By Chris Francis
Though 2018 is well underway, it’s never too late to start strategizing for the year ahead.
From social media automation platforms to IoT security measures, 2017 proved to be an eventful year for small business technology. If early signs are any indication, 2018 is sure to bring more of the same.
Dive into four innovations your business needs to stay one step ahead of the competition in 2018.
Worth nearly $150 billion just a year ago, cloud computing is set to pick up steam over the next few months. In fact, the global public cloud market could rise to $178 billion in 2018. When you consider the benefits cloud computing brings to small businesses, such growth isn’t too hard to fathom.
Not only can cloud computing introduce additional security, efficiency and flexibility when it comes to accessing programs and data, but it can also help take the hassle out of tracking important files. All too often, small businesses suffer devastating cyber security attacks or accidently delete sensitive data. Cloud computing is one way to combat such risks — and a growing number of businesses are starting to take note. Almost 50 percent of small businesses backup their data to the cloud each day. Following in their footsteps with cloud computing technologies will help keep your valuable data under wraps.
Four out of five businesses already use or plan to use chatbots by 2020. As more companies catch on to the cost effectiveness and versatility of chatbots, that number may continue to soar moving forward. By providing 24/7 online customer service, chatbots can help your business meet the demands of time-strapped consumers. For potential customers who work non-traditional hours, finding time to ask questions or share feedback during your normal business hours isn’t always easy. Chatbots help ensure consumers get the answers they need — any time, day or night.
Better yet, this up-and-coming innovation can do more than just resolve customer questions. Whether it’s pinpointing products, highlighting sales or sending out shipping notifications, chatbots can enhance the customer experience in more ways than one.
When it comes to the success of your business, effective communication is crucial. Improving communication can lead to higher levels of engagement among your staff members. And with increased engagement comes the opportunity for greater productivity, sales and profitability. Leverage collaboration tools — such as Google Hangouts or Slack — to quickly and effectively relay important information throughout your business. From process updates to new offerings, opening up more communication channels can help ensure no piece of information goes unnoticed.
Not sure which tool is best for your business? Just ask. Surveying employees about the convenience of each communication channel can make your decision that much easier. It might also be a good idea to gather employee feedback a few weeks after rollout. Addressing any lingering questions or concerns can help you make the most of your new tool and ensure it’s meeting the needs of your business.
A number of small businesses have made the move toward mobile payments — and over the next few years, plenty more will do the same. After reaching $112 billion in 2016, mobile payment volume in the U.S. is expected to top $280 billion by 2021. Keep up with the mobile movement by preparing to accept mobile payment methods such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Wallet. The more mobile payment methods your small business can process, the better chance you have of retaining loyal customers and attracting new ones.
Perhaps even more importantly, mobile payments can set the stage for a superior customer experience. Instead of digging through their purse or wallet, customers can breeze through the checkout line in just seconds.
Another year, another chance at success. From chatbots to mobile payments, make 2018 the best year yet by implementing some of the small business industry’s top tech innovations.
Chris Francis is Vice President of Market Development at Worldpay US, a global payments provider for all channels: in-store, online and via mobile. To learn more, visit www.worldpay.com/us