Small Business Technology 2017
At one point in time, small businesses seemed to be relegated to the dark ages in terms of the technology they needed, while consumers and large businesses seemed to be able to progress light years ahead. Only larger companies seemed to be capable of affording resources that could truly help with automation while small businesses had to make due with outdated means of doing things. The good news is that many of these processes and applications have been scaled for small business purposes and are affordable and accessible enough for the small business to use. Here are some trends that should reach their apex in 2017 to try out:
Use the Cloud – Small businesses are rapidly beginning to adopt the use of cloud applications for email, storage and application solutions. In fact, 37% of small businesses are using the cloud already, a number that’s projected to climb to 78% in the next four years. Using the cloud is the perfect solution if your company finds budgeting for upgrades difficult, lacks the resources to keep up with current trends, or struggles to implement security and confidentiality measures. So broad are the choices for cloud usage, that you can chose among a wide selection of choices to facilitate storage, organization, CRM, social media management, and email marketing applications. Traditional software for backend operations requires in-house support, and pricey upgrades. Today, cloud applications for marketing, accounting and HR are readily available without the hassle of maintenance or upgrading. If you’re amongst the enterprises that decide to transition processes or information to the cloud, be assured to that your company will benefit from the flexibility, addition storage space and agility that the cloud will afford you.
The Rise of the Virtual Workforce – Today, businesses are looking for ways to accommodate business on the go, and increase workforce productivity. In fact, a 2015 survey conducted by Virgin Media Business predicted that 60 percent of office-based workers will regularly work from home by 2022. It makes sense that companies are finding ways to integrate smartphones, laptops and tablets to reduce workforce absenteeism and improve morale. Also, several applications such as Basecamp and Slack support off-site workflow management for the small enterprise. For these efforts, companies will realize a reduction in their carbon footprint, experience lower overhead costs, and expand their talent pool by sourcing employees that might not be located in the same geography.
Security and Cybercrime Prevention – In 2015, phishing campaigns targeted small businesses 43% of the time, sharply up from 2011, in which small businesses were targeted 18% of the time. This shows the importance of making cyber security a top priority. Small businesses make for good targets for cybercrime, because they have more assets than the individual, but less security than a large company. A survey showed that types of cyber criminal activity most commonly affecting small businesses includes phishing emails (49%), spear phishing emails (37%), and malware attacks (29%). Businesses can get ahead of cyber attacks by providing training to employees who are the most vulnerable to attacks, such as those in financial roles and by implementing formal security policies. Types of security solutions include firewalls, data backup, and antivirus software. Going forward, this type of activity will unfortunately only increase. Another often overlooked solution for combating cybercrime is the use of cyber-security insurance. General liability policies do not cover the losses that are incurred from a cyber breach or the legal fees associated with a data breach. Experian estimated that two-thirds of companies would buy cyber-breach insurance by 2014.
Offer Alternative Payment Options – According to SmallBusinessBank.com, 69% of customers won’t shop at businesses that accept only cash or checks. Moreover, businesses can lose up to 80% in impulse purchases when they won’t accept debit or credit cards. While there are currently many small businesses that allow their customers to pay for online purchases by using PayPal, what they don’t realize is that this only 10% of online purchasers are using PayPal, which means that they are missing out on purchases by the other 90%. This year, you might try something like Amazon payments, Authorize.net, QuickBook Payments, or WePay.com as an alternative to simply taking credit cards, cash or check. Retailers might consider adopting tablets and smartphones to accept credit and debit card purchases, and leave pricey POS systems as a thing of the past. Other payment options now available include online solutions for payment plans, such as FinanceIt.io.
Some of these options have been around a while, but the key is to recognize that the universe is expanding for the small business, offering more options than ever before. 2017 is the time to seize upon these options, and make them work for you to make your business work in ways it hadn’t, or couldn’t, before.