Why SMEs Must Embrace Technology or Be Left Behind
According to the Huffington Post, there are 807 million articles on the Internet that deal with small business technology. Despite that, an overwhelming number of small business enterprises have yet to adopt some of the fundamental technologies that would keep them competitive and visible online. This is particularly the case with businesses who attract clients from their local area and rely more on walk-in customers.
Another aspect of modern business technology is that consumers demand quicker turnaround, more personalised service, and very quick responses to complaints. Modern technologies are available to enable all these requirements.
The large majority of people access the Internet on a mobile phone in order to find local businesses. From a technological viewpoint, business owners need to embrace three essential technologies to attract these customers.
The large majority of people access the Internet on a mobile phone in order to find local businesses. From a technology viewpoint, business owners need to embrace three essential technologies to attract these customers.
Responsive web design
The same Huffington Post article states that 93% of small or medium business websites are not optimised for mobile devices. On a mobile device with a narrow screen, information on the right hand side of the page disappears or is distorted. Mobile users will simply ‘tune out’ because they cannot read the site information clearly.
The solution is to implement a responsive design. On WordPress, there are responsive themes. With HTML and CSS there are several different techniques available to produce responsive designs. Let’s say you have three widgets placed side-by-side on your homepage. With a responsive design they will automatically vertically, one over the other, on a mobile screen. Without a responsive design, one or more of your widgets will simply display on a mobile screen, or the layout of the page will be distorted.
To solve this, start by going to Google and entering the name of your market niche plus ‘responsive theme’ or ‘responsive design’. You’ll find many possible solutions.
How are people going to find your business? They need instructions or a map. The answer to this is to ensure your business is listed on Google Places, which will allow your business to show up on Google maps.
People are increasingly shopping online using their mobile phones. To tap into this trend, small business owners should make provisions to accept mobile phone payments.
Apple has a number of apps that enable people to pay in stores using their iPhone or iPad. Visit the Apple Store for details of Apple Pay apps, which includes a simple Touch ID function. For convenient shopping, people store their credit or debit card on their phone. Payments are completed by simply holding the phone near the shop’s card reader and pressing a function key.
Square Register is a complete point-of-sale app for iOS and Android devices.
Stripe enables businesses to accept payments over the Internet. It comes with toolkits for iOS and Android applications.
Mobile technology provides what can be described as mobility solutions. It gives people the opportunity to work from anywhere at any time. With mobile technology your business can introduce flexible working hours without losing on productivity. Employees also get satisfaction from being able to better manage their family and work requirements.
If you are progressive, enable your staff to collaborate on projects, and communicate between themselves and clients on mobile devices. A recent trend confirms that employees favour using their own mobile devices at work. This can provide considerable savings in expenditure, provided that security issues are well managed. Encourage staff members to use business applications to work smarter and faster, and let them share their experiences with other staff members.
Google announced the release of their Android for Work application in February 2015. This may be a good place to start. Another useful app for mobile project management is Basecamp. This app has a free 60 day trial. Its main purpose is for remote staff to collaborate by sharing files, participating in staff discussions, and assigning project tasks. The app is available for Android, iPhone, and iPad devices.
For an app that uses mobile devices as a communication tool, consider Skype for voice and video calls as well as conference calls. The WhatsApp mobile application will feature voice communication in 2015.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A well managed CRM system enables business owners to engage more closely with clients. You capture personal details like name and address, email, and social media profiles on channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can then send your clients special offers and provide them with information that you know interests them, based on their previous communication with your business. Modern consumers like to be pampered, and a CRM system can go a long way towards engaging with clients and receiving feedback on their experience with your company.
A study by consulting firm McKinsey found that companies that can skilfully manage their customer experience gain big rewards in customer satisfaction, accompanied with increased revenue and improved employee satisfaction and productivity.
A CRM system can now be distributed and managed with mobile devices.
Nimble is a suitable CRM system for small and medium businesses. It is available as a mobile app for Apple iOS devices as well as Android mobile phones. More advanced users can build a closed loop marketing system using Nimble, as it integrates with MailChimp, Wufoo, and HubSpot.
Data storage and backup
Don’t make your business one that loses its entire information base because of neglect or equipment malfunction. There are many inexpensive data backup services available on the market. A service that is particularly useful is cloud storage, because the information can be accessed from anywhere, anytime, using mobile devices.
Business owners need to keep abreast of developments in their market niche. The Internet is a goldmine for discovering new trends and developments. Depending on your niche market, just go to Google and enter a suitable search phrase followed by your niche designator. An example may be ‘latest research solar power’, if your market niche is solar energy.
The inherent risk with mobile payments is point of sale intrusions, which involve the theft of card numbers from an e-card reading device. Every business owner should pay attention to and implement the best security to protect company information and assets. For a beginner’s introduction to basic security, refer to the Digity webpage ‘5 Things Every SMB Needs to Know About Virus Protection‘.
Technology and smartphones used for business purposes may be seen by some people as an intrusion into their personal lives. Both these aspects should be seen as enablers that provide flexibility, not as intrusive and annoying interruptions. Business people need to ensure that they are the boss and not their smartphone. The mobile device, with its accompanying technologies, should enable people to spend more time with their family and not the opposite. Applications can be switched off at the dining table or during precious time spent enjoying family activities.