New-generation information technology continues to offer more efficiencies for small and midsize businesses, and for those ready to take a leap and invest in these fast new tools and services, 2018 promises to be a good year.
So what exactly are the top technology trends for small businesses? Well, basically anything that a large enterprise needs and uses, midrange-size companies also can put to work. This is not a trickle-down-type process; the midrange enterprise market is the largest in the world, and tech companies continue to come out with new and improved products designed specifically for them.
While those products and services may indeed have been originated for Fortune 2000 companies, many of them have been reconfigured for smaller-scale use cases.
The internet is a great democratizer. If the customer's online experience (otherwise known as CX) is consistently excellent, and if quality goods and services are delivered on time, it doesn't matter how large the company is. New-gen IT can enable a small merchant or provider to scale the business up as needed and compete with larger companies. At the same time, stake-holding executives need to remain aware of better tools and technology as they become available, so that they can continue to maintain a competitive advantage within their markets.
To help make sense of this constantly morphing landscape, Nick Houldsworth, General Manager of Ecosystems at Xero, asked his community of app partners to share their predictions for the year ahead. From advertising and marketing to artificial intelligence and open banking regulations, his insights gathered for eWEEK showcase the top responses.
Facebook advertising costs will rise, along with the need to personalize customer experience: "Facebook advertising costs will go up. It's economics 101. More SMBs want to use it, and ad space is limited, which means rising costs. So, while Facebook advertising will be important in 2018, it's equally important for small businesses to look to personalization to better the customer experience. Local SEO, email segmentation, on-site customer segmentation and personalized customer service will be ever important." --Tracey Wallace, Blog Editor in Chief, BigCommerce
Small businesses need to secure their information more effectively: "Small businesses need to secure their information in case of disaster. By moving books to a secure cloud platform, small businesses can maintain audit records and it also adds an extra layer of security with 2-step verification." --Nelson Da Silva, Chief Revenue Officer, Receipt Bank
Open banking will become a powerful way for businesses to get paid: "In 2018, open banking will usher in a new era of bank-to-bank payments, making it the most powerful way for small businesses to get paid. Until now, banks have been the sole owners of financial data like account balance or payment history. With open banking, small businesses can share their relevant data with app providers resulting in better cash flow and less time spent chasing payments." --Duncan Barrigan, Head of Product Management, GoCardless
Machine learning will automate the back office: "Machine learning will help to automate the small business back office and perform much of the heavy lifting associated with financial management. This will increase accuracy and efficiency in financial reporting and move the industry closer to real-time financials. Having the capability to make informed business decisions in real time will be a huge win for small businesses." --Jamie Shulman, co-founder and co-CEO, Hubdoc
Big data will become truly accessible for small business: "In 2018, we will see big data move from being the preserve of the big businesses and corporates to truly being accessible to small business owners and advisors. The extent and quality of data is growing fast while unit costs are falling; this is 'democratizing' access and putting it in reach of all businesses in an affordable and easy-to-consume way." --Richard Francis, CEO, Spotlight Reporting
Small businesses will surpass big corporations as the best places to work: "As technology becomes more accessible, we will see small businesses use technology to offer comprehensive benefits to employees. With the use of modern software, small businesses can easily administer employee savings plans, such as 401K and 529, as well as offer health insurance." --Mike Triantos, Head of Partnership Development, Gusto
The rise of artificial intelligence will lead to better decision making: "We see a rise in robots (think chatbots, not the Terminator) coming in 2018 that’s going to change how businesses can get insights and make smarter decisions. More artificial intelligence is being integrated into back-end systems, providing businesses with real-time tips and advice based on their current sales data and activity." --Vaughan Rowsell, Founder, Vend
Data = Gold. Data will be the most important asset to an SMB: “We've seen a shift across the world with banks, software and even tax departments releasing APIs that allow SMBs to connect and centralize data for analysis. Now it's time to put it to work. Process workers will be replaced by systems and we'll get closer to the mainstream adoption of connected systems in SMB and the accounting sector." --Guy Pearson, CEO, Practice Ignition