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5 minute read

07/12/2017

The tech trends small businesses need to know about

 

Take a look at this rundown of the latest tech trends – and why they’re important for small businesses.

Are you reading this on a mobile phone? Maybe you’re on a laptop, hot-desking in your office. Per-haps you don’t have an office at all, and you’re free to do business from wherever you need on any particular day.

None of these scenarios would have been possible without the advancement of technology. Con-nected mobile devices have already transformed what we think of as possible, and technology con-tinues to make big leaps forward on what feels like a monthly basis.

So what is technology going to do next? In this article we’re going to explore six recent develop-ments in technology every entrepreneur and small business owner needs to be aware of.

The Internet of Things

We’ve barely touched the surface of what the Internet of Things (IoT) can do. Many aspects of working life could become easier if machines can talk to one another and do the heavy lifting. When you cut out extra processes that need to be handled manually, you’re able to move faster and be more agile, having the ability to adjust to anything that might arise.

Small businesses have a secret superpower in being naturally set up to benefit from the Internet of Things. Big businesses often have to navigate existing supply chains, legacy software and large fleets of disparate hardware - small businesses and sole traders can sidestep such red tape.

There are a range of solutions you might want to consider for your business. Cutting back on manual maintenance and monitoring could mean you’d experience less downtime and get more free time to focus on more important things. You can see what sort of solutions might work for your business on our Internet of Things hub.

Make robots or AI part of your workforce

Robots aren’t just the shiny, humanoid helpers portrayed in movies. They come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of intelligence. Using machines to automate repetitive, labour intensive tasks isn’t any-thing new, but it’s becoming cheaper and easier for smaller businesses to apply robots or AI to real-world tasks. Think Drones, 3D printers, or even digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, or OK Google.

Such technology was previously the stuff of movies, but it is now well within reach. For ambitious yet cash-poor businesses, the increasing versatility of AI could be a great help. Are you using it to your advantage?

Bots are now undertaking much of the drudgery of business life – filling in forms, answer-ing customer queries, compiling data and handling social media tasks. Proponents say this liberates staff to work on more creative and engaging work; bots are a new, cheap resource to be exploited.
Jon Card - The Guardian

Chatbots are here to stay

Every business can benefit from a chatbot. They grow with your digital capabilities, they can multi-task more effectively than an employee, and better yet - they can work 24/7 without a wage. Jon Card, writing in The Guardian, explains:

Check out this interview with innovative Chatbot start-up Spixii and go behind the scenes with Vodafone’s chatbot ToBi - you might well get some ideas yourself.

Reality is becoming virtual

Virtual and augmented reality have been making waves in the consumer entertainment market for a long time - but finally things are starting to get exciting in the world of business too. Mobile devices are getting more powerful, and there are increasingly sophisticated tools available to create original content.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) have a lot of potential uses, such as giving your marketing materials a boost, bringing your products to life in a 3D experience or even becoming your actual product. Even if you don’t see yourself using augmented or virtual reality just yet - keep an eye out, your competition could be thinking differently. We spoke to Snatch and Digital Bridge about how being augmented reality start-ups changed the way they do business.

Mobile payments

The way we pay changes frequently, and we quickly forget what it was like before. Remember when Chip and PIN was new? Yet now most of us use contactless payment so often that we forget our PIN when we need it.

It is the convenience of these technologies that has seen them become so widely adopted - and that convenience is something that customers remember and increasingly expect. Taking down barriers to purchase could help you get customers over the purchase line more quickly and efficiently.

Mobile payments are one of the big changes in payment that have already transformed many peo-ple’s attitude toward cash and shopping. Give your customers a range of payment options, and they’ve got another reason to shop with you again.

Blockchain

A blockchain is a digitised, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions. Each node (a computer connected to the network) gets a copy of the blockchain, which is downloaded automatically.
– Investopedia

In a world where data is worth more than gold, and hackers are becoming a bigger threat every year, the current systems we have in place to protect our information aren’t always enough. Blockchain could be the solution. It’s a way of bringing trust and transparency to the way businesses operate online, while mitigating many of the weakest points in existing financial processes.

It also expands the realms of possibility for small businesses. Blockchain transactions happen in realtime and aren’t restricted by location – meaning it’s easier to employ the right team anywhere in the world. Blockchain also offers the possibility of smarter data storage, with a cloud-based system that’s fully scalable and encrypted. All data transferred through blockchain is fully trackable – you’ll know exactly what is happening, where it happens and when - at any point in the process.

When small businesses are able to optimise and scale their offering, it puts them in a better position to keep up with larger businesses. Blockchain could help you to even the playing field.

The future of technology is exciting

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy. They’re prevalent, they’re innovative, and they’re able to respond quickly to the best new technology on the horizon. Any future-ready busi-ness needs to be agile enough to make the most of emerging technology trends. Researching what could work for you can help you to improve existing processes and boost profits without amplifying risks.

Let us help you choose and utilise the best technology for your needs - get in touch with Vodafone Business. Alternatively, go back to our Insights hub for more helpful tips, stories and research.

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