Throughout recent history, as technology has evolved, industries have too. So how has technology helped small businesses grow in the 21st century?
According to a report by professional services company Deloitte, small businesses that use technology to its full potential see improvements in the following:
- Revenue per employee: 2 times more
- Job creation: 3 times more
- Annual revenue: 4 times more
Here’s a breakdown of the different ways technology impacts small businesses (and how you can use it to improve yours).
1. Better Customer Experience
There’s no doubt technology can improve the customer experience. According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, 49% of small businesses use technology to enhance customer communications and 43% to improve customer relationship management efforts.
A seamless website, mobile-first design, personalization and assistive tools are just a few ways to facilitate the ease of use so many consumers have come to expect from companies.
To this end, Brandon Walsh, founder of marketing agency Interly shares how incorporating voice assistants in his business has improved his customers’ experiences. “In a world where voice technologies like Siri and Alexa are popular, people are less and less inclined to type. Instead, they prefer speaking.”
Walsh says with the help of voice assistants, his customers can say whatever they’re thinking, whether complaints, inquiries or order placements. “The voice assistant will help answer all their questions. Plus, I have 24/7 chatbots for customer assistance. As a result, my customer engagement, loyalty, sales and profits have increased.”
Additionally, Robyn Taylor of Bae Boats notes the importance of quick response (QR) codes to business, including aiding customers with check-ins. She shares how users can scan a QR code to find links to the business website, waivers, reviews, company social media channels and tips for employees.
2. Improved Sales Efforts
The same Chamber of Commerce report noted various ways small business technology has improved sales lead generation, qualification and closing efforts:
- Processing sales: 51%
- Potential customer identification: 36%
- Client data collection and management: 35%
- Customer insights development: 27%
Dave Haney of Surety Systems, Inc. says, “We utilize Salesforce software to market and sell extremely efficiently, being able to segment our clients and potential clients in seconds based on geography, industry vertical or employee size.”
Additionally, David Bitton, co-founder of rental property management company DoorLoop says, “Lead-qualifying technologies that automate and streamline the process are crucial. The method of qualifying leads is vital because you need to ensure your time and resources are being used on leads who are prepared to move forward rather than on unresponsive leads.”
Bitton thanks modern applications that allow for automation. With such tools, his company can instantly email and send text messages to leads on a preset schedule, which he notes “streamlines the process and allows you to tap into leads that are likely to convert.”
As another example, Tim Connon, founder of Paramount Quote Insurance Advisors notes, “Before we upgraded to a better customer relationship management (CRM) [system], our agents would be using a softphone dial pad and manually dialing numbers from potential clients, then they would have to type the text messages themselves for each call. This led to a 10% decrease in overall efficiency when we looked at our production numbers from 2019.”
“We opted to get new technology in place that would help eliminate these issues so our agents could just dial the numbers and the clients would receive their pre-recorded voicemails and automated texts and emails. This led to a 20% increase in production over the last 2 years.”
3. Enhanced Marketing
Besides automation benefits for email and text messaging, technology solutions for small businesses also relate to other marketing efforts.
For instance, Mark Blakey, CEO of Autism Parenting Magazine shares that “Technology has made it possible for businesses of all sizes to target specific markets while spending less money.”
“In the past, a company had to gather information about customers through direct mail surveys before they could understand their needs, and use consumer-guided marketing to offer their products to niche markets.”
Blakely goes on to say, “All of this has now been simplified. Businesses can now use internet cookies and web surveys to collect information about their target audiences and customers. Because most significant advertising networks enjoy social networks, this has even become straightforward.”
As another example, Mike Murphy, founder of Fluent in Coffee, describes how technology has helped streamline processes and techniques for content creation. Murphy says his company places utmost importance on search engine optimization.
In this respect, Murphy says, “…we use Mangools and Google Ads to properly plan each and every text we write. These two programs make our lives easier as the text planning process is much faster, and we don’t need to lose too much time on writing preparation.”
4. Streamlined Project Management
Many companies look to project management technology platforms, such as Trello, Asana, JIRA and Zoho, to help with planning and organization. Users can monitor progress throughout a project timeline to maximize resources and efficiency.
Jerry Han, chief marketing officer at PrizeRebel credits project management software as an invaluable asset that has centralized various aspects of business.
“With team members across 5 continents, coordinating projects and meetings used to be a real struggle for leadership. Scaling the company looked like a far-off dream until Asana made us more agile and efficient.”
Han goes on to say, “All small businesses stand to benefit from increased productivity and moving away from sticky notes and verbal reminders. Whiteboard sessions still hold tremendous value, but they should be complemented with technology. Automating certain tasks will allow them to better compete with the larger players in their industry.”
5. Improved Workplace Efficiency
The importance of technology in small business is also seen within the workforce. Indeed, the following aspects of workplace culture can be positively impacted:
- Time tracking
- Remote work
- Worker productivity
Surety Systems’ Dave Haney speaks to the efficiency small business technology can provide companies on the back end. “Small business owners can use technology to greatly streamline their operations. We have used timesheet and expense technology integrated into our accounting system to enable us to automatically bill all of our clients without human intervention. This has allowed us to have an unusually small accounting staff for the size of our business.”
6. Cash Flow Management
Technology has improved how many small business owners handle cash flow and obtain financing. Indeed, the rise of online lenders and lending marketplaces has led to near-immediate funding for qualified borrowers.
Not surprisingly, accessing and managing credit and cash flow is how 34% of small businesses use technology, according to the Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, lending and cash-flow management platforms account for 13% of small business technology tools.
7. Superior Inventory Management
Small businesses technology solutions are available for overseeing a company’s stock levels too, most frequently with the following uses:
- Managing inventory 35%
- Finding lower cost suppliers 20%
- Processing returns 21%
In this regard, Kevin Callahan, co-founder and CEO of Flatline Van Co. shares: “Technology has given us the opportunity to offer a ready-to-ship inventory and a hybrid work environment. Our inventory management technology makes processing orders within 24 hours simple and accurate. This is a major industry differentiator for us, as many competitors can only offer made-to-order [products], which can take weeks to months to ship.”
8. Greater Security
Another small business technology need involves securing sensitive company, employee and customer information, such as proprietary tools, payment details and personally identifiable information, among others.
Inga Broerman, vice president of marketing at BluLogix, notes the importance of “employing technological measures to provide a safe setting for a business,” adding, “many companies now embrace technology because it allows them to better protect their customers’ personal information.”
Broerman adds, “There has been a big improvement in the user-friendliness of software, making it possible for even business owners with less technical knowledge to make the most of their software’s capabilities and functions.”