At some point, a small business will hit a ceiling in terms of what it can accomplish with the tools and technology that are available to it. Depending on the industry, as well as the type of technology, this might happen sooner rather than later. For example, development of a website or application with a smooth user interface should come relatively early in a business’s life. Having a social media presence is important for promotional reasons, but it’s not a substitute for a company website, or if necessary, a mobile application.
Of course, a decent website and mobile application hardly skim the surface of the technology that is now available to businesses of all sizes. Increasingly, small businesses are being presented with opportunities to leverage technology at the cutting edge of customer service. Let’s take a closer look:
1. Advanced data analytics
Advanced analytics have completely re-imagined how companies engage their customers. No longer are important business decisions left to intuition, or, for that matter, chance. Instead, organizations of all sizes are beginning to use advanced data analytics with predictive capabilities to improve the accuracy of targeted marketing campaigns. In the past, Big Data analytics were the terrain of large enterprises; however, according to Dataconomy’s Hannah Augur, small businesses can rely on leaner analytics solutions to get the same sort of perks available to the titans of industry. What’s more, according to Forbes contributor Howard Baldwin, small businesses are actually in a better position to get the most out of analytics.
“[S]mall businesses may have an advantage in that they’re probably looking at a smaller universe of queries and are focusing on specific problems,” Baldwin wrote. Furthermore, thanks to their scalability, small businesses are more capable of scaling on short notice. A large enterprise might have trouble shaking up its legions of workflows, whereas a small business is much more agile in this sense.
2. Beacon technology
The secret behind how beacon technology works is location, location, location. In a nutshell, beacon technology sends out a Bluetooth signal that makes it possible to push ad notifications for sales and other special offers to in-store shoppers. Part of the beauty here is that it merges the in-store and online shopping experiences. However, there really is no limit to how beacon technology can be used to serve an organization – regardless of the size of the market.
In Canada, for instance, some small businesses are using beacon technology to notify customers when their metered parking is about to expire. Some stores will then offer to pick up the tab in order to encourage the customer to continue shopping. Another neat example of how beacon technology is being used is in professional sports. The Golden State Warriors are using beacons to notify customers in the nose-bleed sections of the opportunity to upgrade to closer seating while at the game via their smartphones. This same tactic could be applied to a small concert venue.
3. Contactless payment processing
Near field communication (NFC) has been around for some time, as anyone who has tapped a card against a wireless reader is aware. However, its practical applications have been somewhat sparse until recently. We’re now seeing NFC being deployed at transit stations, and increasingly, at the point of sale in the form of contactless payments.
The beauty of NFC in the commercial sector is that it can significantly expedite the amount of time it takes for customers to check out. This can be helpful for small or local businesses during peak shopping times, especially when they’re short staffed. More importantly, it acts as incentive for tech-savvy shoppers to frequent your store instead of the competition’s. According to Fortune contributor Sarah Silbert, millennials are one of the demographics most likely to use contactless payments once or more per week. So why should you care? Because according to the Pew Research Center, millennials have recently surpassed baby boomers as the “largest living generation.” If you want to ensure business longevity, you need to do business on their terms.
With contactless payment, customers can pay wirelessly with an enabled credit card – which is how they’re doing it in Australia – or with a mobile wallet. A mobile wallet stores credit or debit card information on a smartphone or wearable device (smartwatch, fitness tracker, etc.) so that payments can be made by tapping the device up to an NFC reader rather than with a card.
There are many new forms of technology that may aid a small business in its continuing development. In the coming years, it will be particularly important for companies to adjust their methodologies so they can compete effectively. This may require more merchant capital than is readily available at the moment. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to take out a small business loan. The sooner you make the technological updates your business needs to thrive, the sooner it will get ahead of the competition.