Game-Changing Small Business Technology Solutions You Need in Place Today
This article originally appeared on July 27, 2016, and has been revised to bring our readers the most up-to-date technology information.
As technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate, adoption is becoming the new norm. Late to the arena are America’s growing small businesses. What small business technology solutions do you need in place today to put your business in the best position for success?
Web traffic and small business IT solutions
Without analytics, you’re essentially guessing. You may make a few correct guesses, but you’d never know why those guesses were correct or how they helped you succeed.
Analytics bridge the gap between guessing and knowing — and give you the ability to beta test your influence across broad spectrums, ranging from your web presence to social influence, reach and more. At the forefront are two elements no small business should be without: web analytics and social media analytics.
A great example of this is social media. With billions of users connecting online and sharing posts, comments, media and links, it’s the surest way for a small business to track followers and gain rapid exposure in the modern era. But just what kind of influence does social media have as a technology tool for a small business?
As Figure 1 shows, content created and shared on social media can increase company exposure and web traffic, develop loyal fans, generate marketing leads, provide marketplace insight, increase thought leadership, grow business partnerships and improve sales. More specifically, exposing your content to followers who will then repost and engage with it on other web platforms can impact Google search engine results.
For example, a small business that offers edible arrangements can garner a nearly viral response by posting Instagram images with catchy captions that are then later shared by their followers and audience — ultimately being aggregated across other social channels such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and others.
With the integration of social media analytics tools such as Sprout Social or Hootsuite, you won’t be guessing about your saturation any longer. On these platforms you can track followers and see what effect each post has so you can maximize saturation and exposure.
The social metric aside, analytics, as we’ve already explained, eliminate the guessing game. ”With the analytics on your side, you can cut to the chase much quicker — skipping the guesswork and getting straight to addressing exactly what makes your customers tick,” explains a Huffington Post article. “With fast access to these insights, you can adjust your product research and development marketing strategy accordingly to increase profits.”
Getting your analytics in place so you can know instead of guess is a lot easier than you might suspect. Consider looking to viable solutions that include Google Analytics, Geckoboard and Crazy Egg. Each of these technology solutions has a learning curve but can be mastered with patience and practice.
Cloud solutions: The lifeblood of small businesses
The public cloud has changed everything and is quickly becoming the most widely used of all technology solutions for small business. That’s because the cloud enables businesses to store, back up and recover their data. Cloud-based tools can encompass productivity and cloud data file-sharing solutions and project management applications, as well as integrate Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and host email and applications. Needless to say, it’s rather easy to become hooked on the cloud. Most small businesses are already using it, even if they’re unaware they are.
What benefits do cloud solutions have to offer the small business? According to International Data Corporation (IDC), cloud-based solutions generated $63.2 billion in revenue in just the first half of 2017 — and are on pace to show healthy year-over-year growth for 2018 and beyond. IT procurement and decision-makers, keep your eyes peeled.
"The cloud has become the launchpad for virtually every new IT innovation in the last 24 months — including AI [Artificial Intelligence], blockchain, quantum computing and more. Organizations not on the public cloud will be increasingly isolated from the world of tech innovation,” says Frank Gens, senior vice president and chief analyst at IDC.
As shown in Figure 2, major advantages of cloud usage include greater scalability, reduced IT expenses, greater agility, improved application security and better visibility into applications. Naturally, all of these benefits easily cross over to the small business, making cloud-based solutions the most authentic and helpful option for these growing entities.
Electronic conferencing: Better productivity, lower cost
Most small businesses have a growth plan in place. With the exception of a few smaller mom and pop operations, the goal is to grow and expand into a larger business. Some of the greatest success stories we’ve heard of adhere to this moniker, and they all began as single-location enterprises that rapidly expanded over time, fed by technology solutions.
Take the Five Guys success story, for example. What began as a single-location restaurant in the late ‘80s ultimately evolved into a national franchise worth billions of dollars that uses cloud-based solutions, electronic conferencing, project management tools and CRM, among other technologies, to help facilitate success.
So what small business technology solutions help encourage growth while reducing costs? One of the most widely used and relied on is electronic conferencing. As AZ Central explains, the integration of these solutions helps businesses with travel, project management, field support and collaboration. Such solutions also help reduce costs and improve productivity across the board.
A 2017 IHS Markit survey of unified communication strategies found 86% of organizations had planned to implement video conferencing by February 2018. The findings of the study reveal that electronic conferencing offers many benefits. Topping the list of these advantages are improving productivity and customer response times, and empowering employees with mobility and flexibility.
Choose the best technology solutions for small business.
Determining which small business technology solutions your business can best benefit from isn’t always the simplest endeavor. A few helpful tips can assist you along the way:
- Look for a rich user experience that offers an easy learning curve (which will improve your adoption rates).
- Ensure your technology solution can evolve and is accessible, which is not generally an issue for cloud-based solutions.
- Put security in the forefront so you can maintain confidentiality and privacy.
Procure your solutions from a reliable company that has a strong commitment to customer service and a track record of success.