There have never been more tools to help teams succeed than there are today. However, keeping track of all developments in business tech can be difficult, especially if you’re busy running your company all day. Here are some of the more notable tech terms that small businesses should know in 2019.
Ten important small business technology terms include:
1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
While there is nothing new about CRM, it remains as vital as ever. After all, CRM platforms help you build and foster relations with your customers, which is key for a company’s survival. Services like Zoho CRM and Freshsales come with features like contact management, workflow automation, and analytics that help you better understand your sales prospects and close more deals.
“The most important term for small businesses is still an older one: CRM, or customer relationship management, because as a small business, your customer relationships are key to your success. You need to know what experiences each customer has had, and you have to remember to follow up. CRM software like Salesforce can really streamline this process.”
― Neel Somani, Owner, Apptic LLC
2. Digital Transformation
Digital transformation refers to the use of digital technology in all areas of a business. An example of this would be an auto repair shop going paperless and keeping all of its order records on a computer instead of a book. Another use case would be a local coffee shop switching from a standard cash register to a platform like Square POS that can integrate with its inventory management database.
While digital transformation is an important technology term to know, it is also something that will likely happen to your organization whether you expect it to or not. Many business solutions offer features that replace things like calendars, financial records, and contact lists. That, compounded with the fact that these systems are all working together via integrations, make digital transformation inevitable.
3. Marketing Automation
Marketing automation software, as its name implies, is designed to help marketers better complete marketing tasks and process. This includes automating repetitive marketing processes like sending out emails and social media posts. It frees up your marketing staff to focus on big-picture tasks such as creating a creative vision and researching best practices. Popular marketing automation tools like HubSpot can be transformative for marketing processes.
“Since 3% of the market is ready to buy at any given time, it is important to have a plan to capture interest and nurture a relationship with the other 97% who aren’t ready to buy from you right now, but might be ready to in the next few weeks or months. By using marketing automation, you can stay top of mind, and nurture a prospect relationship until they are ready to buy.”
― Todd Friedman, Founder, Kiraly Marketing
Additionally, marketing automation can deliver features like creating customer profiles so that you can better understand your audience as well as integration with your company’s social media profiles. All told, it’s hard to imagine a business environment where marketing automation wouldn’t be helpful.
4. Internet of Things (IoT)
The internet of things is often discussed in terms of an exciting future advancement that will come at some point in the next few years. The truth of the matter is that it is already here; IoT products like smart bulbs, connected HVAC systems, and robotic vacuums are all being adopted by modern offices and becoming as important a part of the office as any other piece of equipment. Software like Clearblade can help you setup and deploy IoT devices easily.
A blockchain is, essentially, a decentralized system that holds a record of transactions. This includes data on time, transaction amount, and more. The system is maintained across several computers, rather than on a single server, making it harder to modify for fraudulent purposes.
Most people have heard of blockchain due to hot cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin, but you might not realize that the technology behind the coins can be helpful for any currency. For example, a service like Abra can be used to send money to anyone in the world for a low fee.
Blockchain technology also makes it more difficult for malicious persons to access both customer information and credit card number during a data breach, like what happened to Target several years ago. This is because the decentralized nature of the system’s technology puts that data in different digital locations.
“One of the most important technical terms for 2019 that small business owners should be aware of is blockchain. It’s essentially a more efficient way of storing data. Using it can reduce the cost of cloud storage, and it can also help with improving the efficiency, security, and accuracy of your business’s transactions.”
― David Bakke, Writer, Money Crashers
7. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
You’ve probably used a smart assistant like Siri or Alexa in your daily personal life. These technologies use artificial intelligence (AI) to recognize human speech and pull information from the web to let you know of upcoming events, news, sports scores, and more. They’ve now become an integral part of smartphones and home speaker systems.
Recently, business tech products have launched similar assistants to help you get work done faster. For example, Salesforce’s Einstein AI can take data from your prospects list and rank your leads based on certain criteria, like a valid phone number or email. Five9, an IVR system, offers an AI assistant that can pull customer data and provide suggestions for customer service agents. Expect AI to come to your favorite business software before long.
8. Machine Learning
Machine learning (ML) can be thought of as a subset of artificial intelligence. It refers to the ability for computers to learn things without being explicitly programmed to do so. Machine learning can be thought of as a teacher that equips a computer (the “student” with all the skills it needs to learn and process new information.
“One way of applying artificial intelligence is to use machine learning, where a system automatically is able to learn and improve itself without being explicitly programmed to do so, meaning, the system is learning how to do something, getting better at doing that thing, and accelerating the entire process on its own. It’s the beginning of making computers behave like a human.”
― Seth Kravitz, CEO at PHLEARN
For example, one of the most common business applications of ML is image classification. Say you put an image of a dress into your ecommerce shop. Your ecommerce software may one day be able to “look” at the image and determine it is a dress based on its learned knowledge of what a dress looks like. Then, it can tag that photo and automatically sort the product as a dress when users are looking through your storefront. ML’s implications are virtually boundless.
8. Wireless 5G Networks
You’ve probably heard of 3G and its modern successor, 4G. In 2019, the world’s major wireless carriers are working on setting up infrastructure for faster speeds and more network reliability than ever before. In some cases, 5G internet speeds are rated as fast as 10 gigabits per second. This makes it roughly 100 times faster than today’s 4G technology.
With a good reception and a compatible device, 5G delivers wireless speeds faster than most home networks. The technology will be transformative to both consumers and business users alike. The tech is currently available in major world cities and is expected to grow rapidly in the next several years. For more information on wireless networks, check out our guide to business cellphone plans.
One recent trend in ecommerce and other environments is to insert interactive chatbots on your company’s page that can automatically help customers and provide information on your products and services. This frees up your staff to work on solving more complicated customer service issues that need human intervention. However, adoption is still very low.
“Despite strong consumer interest in chatbots (more than 65 percent of U.S. millennials say they want to use chatbots when engaging with brands), small to midsize businesses (SMBs) are hesitating when it comes to investing in them. Less than 30 percent of small businesses in retail, services, and construction and manufacturing are utilizing chatbots.”
― Tirena Dingeldein, Senior Analyst, Capterra
This presents a unique opportunity for smaller organizations. By adopting these technologies, you can get an early advantage on your competitors. Customers ― especially younger ones ― have a desire to speak with chatbots. If you implement one of the many assistants that integrate with Shopify, you could win over and convert these shoppers into loyal customers.
10. The Cloud
Perhaps no other technological advancement has transformed small businesses like cloud computing. The cloud, which refers to the remote availability of both data storage and computing power, allows small businesses to leverage powerful applications and services without having to take on the cost and labor of hosting the systems. Whether it’s a CRM like Zoho CRM or a voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP service) like Nextiva, the cloud is a huge benefit to small teams.
“I would advise small businesses to leverage cloud technology to grow their business. So many small business owners find technology to be cost prohibitive, but cloud technology has become very affordable with subscription pricing and the absence of infrastructure and an IT person’s payroll. Many cloud technology tools for marketing, workforce management, and customer management offer free trials as well.”
― Derek McIntyre, COO, TimeClock Plus
Bottom Line – Technology Terms
It’s hard to balance running your business along with keeping up with current trends in technology. However, these technology terms can help you run a more efficient and successful business, often at a lower cost. The aforementioned technologies can go a long way in helping your team be its best.