Technical innovations don’t need to be overly expensive or complicated. Nevertheless, when they will positively impact the business, CEOs should consider embracing them.
Early adoption of new, shiny technology can do more harm than good. Therefore, be selective about the ones to use. Ideally, they should no longer have that ‘new car smell’ and be thoroughly tested before implementation.
Here are 8 impactful technical innovations for small businesses to consider.
Businesses of all sizes are using chatbots.
Chatbots form part of the live chat response system on a company’s website. When programmed well, the artificial intelligence responds appropriately to different questions typed in by the visitor.
Some bots are capable of picking up on individual requests when certain questions are posed. For example, the mention of an ‘invoice’ may redirect the chat to the team member responsible for accounting queries.
Because AI learns over time, it means more relevant responses for visitors and customers alike. In time the AI can provide immediate answers to information requests.
Due to the proliferation of chatbots, customers don’t always know whether they’re talking to a human or an AI. Therefore, it is a good idea to make this clear.
Voice-over-Internet-Protocol is a technical term for making and receiving phone calls over the internet. Traditional telephone exchanges represent a large, ongoing investment. Choosing to use a VoIP system allows companies to sidestep this expense.
You need to follow a series of guided steps for how to set up VoIP. Whilst it is not overly complicated, it helps if you are comfortable with phones and technology. OpenPhone, a leading VoIP systems implementer, has published this guide to explain exactly what to do. They’re perfectly placed to do this as they’ve already set up many clients with reliable VoIP communications.
Virtual Voice Assistants
If you’ve ever used Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa from Amazon, then you’re familiar with virtual voice assistants. Some are phone-based, others create smarter work or home environments.
Businesses have embraced voice assistants because they shortcut frequent small tasks or provide immediate answers to questions. Whether that’s checking the weather, asking for the opening hours of a local business, or placing an order, they’re ready to serve.
Efficiency is a key reason cited by businesses adopting voice assistants. Appointments management, scheduling reminders, and dictating an email from your phone are just the beginning. To remain competitive, all virtual voice assistant providers continue to increase the questions they can answer and tasks they can perform.
Contactless Delivery Systems
Companies have pushed various contactless delivery systems into public use since the global pandemic. These services typically rely on using accurate GPS mapping, plus video and photos to confirm who received their packages.
Meituan implemented truly contactless delivery in Wuhan, where Covid originated. Autonomous delivery vehicles bring products to the customer’s door and continue to do so.
Last-mile delivery services such as Postmates and Grubhub also expanded their contactless delivery due to customer demand.
Cloud storage is ubiquitous now, but it’s the cloud-based collaboration that’s seen ongoing growth.
Using cloud-based collaboration, remote workers in different places share the use of a spreadsheet in Google Sheets. A change made to one part of the sheet is almost immediately updated to the other users with authorized access.
Fortunately, a fast internet connection isn’t required. Usually, changes are minor with only a couple of cells updated or a new row inserted. Updates occur almost in real-time for most users.
When the sheet is sufficiently outdated, the app insists on refreshing the view to load the latest version. This stops mistakes from creeping in when multiple people are sharing a spreadsheet.
Big Data and Data Analytics
Companies have an abundance of data. Too much for them to know what to do with. Big data is here; so is data analytics to make heads or tails of it.
The ability to analyze data to derive meaning from it is highly sought after. Businesses are recruiting data analysts to better understand customer trends, sales opportunities, mistakes, and triumphs.
Understanding why customers like or dislike a product, how they prefer to interact with the brand, or their preferences all play a part. Companies seek to understand; they’re listening better than ever. It’s the data analysts and their tools such as Python, Apache Spark, and SAS that deliver insights marketers rely upon.
Integration means different things to different people. Negative connotations, such as the idea that it costs jobs, aren’t always true.
Getting different technology to communicate and myriad platforms to play nicely with each other isn’t easy. It was only when computers were marketed as ‘IBM-compatible’ that hardware compatibility between PCs become less of an issue. However, the software is another matter.
The move to cloud-based applications and mobile apps in the business arena has enabled better integration. Enterprise-based integration apps like Cleo and IBM WebSphere Enterprise Service aim to let cloud providers, Software-as-a-Service, and other systems talk together.
Trigger-based integration apps such as TriggerMesh, Zapier, and IFTTT automate responses based on input or activity. A new document can trigger an SMS alert in Zapier or save a new iOS business contact to Google Contacts; the IFTTT does that immediately. These tools avoid busy work, so employees can focus on their projects.
The blockchain gets plenty of ink due to Bitcoin and cryptocurrency topics. Businesses are now utilizing it to improve security with big brands embracing the concept.
Major IT companies like IBM and Microsoft are busy working on ways to bring the blockchain to businesses in a meaningful way. Innovators like Guardtime created highly secure health record storage systems. Others are using the blockchain to assist in logistics, financial trading, and provide secure information storage.
IT technology facilitators are eager to market solutions to small businesses. As the technology continues to mature and the solutions proliferate, SMEs are expected to take the plunge.
Technical innovation comes in many guises. The ones to consider implementing are those that meet a need and deliver better results than previous solutions permitted. When they’ve had time to prove themselves, the risks are significantly reduced too.