Consumers have already embraced the digital era. Because of this, small businesses have little choice but to cope and commit to their own digital transformation. More and more business owners are realizing the importance of adopting digital tools and solutions to become better at what they do.
However, it can be challenging for smaller operations to plot out and execute a good digital strategy since the technology itself is constantly changing. What’s considered cutting-edge today can be the norm a few months down the line. At times, some technology fads just fizzle out.
Consequently, owners have to be on the lookout for emerging trends that could have a major and sudden impact on their businesses. Doing this gives them the opportunity to leverage these developments to their advantage. Here are five key digital trends that small businesses have to track and react to in order to thrive this 2020.
1 – Cyberattacks Target Small Businesses
Cybersecurity has become a major concern for everyone, but smaller operations may have to worry a tad more since they are now actively being targeted by hackers. Forty-three percent of data breaches involve small businesses. They now process and store customer and payment data, which can be stolen and sold for profit-making them prime targets for attackers. Most also have weaker security provisions compared to their larger counterparts which makes them easier to hack.
Hackers also use a variety of attack methods. They can deploy ransomware which can lock businesses out of their important files until a ransom is paid. On the other hand, they can use remote access tools to intercept microphones and a webcam feed to spy on their victims. It is now the time for small businesses to invest more in their security and adopt more capable protection for their workstations along with devices.
2 – Consumers Are Using Smartphones
Customers are also spending more time on their mobile phones. Last year, US adults spent an average of 3 hours and 43 minutes on a daily basis on their smartphones. Online shopping through mobile devices is on the rise. Just this 2019 Thanksgiving holiday season, exactly $2.9 billion worth of transactions were made through mobile phones.
As such, small businesses may want to offer mobile experiences of their own. They can make sure that their own websites feature responsive designs that show well across different screen sizes since search engines now favor sites that are viewable on mobile. Retailers can also participate in mobile-accessible marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. And, thanks to app building platforms, businesses can even create their own mobile apps complete with e-commerce features.
Companies with physical stores can also dabble in mobile by adopting cashless payment options that allow customers to pay using mobile wallets.
3 – Multichannel Digital Presence Is Expected
In terms of the shift to mobile, businesses should also consider having greater visibility across various digital channels that customers regularly visit. Previously, establishing a digital presence simply meant having a unique domain name and a website. Today, businesses are expected to be present on the various channels that customers use including social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
Through these platforms, companies can share information about their products and services to educate their customers, and even provide comprehensive support. Facebook now even has Marketplace that allows small retailers to post their products. Its Messenger app also allows companies to enable chatbot features that could provide answers to customers’ frequently asked questions and perform basic transactions.
Businesses, however, must be aware that users on these platforms can be quite demanding. Users now gravitate toward visual content like images, animation, and stories. So companies should consider the additional overhead this could bring to their operations. Should they enable chat or direct messaging, they must also be prepared to handle all contact from users promptly. They may need to hire a dedicated social media manager or at least use tools like Boost Apps and Sprout Social that make content creation and managing these channels easy.
4 – AI Will Find Wider Use
Small businesses should also be excited about the developments in artificial intelligence (AI). Various business solutions are already integrating AI into their apps and tools. AI allows these tools to be more data-driven and smarter automation can also be achieved through the technology. Even small businesses will be able to benefit from it without needing to understand its details and nuances.
Reach may not become much of a concern for small businesses anymore as AI is now taking over the lead generation process. Applications like Growbots can now automatically and smartly identify highly promising prospects. According to the Harvard Business Review, sales teams that use AI are likely to increase their leads by more than 50 percent.
Companies can even deploy chatbots to help engage common customer inquiries, freeing up agents to handle more pressing customer matters. AI has also found its way to human resources where scheduling software can even automatically configure shifts based on historical data.
5 – IoT Adoption Is Rising
Smart devices that connect to the Internet-of-Things (IoT) might have started out as something of a fad, but businesses are now starting to adopt them as these devices prove their usefulness. The IoT is expected to connect 5.8 billion endpoints in 2020, a majority of which will be for industrial and commercial uses.
IoT devices are also helping to create a multichannel experience for physical stores. Bluetooth beacons and smart displays are now also being used in brick and mortar stores. These devices can interact with smartphones, targeting customers with personalized content and deals.
Getting With the Times
Small businesses really have to upgrade and embrace digital transformation. Knowing these 2020 trends will allow them to make the necessary adjustments. Finally, if they are small, agile, and aggressive enough they can even capitalize on some great opportunities for their businesses to succeed.