Technology has made launching a small business easier than ever in the past decade, with 69 percent of US entrepreneurs able to establish their companies at home.
Each new year brings fresh tech innovations that can help small businesses run more smoothly, and embracing trends as they emerge gives growing brands a chance to get ahead of competitors.
What does 2018 hold in store? Here are the tech trends every small business should focus on in the coming year.
#1. More Reliance on the Cloud
Cloud storage has transformed the way in which businesses can operate, and this will continue to develop in 2018.
Small businesses may not have access to an office, or a dedicated space beyond their own home. Every inch of space counts, and filling them with paperwork is hardly conducive to a clean work environment.
Cloud storage solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Onedrive, and others enable companies to share files with each other, edit on the fly, and communicate in real-time from all over the world.
Being able to store administrative, creative, and financial documents on a secure cloud account is increasingly popular. Every small business should embrace cloud storage to maximize the space they have and minimize the risk of precious paperwork being misplaced.
#2. Video Chat Makes Virtual Meetings Easier
Meetings are a key part of running a business. However, speaking with a prospective client, discussing projects with a colleague, or planning advertising campaigns can consume more time (and money) than you might expect.
Video chat makes virtual meetings an everyday option, enabling you to speak with clients, colleagues, and anyone else online without having to leave your office. However, the quality of your video calls matters, as Tony Zhao – CEO of video chat company Agora.io – emphasizes:
“Your meetings can fall apart if you rely on low-quality software. Loss of image, interrupted sound, and dropped connections will only cause frustration on everyone’s part. Reliable video chat tools make speaking with contacts across the globe, in even remote locations, as comfortable as if they’re sitting in the room with you.”
#3. Access to Remote Workers Expands the Talent Pool
Cloud storage and video chat make working with freelancers and telecommuters a viable option for even the smallest business today.
Being able to connect with remote workers gives you access to a global talent pool: you no longer need to rely on candidates in your area, or effectively have to choose the best of a bad bunch. Instead, you have the freedom to find the person who is genuinely the strongest choice for a role.
Using file-sharing tools (Google Drive etc.) and video chat keeps you connected to remote workers 24/7, no matter where they’re based. More emerging brands will build dependable remote workforces in 2018, and with fewer in-house employees, overheads will be reduced significantly.
#4. Social Media Boosts Audience Engagement
Social media gives small businesses a cost-effective way to engage customers, with various advertising options available.
Facebook, Twitter, and other networks offer their own marketing platforms, with sponsored ads targeting your ideal customers. You can reach the individuals most likely to take an interest in your products or services with the right setup, and monitor your performance using bespoke analytics data.
Social media usage continues to grow, as does its value to small businesses. It gives your startup a direct means of communication with customers outside of advertising emails or calls to your support team: you have an opportunity to show who you are, what your mission is, and how you can improve their lives every time they scroll through their feeds.
#5. Mobile Ads Continue to Grow
Mobile usage has overtaken desktop: consumers now use smartphones to browse websites, buy products, and sign up with services more than their computers.
As a result, mobile advertising is a major marketing tool, and spending is expected to reach $247bn in 2020. Small businesses can make the most of mobile ads across AdWords and other platforms by adding click-to-call buttons and multiple sitelinks (to take users directly to the most relevant page). In short: you have to make it as easy as possible for customers to contact you and make use of your services using their mobiles.
Even the smallest businesses should allow room for mobile ads in their marketing budget in the coming year, and make it a priority.
The tech trends discussed above will play a huge role in small businesses’ growth in 2018, transforming both their internal processes and marketing strategies. Have you thought about how your small business will evolve in the year ahead, and if so, which tech trends do you expect to make the biggest impact?