Since small businesses are generally working with time constraints and limited budgets, it becomes increasingly more and more important to seek out technology that will garner the biggest bang for buck. This coupled with the fact that tech advancement is moving faster than ever in the past, small business operators are often perplexed as to how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Today, we’ll look at four solutions that might be a good fit for your small business or home office, without breaking the bank.
1. e-Commerce Fishing where the Fish are. . .
Online retail is how today’s customers are shopping. If you have not developed a platform to reach out to this lucrative market, you might be allowing your competition — a leg up. According to recent research conducted by Goldman Sachs, digital commerce adoption and expansion is expected to accelerate in the short-term, with annual e-commerce growth approaching 17 percent over the next three years.
A way to differentiate your business’ online retail operation is to provide a personalized shopping experience. There are a number of software platforms that include a communication feature where you can chat with your customers when they are surfing your website.
Services like Olark, with monthly packages starting as low as $15 includes a chat tool for you to talk with your customers in real time. This technology also provides owners with useful customer data such as location, keyword searches and the time spent by potential customers on your website.
2. Harness those Mobile Customers on the go!
As the worldwide sales of smartphones and tablets outpace desktop and laptop computing, it’s now imperative to address a mobile strategy for your company if you have not yet done so.
The forecasted number of transactions made via mobile devices will climb from $163 billion in 2012 to $721 billion in 2017, according to Gartner -making it extremely important for small businesses to actively pursue methods to facilitate mobile engagement with their clientele.
There are a number of best practices that have been established that can kickstart the process. These include delivering mobile content to customers to raise awareness of your business offerings.
You can also leverage location-based mobile alerts to provide promotions and discounts when customers are within proximity of your place of business. And you can harness the massive amount of buying and spending data collected to determine your company’s future strategy and tactics.
Optimizing your business’ presence on mobile devices also requires that your website be properly formatted for smaller hand-held screens.
3. To the Cloud, Young Man
Many foresee a modern-day Horace Greeley pointing upward versus the West. The transformative power of Cloud Computing is game-changing. It shifts the data and software apps that are currently occupying too much space on your mobile devices onto a Cloud’s data center. This means that you can free up your smartphone’s storage for other purposes, without losing any of your important data or software applications.
From a collaboration standpoint, by storing and sharing data on a cloud network, business owners and their employees can access the same information from anywhere in the world, at any time.
Additionally, cloud computing benefits small business owners by decreasing expenses. Instead of purchasing, managing, and upgrading software, as well as hiring IT specialists to maintain systems, companies can hire less expensive third-parties who are more proficient at this type of work. Monthly fees replace upfront costs, and the level of service can be scaled up or down depending on business demands.
For a comprehensive listing of 20 top cloud services for small businesses, check out PC Magazine’s latest consumer report. Most of the services are ‘Software-as-a-Service’ or SaaS where a specific application or service is offered to a customer as a monthly subscription.
4. VoIP it . . . because, Landlines are so last century. . .
Today your computer can also take the place of your phone service. Thanks to the convenience and cost savings offered by VoIP technology, many small business operators are saying “Adios” to traditional landlines. As reported in a 2013 report in the Wall Street Journal, more than 25 percent of American households have ceased subscribing to telecom services for VoIP services.
VoIP’s technology converts your audio speech signals into digital data packets that can then traverse broadband Internet connections (such as, fiber optic, DSL or cable) to reach its intended party. With that easily accessible interface, VoIP providers are fully capable of handling all of the communication features you’ve come to expect from your small business or home-office landline – at less cost.
Tech Fit it!
Many small businesses find it challenging to identify, select and deploy the right technological advancements that will work well for their firms. It all comes down to determining the best fit at the right time.
Some of the systems discussed today might be just the right solutions for your company at this stage of your development. Or, you might have other pressing issues to attend to before you can start the ball rolling. But in either case, you’ll be best served by adding the tech solutions outlined today to your to-do list, not only to enhance how you conduct your business — but also to keep up with — or better yet — outpace your competition.
Ron is part of the marketing team at Telzio, covering everything from tips and tech for growing businesses to customer success stories for the Telzio blog. Previously a Director of Advertising and Public Relations at Marriott International, Ron has published several books including the award-winning graphic novel Facebucks.