A major asset to growing a successful business is the ability to harness the full potential of modern technology. However, utilizing modern technology to the advantage of your business doesn’t mean blindly following the status quo. Instead, it requires building a better understanding of how to test the benefits of implementing newer and rapidly evolving technologies in your business with relatively limited resources. Although there’s perhaps far too much talk these days of “out with the old and in the new”, there are undoubtedly some trends in the world of corporate technology that have gone from being just ‘trends’ to becoming essential.
#1. Remote Workforce
According to a study by enterprise software company Intuit, more than 40% of the workforce in the US will be freelancers by 2020. Already, nearly half of employees in the US now work from home either part or full-time, according to a recent study by the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The rapid and unprecedented rise of cloud computing technologies and services has largely been responsible for the increasingly liquid workforce in the US and beyond. In fact, the trend to work from home or as a freelancer is rapidly following suit in the UK and across much of the rest of the developed world.
Although modern technology greatly helps to facilitate the remote workforce, there are some clear benefits of allowing your staff to work from home, at least on occasion. No longer do job roles have to involve being fixed in one place, thus allowing your employees the freedom to work from home and on the move. This, in turn, means that you don’t need to have as much office space or hardware resources. At the same time, the greater flexibility affords employees the luxury of being able to work where they feel more comfortable and, most importantly, where they are most productive.
#2. Automated Marketing
As technology gets smarter, there are fewer jobs that actual people need to take care of, thus significantly reducing the costs of running a modern business. According to a study by Gartner Research in 2014, businesses were spending just over ten percent of their annual revenue on marketing, with well over half of this amount being spent on digital marketing specifically. Overall marketing budgets continue to increase substantially, largely in line with the ever-increasing amount of opportunities afforded by digital technologies. As such, automation promises to make digital marketing more cost-effective and wider-reaching.
For many years, reputable businesses have been hesitant to adopt automated marketing for fear of losing their voices to robots. However, newer technologies have given rise to more intelligent automation which, in turn, reduces the complexity of operations and allows for constant experimentation and improvement. However, the human element will continue to remain essential in any marketing strategy, particularly in the case of growing businesses still trying to discover the most suitable marketing tactics for themselves. However, marketing automation can become an enormously effective extension of the human element of your business.
#3. App Development
According to the State of Mobile Web – US 2015 report, 56% of traffic to the world’s most popular websites now takes place on the small screen. Additionally, Smart Insights recently revealed that 89% of time spent on mobile media was spent using mobile apps, as opposed to only 11% being spent using the mobile web itself. The unprecedented increase in app usage over recent years has made it clearer than ever that businesses need to include mobile as an integral part of their sales and marketing strategy. These days, it’s often not enough to simply have a mobile-friendly website.
Statista revealed in June, 2016 that were already 2.2 million apps available in the Google Play store, followed by 2 million in the Apple App Store. Businesses are increasingly leveraging the potential of apps to provide better customer service and tap into a potentially powerful marketing channel. Small businesses can take advantage of things like mobile-specific customer loyalty programs, geo-targeting, mobile payments, sales reminders and, of course, quick and simple communication. In fact, it’s not always necessary to have your own app developed either, since there are many increasingly popular industry-specific apps that you can take advantage of.
#4. New Payment Methods
Virtually every serious business these days accepts credit cards, and even the most technologically clueless among us generally know how to send and receive payments on PayPal. However, the coming years will no doubt see electronic payments becoming even easier, likely to the point where cash will become almost obsolete in everyday life. The ubiquity of smartphones has largely been responsible for the rise of mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay, which allow consumers to make payments using their smartphones rather than with a credit card or cash.
Mobile payments have taken a while to catch on, with only 17 percent of consumers using them regularly, according to a study conducted by Creditcard.com. Nonetheless, consumers are steadily becoming more familiar with the technology, and it’s now possible to pay with a smartphone almost anywhere where you can swipe a contactless credit or debit card. At the same time, e-commerce stores are under constantly increasing pressure to offer more payment systems, particularly as consumers become more concerned about issues pertaining to online security. Many shoppers are now abandoning their shopping cart if you don’t accept the payment method they prefer, and are turning to retailers that do.
#5. Big Data Analytics
Big data has become one of the biggest buzzwords of recent years. As companies of all sizes rely more and more on the internet for sales, marketing, customer service and a whole raft of other core operations, big data becomes more relevant to the extent that it’s now completely changed the way people do business. The reason behind the importance of big data is simple – every online activity creates data that businesses can use to learn more about their existing and potential customers, and garner invaluable insights into their markets. The amount of raw informational material gathered is often vast, hence the necessity for big data analytics platforms.
Making sense of the colossal amount of data generated by information technology-related activities is where analytics tools come into play. To convert all of the data into meaningful statistics that businesses can use to help grow and improve their marketing strategies, big data analytics platforms, such as Cloudera, Pivotal, SAP, and Oracle have become vital solutions for many businesses. In the case of small businesses, which generally cannot afford and do not need to maintain large data centers of their own, big data analytics is usually taken care of by way of a cloud-based platform such as those mentioned above.
Information technology has had a profound effect on business throughout its existence but, today, we see a very different corporate IT environment even compared to that of just a few years ago. Today, the cloud envelops almost everything that small businesses do when it comes to computing and the internet, and it is more important than ever to stay one step ahead to remain competitive.