As we enter a new year, businesses are looking toward the future and what technologies and tools can help them grow, improve their customer experience and address challenges.
Here are five small business technology trends worth knowing about:
1. Texting customers for all sorts of interactions
We have become a nation of texters. According to research compiled by SMS Comparison, 90% of customers in the U.S. prefer text messages over phone calls. In addition, 48% of consumers prefer text messages to receive communications from brands, more so than email, apps and direct mail.
Texting for every type of business interaction is expected to increase—from scheduling and confirming appointments, to requests for online reviews, to coupons and flash sales. And it’s no wonder: 98% of all text messages are opened, and 95% of those messages are opened and responded to within three minutes of being delivered.
Texting for every type of business interaction is expected to increase.
2. Increased use of customer analytics
Research shows that approximately 91% of businesses with more than 10 employees use customer relationship management (CRM) systems to keep track of their contacts and clients. “But many small businesses are not using the full functionality of those systems,” says technology expert Shawn DuBravac, president of Avrio Institute. That share is likely to grow in 2022, he says.
For example, CRM systems such as Zoho or Thyrv provide a dashboard allowing you to keep tabs on metrics such as average customer lifespan and the share of new versus returning customers. You can also run reports to help target your marketing toward particular customers based on various information such as where they live or past purchases.
3. More virtual customer service options
The pandemic has changed the nature of customer service. Many consumers couldn’t reach live agents, and decided to use virtual customer service options, including direct messages through social media. In fact, in the U.S. customer service requests through Facebook Messenger and Twitter direct messages jumped 172% during COVID-19, according to a recent study from Zendesk.
Chatbots are another virtual customer support tool. Between 2018 and 2020, chatbots were used by 67% more people, according to Business2Community. Often seen as a popup when visitors first get to a website, these AI-powered assistants can communicate with customers and answer questions.
The increase in virtual customer service options has been expected to continue into 2022, with digital services such as chatbots outpacing other forms of customer service.
4. Greater emphasis on cybersecurity
The pandemic spurred a tremendous increase in the use of technology, including systems that allow remote and hybrid work. This has been a boon to hackers. While many small businesses think they aren’t targets, that’s simply not true: From 2019 to 2020, small businesses had a 424% increase in cyber incidents, according to research compiled by Axia Technology Partners.
As more small business owners become aware of these issues, they are implementing more robust cybersecurity tools, such as using software that can help them protect against malware and ransomware attacks.
5. Going “cloud native”
Most small businesses now rely on cloud-based applications—as software-as-a-service (SaaS) has become the predominant format for applications to be delivered. But many small and midsize businesses have been deepening their reliance on the cloud, according to a recent survey.
One growing trend is the move toward the creation of “cloud native” applications, which involves building and running applications off the cloud. Google Cloud, for example, offers several open-source, cloud-based solutions geared to helping small businesses leverage the cloud more effectively, as well as “partners” that can help small companies implement those solutions.
As you look to the year ahead, technology may be key to helping your business move into the future and grow. It’s worth paying attention to how other businesses are using technology effectively.
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