The year 2019 has arrived, bringing another year filled with opportunities, risk and— hopefully—success for your small business.
But that’s not all the coming 12 months may have in store. Technology trends will emerge and evolve, building on the innovations of previous years to enhance the way in which you work, maximize your efficiency and achieve stronger customer service.
So, what trends should you take advantage of in 2019? Here are seven to watch.
1. AI for marketing will become more widespread
Marketing is a complex area for the biggest of brands, demanding considerable creativity, resources and expenditure. Even with the best marketing experts and a massive budget to rely on, actually reaching your full audience takes work.
For small businesses, finding the time and money for effective marketing is even tougher. Fortunately, AI and machine learning will help to make it easier.
Automation software will continue to become more prevalent and valuable as small businesses use it to send marketing emails, generate leads and find critical data with minimal effort. Administration times are reduced significantly, leaving employees more time to focus on their core duties.
2. More small businesses will rely on live chat and chatbots for direct support
Live chat has grown more and more ubiquitous in recent years, and this will continue in 2019.
Roughly 92 percent of customers claim to feel satisfied after using live chat at some point during their journey to a purchase. Of those, 42 percent also prefer this channel over telephone service as they’re not expected to wait on hold, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Live chat software is easy to integrate into business sites, allows a small team of employees to manage multiple interactions (much harder via phone) and can be accessed across all devices. Chatbots may not offer quite the same level of engagement, but also can still provide customers with support 24/7 — something that buyers increasingly expect.
3. Internet of Things (IoT) will streamline everyday processes
The Internet-of-Things gives small businesses access to invaluable data and tools across multiple devices, from laptops to smartphones and smartwatches.
This has already helped teams to stay connected inside and outside the workplace, with numerous applications. For example, managers can use wearable tech to monitor employees’ location on larger sites through a compatible app, to minimize time wasted trying to track them down.
As a result of the IoT’s rise, colleagues will be able to collaborate more easily and efficiently on documents, manage projects and interact with customers with increased flexibility in 2019.
Amazingly, experts predict 25 billion IoT-based devices will be active by the start of 2020.
4. Telecommuting will offer employees greater flexibility
As many as 25 percent of Americans work from home on occasion, especially among small businesses.
While you may like the idea of having your workforce centralized, giving your staff the flexibility to telecommute offers a number of benefits.
With fewer-staff in-house, you’ll cut down on certain overheads (electricity, heating, even coffee!) and make things easier for workers. Over 74
The proliferation of communication and productivity tools available makes telecommuting simple for every small business.
5. Virtual reality will bring more commercial opportunities
Virtual reality has finally hit the market in an affordable format. While it’s generally used for video games, VR offers small businesses the means to deliver a more immersive, engaging customer experience.
For example, you can create VR-compatible videos which take viewers on tours of your offices or factories or which demonstrate hands-on previews of upcoming products. VR can be used for staff training, too, walking new employees through certain tasks and challenges in real-time without the need for a trainer.
6. Edge computing will make a big impact
Edge computing utilizes sensors and other types of connected devices to gather data. They will then either analyze said information or send it to a local device (be it a laptop or server) instead.
This takes place at the ‘edge’ of the network rather than in one dedicated data center or cloud. Data is assessed and acted upon much faster, and less data-transmission reduces network traffic overall.
Small businesses will leverage edge computing more in 2019 to collate actionable data in a far more streamlined way.
7. Businesses depend more on data and analytics
Analytics has already
Data analysis will not only continue to play a big part in helping small businesses understand their audience in 2019, but will enable them to target prospects most effectively and accurately.
Analytics platforms will be more user-friendly and accessible across devices, allowing you to delve deep into your business’s performance, growth, engagement and more. Reports can be pulled from various operational tools for a broader view too, such as live chat and even affiliate software. Every part of your business should be collecting data, and this is fodder for analytics systems.
Don’t ignore the tech trends
Diving into the latest technology trends can be daunting, especially if you’re not as tech-savvy as you may like. However, staying up-to-date with emerging and growing trends can help you achieve your business’s full potential, save money, boost customer engagement and gain insights.
You don’t even have to embrace all of the trends explored above. Just look at those you believe are viable and consider how you can integrate them into your work.
Which trends do you think will be big in 2019, and would you add any others to this list?