Color television became available to consumers just 60 years ago. The first cell phone came into being just 30 years ago. Our cell phones have been able to connect to the Internet for just 15 years. And just within the past 2 years, mobile Internet access has passed desktop Internet access – we’re online on our phones more than we are on our computers. That’s a lot of change in a very short amount of time. Of course, businesses have to adapt to keep up. If you didn’t grow up around technology like the millennial generation, how can you adopt the latest technology trends?
The key, as with many things in life, is keeping an open mind and keeping at it. As a small company, you probably don’t have the luxury of a tech team to keep you up-to-date on all the cutting-edge developments in your industry. The good news is that you don’t need one – you can keep up with the important advances through industry publications and other resources. You also don’t have to be out on the bleeding edge (although you certainly can if you want to); you just need to track the major trends so you don’t fall behind.
If you’re already comfortable with computers and smartphones and other modern technology, you’re a step ahead. If not, don’t worry! These technologies are designed to be easy to use and master. You might even find yourself enjoying the process of learning. Most importantly, the latest technology trends can actually make your business better.
How Technology Can Improve Your Business
“The pace of technological development is as staggering as the ever-changing ways that consumers engage and utilize it. To stay competitive to consumers and to employees, small businesses need to adopt and incorporate online technology into their everyday business operations,” says Seong Ohm, senior vice president of merchandise business services at Sam`s Club. These are just some of the ways technology can improve your business:
- Faster Payroll: Payroll apps can expedite paychecks, make direct deposits, and even electronically file taxes. Once the domain of a dedicated bookkeeper or payroll company, computer programs can now handle almost all of your payroll needs with little to no input from you.
- Better Online Visibility: Every business should have a website, but that website is only as good as the people who find it. Digital marketing tech can enhance your online presence and help your customers locate you.
- Simpler Bookkeeping: No one likes keeping the books or doing their taxes. Current tech can help you keep track of all the necessary documents, invoices, deductions, and expenditures to make that all a little less painful. You may not even need an accountant! For example, Quicken can keep track of all of your finances and help you generate and track invoices.
- Managing Your To-Do List: With a small business, there are always a million things that need to get done. Productivity apps like Todoist can help you keep track of what needs to get done and when – you can also sync them to your calendars and other programs so that everything updates at once!
- The “It” Factor: Consumers are more technologically savvy than ever and they notice when businesses have outdated websites, payment processing systems, and other technologies. They always want the newest and best tech (check out the line at the Apple store whenever a new iPhone comes out), so keeping up with tech trends shows your customers that you understand what they want.
How To Actually Keep Up With The Latest Technology Trends
The nature of modern business requires that each and every entrepreneur use technology in some form — whether that’s in the form of computers, mobile apps, or sophisticated programs specific to your business. Because technology changes so quickly, it can be daunting to try to keep pace with current trends. Flexibility and an open mind, however, will serve your business well.
“I’ve found that many small business owners, once they’ve found strategies that work for them, tend to drag their feet on new technology,” says Brian Carter, author and CEO of The Carter Group. “They can mistakenly assume that since one strategy has always worked before, it will always work in the future.”
The problem with this “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset is that if your competitors are already using new technology, you may be left behind the eight ball. This is particularly true for online retailers. Failing to keep up with the latest technology trends, whether it’s software updates or website functionality or some other aspect of your product or service, can spell doom for your business. As a small business owner, you’ve already shown that you can be flexible and learn new skills as they come up. Those traits are just what you need to handle technological advances as they come.
To help your business thrive, the first step is educating yourself about new technology. You can find free resources in the form of journals, blogs, and websites, geared specifically to relevant new technology in your field. Finding the publication which speaks to you about tech developments gives you a jumping off point, and familiarizes you with tech language and available products. This will give you a sense of what options are out there and how other businesses are taking advantage of them.
Another way to keep up with the latest technology trends is to take inventory of what technology you use and attempt to streamline your current tech needs. If you have several different programs for different aspects of your business — for example, payroll and accounting — see if there are redundancies. Research whether there is a more recent, advanced program, app, or tech development that can aggregate multiple needs into one process.
When you hear about a hot new technology or program being used in your industry, do some research on it! Find out what makes it different from older offerings and what other business owners are saying about it. For example, spas may take advantage of an app or program that allows clients to book appointments online. Moving companies may use software to manage their routes more efficiently. Take your time, ask questions, and decide whether the new technology is right for your business.
If you’re not comfortable jumping in on your own to research the latest trends, it’s ok to ask for help! You may know someone who’s technologically inclined, or you could take a class online or at a local school to learn some of the basics and get your feet under you.
Our Top 5 Tech Essentials
There are more options for software and new technology out there than you can shake a stick at, so it may be overwhelming to try to upgrade everything at once. If you’re wondering where to start, these tech essentials will benefit virtually any small business.
- Cloud Collaborations: “The cloud” gets tossed around a lot these days, but essentially it means storing data in such a way that you and your team can access it from any device. That means you can collaborate with your vendors, employees, and other parties without having to send around a CD or a flash drive or some other physical storage device. Information stored in the Cloud updates immediately, meaning that everyone involved has access to the most up-to-date information. Do you have an email account? That’s a type of Cloud storage – you can access your emails from any computer. You can use Google Drive and other types of Cloud storage to share internal documents, collaborate on projects, and more. Programs like Asana and Basecamp are a great way to keep track of the things you’re working on all in one place.
- Mobile Payments: First it was cash, then it was credit cards, and now it’s time to start accepting mobile payments. Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other mobile payment options make payment and email invoicing literally as easy as the push of a button. Your customers like the convenience and you’ll like the automatic recordkeeping.
- Smart Devices: A smartphone or tablet can be used for information, direction, collecting payment, inventory, billing, timekeeping, and more, all on the go. You can use it to check your emails and keep track of the data your business is generating, no matter where you are. You need a smart device to manage your business.
- Cybersecurity: Verizon reported that 63,000 data breaches impacted the world’s biggest companies last year and small companies are just as vulnerable. Point-of-sale theft (digital theft from stolen credit card numbers) is a common concern for customers, as is theft of their personal information. Cybersecurity systems and programs can protect your customers’ identities and finances and build trust. If you deal with particularly sensitive information, it may be worthwhile to hire an expert to come in and make sure your programs and computers are as secure as possible.
- Social Media Apps: Social media apps and platforms are free for users, so you have resources at your fingertips to find, communicate with, and market to customers. Here’s a primer on how to use social media for your small business. Most social media platforms are intuitive and user-friendly, so they’re an easy way for you to reach out to your customers.
THE Must-Have Adaptation For Today’s Small Business
Sometimes, the best way to handle adapting to the latest technology trends is to take it one step at a time. This is that crucial first step. As far as technology goes, there’s one thing that you absolutely can’t be without: a responsive website. The majority of US adults (up to 64 percent) own some type of “smart” device, so being able to reach customers on the go is non-negotiable.
You might be wondering what a responsive website is. Simply put, a responsive website is a website which adapts and reconfigures for optimal viewing on smaller mobile devices, such as cell phones or tablets. If your website is not responsive, then it can be challenging for your customers to view or utilize on their phones or tablets. At best, this means a frustrating experience for your customers. At worst, it means you lost a sale or client to a competitor with a better mobile web experience. If you need to build a website from scratch or tweak your own, here’s a resource to help you with those steps.
“I would characterize a failure to have a mobile friendly website in the same was as a failure to upgrade from a horse and cart to a car in the era of Henry Ford,” Walker says. “You’ll survive for a short while but eventually you’ll be out of business as all of your competitors large and small run you down.”
Don’t let your competitors run you down! Adapt and evolve to keep pace.
The Bottom Line
The latest technology trends can make your job easier and will also show your customers that your business is modern and evolving. Keep up with what’s hot in your industry and make the effort to integrate the technology that’s best for your business.
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