access exceptional hosted services to transform their tech and internet-based systems. Primus can provide the technical support you need to help your business grow and thrive. We offer industry-leading internet and network services, cloud-based phone systems and award-winning voice services.