Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the hype from the reality when it comes to small business technology. It seems like every day a new piece of hardware or software makes headlines, promising to revolutionize the way businesses operate. Given that, it’s no wonder that many small business owners can seem fatigued when it inevitably comes time to think about their technology needs.
While we don’t expect robots to start serving customers in the next decade or so, here are some technology trends that are picking up steam and should be part of any small business owner’s plans over the next couple of years (if they’re not already being used).
Of all the technologies being mentioned here, artificial intelligence may seem like the most futuristic but it’s closer than you think. Small businesses are already using AI to power chat bots to answer customer questions on their websites and apps. Similarly, many small business are using AI to power voice assistants for their phone lines. In addition, AI is being used to power marketing decisions behind the scenes in advertising campaigns launched on Facebook and other online properties. The use of artificial intelligence is likely to only grow from here.
The term marketing automation refers to the use of software to ‘automate’ a business’ marketing needs. From a practical standpoint, this translates to using a software package to be able to send emails on a schedule in order to ‘drip’ your message on a prospective customer. Oftentimes, the software will also allow business owners to create online registration forms and landing pages where website visitors can sign up to do various things, such as being informed of new products become available. If your business’ loyalty program can be combined with the marketing automation software, that’s a huge win because it will mean less manual importing of customer records.
Businesses are moving to the cloud and not coming back. That’s been a trend for a few years now and there’s a good reason for it: there’s so much more you can do with software in the cloud than what can be done on-premises. For one thing, it’s much easier to update software in the cloud from a remote location. And it’s easier to push new features to cloud POS software. Moreover, the cloud software choices are often much cheaper and you can much more easily integrate cloud software with other systems such as inventory and payroll.
Kiosks and Self-Service
Up to now, it’s been all about software but hardware trends are also changing. To that end, kiosks and other unattended retail solutions are making in-roads into small businesses. In particular, grocery stores appear headed for a self-service future and many quick-serve restaurants are using kiosks to facilitate orders. Studies suggest that revenue per order increases when customers can use self-service technology. That likely means we’ll continue to see more of this hardware in the future.
Digital Inventory Management
Once upon a time, inventory management was a labor intensive endeavor that involved a pencil, a notebook and lots of spreadsheets. No more. With advances in scanning technology, software and point-of-sale solutions, tracking inventory has come a long way. These advanced have freed business owners to have more time to actually analyze trends and look for ways to optimize their inventory ordering. On the flip side, reviewing inventory and sales can lead to insights on cost savings and even revenue generating opportunities.
Looking for other ways that point-of-sale solutions and small business technology can give your business a boost? Contact us today for a demonstration.