Every entrepreneur starting out today knows they have to compete against some big corporations that aggressively pursue customers both on and offline. But technology products are a thriving industry on their own, and tech companies are coming up with solutions that can level the field for new players.
Fairly inexpensive software or services can manage the books, market to mobile users, and much more. Small business owners can utilize more technical resources than they ever imagined. Here are four emerging technologies to make things easier for small businesses.
1. Mobile Payment Systems
As convenient as those point-of-sale (POS) solutions are for retailers, they’re becoming obsolete, especially for small retailers or mobile service companies. More tablets and smartphones are being produced that already include free apps for processing payments. Instead of pricey hardware, you can get the systems to integrate with mobile apps that accept payments automatically from a simple scan or swipe.
Anyone from the local hardware store to the paper boy could process credit or debit card payments on a tiny, inexpensive card reader that eliminates lines at the cashier or the need to keep ample cash on hand. Other merchant apps will integrate internet and retail stores, or even allow for payment plans—all from the common smartphone.
2. Loyalty Programs
These days, informed shoppers are always looking for the best deal, and one way that companies can provide more value is through loyalty and reward programs. Repeat customers represent the majority of sales for most companies, so it pays to keep them happy and engaged.
Not too long ago, only major corporations had the funds and IT resources to organize, track, and apply all that customer data, and not without making frequent errors. Small businesses had to rely on punch cards. Today, even a small company can manage rewards programs effectively with the right apps that do all the tracking and calculating for you, as well as provide mobile apps and encoded membership cards.
More businesses are moving operations to the cloud, in whole or in part. It makes no financial sense to do something that a third-party professional service can do more cheaply and usually more effectively. Juggling spreadsheets and reports often leads to errors and outdated information.
But a cloud service can provide online access to essential applications like document sharing, accounting or payroll, big data analytics, telephony and video conferencing, or security. For example, 97 percent of emails are spam emails, and can conceal threats. Managed services from places like Lightstream can save you from those kinds of headaches.
4. Tools for Productivity
If there’s a need, chances are there’s an app. Today even the smallest companies can find software products that satisfy common business needs or even industry-specific situations.
Bookkeeping software is becoming commonplace, as are enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), eLearning tools for employee training, HR recruiting software, inventory and pricing control, invoice generation, 3D design and printing apps, product lead time calculation, supply chain management, and many other products that make business operations easier and more organized. Online companies will find an endless source of web app plugins for SEO, visitor stats, user logs, and more.
New entrepreneurs can find almost any technology tool they can imagine with a little research. There are even tools to make locating industry products and conducting price comparisons easier. Having the right tools on hand can reduce costs, streamline efficiency, and reduce errors.
Exciting new technologies can transform your business by supporting constant improvement, finding new revenue streams, and collecting and collating customer feedback. In the highly competitive world of business apps, you may find there’s nothing you can’t do.