By Vikash Mittersain
Business managers and leaders, whether in large firms or small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), know better than anyone else the challenges of running and scaling a business.
We deal daily with fierce competition, tight budgets, and demanding customers who eat into our already-thin margins.
But as we look around us at the widespread adoption of digital tools like smartphones – especially by the youth – we have to admit that technology has permeated every aspect of our lives, at work and home.
I would even go so far as to argue that adoption of digital technology is now about “when,” not “if,” especially for SMEs.
The successful exploitation of new ideas is crucial to a business being able to improve its processes, bring new and improved products and services to market, increase its efficiency and, most importantly, improve its profitability.
Marketplaces – whether local, regional, national or global – are becoming highly competitive.
Competition has increased as a result of wider access to new technologies and the increased trading and knowledge-sharing opportunities offered by the Internet. Running a small business can be complex.
Gone are the days of simply putting an ad in the local newspaper and hoping that people will walk through your door. In today’s age, small businesses run on technology — from e-commerce to social media.
These nine technologies will help your small business succeed in current times:
- Point of Sale Systems
Square, a simple app and credit card machine, has been a miracle for many small business owners, making it possible to accept credit cards in any setting.
Not only is Square portable, but business owners can also receive analytics on their customers’ spending habits and set up an online store through Square’s Marketplace. While first to market, Square isn’t the only point of sale option for small businesses. Competitors like Shopify offer cloud-based commerce platforms that work both online and offline.
- Project Management Software
Sticky note to-do lists and ad hoc spreadsheets have been replaced by project management software. Online project management software companies like Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Microsoft Project and SmartSheet can help you schedule tasks and track whether a project is being completed on time and within budget.
They also make it easier for teams to collaborate, whether they’re working in a central office or remotely across the country.
- Invoicing Software
Today, invoicing isn’t the headache it once was. Tools like Freshbooks allow small business owners to draft invoices, create recurring invoices, track time, request online payments and view payment statuses.
This digital invoicing magic means you save time and money by streamlining the process. Plus, you get a real-time view of cash flow.
- Online Payment Services
Collect money from an outstanding invoice and send recurring or one-time payments without a single transaction fee? Companies like Dwolla give small businesses a chance to do just that. In other words, using the right technology for your small business can help you pay and get paid .
- Online Shopping Cart
In the past, you couldn’t sell your products online without a fully integrated e-commerce website.
That all changed with rise of online shopping cart providers such as Shopify. Now, you can set up an online store in just a few clicks.
- Email Marketing
The future of marketing is digital, and email plays a big role. A 2018 study from Sales force reported that “for every dollar invested, email marketing provides $38 in return, or an ROI of 3,800%.” By sending coupons, specials and other announcements directly to your customers through email, your small business can profit without spending a lot of money.
Link your email campaigns directly to your website where customers can fill up their online shopping carts and pay via online payment services, bringing everything full circle.
- Digital Advertising
This cost-effective advertising option is an excellent resource for small businesses. Advertising can be found anywhere from search engines to social media platforms and blogs.
Small business owners don’t need an extensive background in advertising to make money through advertising on these platforms.
New advances in digital advertising give businesses the ability to use location-based services to target smaller, more concentrated areas around their business locations. This technology has given rise to “geo-conquesting,” where a business owner can serve an ad to a customer who walks into a competitor’s store, hoping to give them second thoughts about their present decision on where to shop.
- Motion Detector Lights
It’s simple technology, but it can make a difference for your small business’ bottom line. Motion detector lights that turn themselves off when they are not in use can reduce your electricity costs.
- Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to gadgets that collect and send data to users — everything from connected thermostats to souped-up security systems. For small businesses, IoT means that owners can keep one eye on their businesses even when they’re away.
You can use your smartphone to adjust temperatures via your Wi-Fi-connected thermostat. Or view a real-time feed of your property after hours and get alerts when something’s not right. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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The ultimate transformation is not just technology or business process, but leadership and organizational culture. In summary, I would say that digital provides the best combination of all: a win-win-win, for customers, employees, and of course businesses
The author is Chairman & Managing Director of mobile gaming firm Nazara Technologies Ltd. & Founder & President, India Business Group Chamber of Commerce. He is also a TEDX Speaker and co-author of YOU CEO: Success Lessons From Leading CEOs
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