I recently attended the Vodafone National Small Business Summit in Sydney, where small businesses and politicians had the chance to discuss ideas for improving policies that affect small business in Australia. We were proud to sponsor this Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) event, as we are passionate about lending our support to small businesses and helping them connect through technology.
Over the past five years, there’s been an increased wave of disruption affecting almost every aspect of small businesses, brought on by increasingly sophisticated technologies.
Research shows that it is essential to be digitally engaged when the alternative is to be left behind as competitors embrace disruption. In fact, Deloitte’s 2017 Connected Small Businesses study shows that small businesses with high levels of digital engagement are 50% more likely to be growing revenue than those with basic levels of engagement, eight times more likely to be creating jobs, and 14 times more likely to be innovating with new products and services.
Despite these promising results, research from Commonwealth Bank found that almost half (48%) of small business owners are reluctant to adopt new digital technology due to a lack of understanding of how it works and the potential benefits.
So, how can you start embracing new technology in a simple way and start applying it to your business?
1. Research what technology will help solve short-term problems for your business
Small businesses have the added challenge of fewer resources than their big business counterparts – smaller teams, tighter budgets, and less time to explore their opportunities for digital engagement. However, this can also be an advantage – smaller teams mean you have the opportunity to be more agile, and use cheap, simple digital tools that can help you be more efficient.
At the moment, two of the most popular uses of digital platforms used by businesses are email and online banking, according to the 2017 Sensis e-business report. However, there is so much more out there, providing endless opportunities for small businesses.
For instance, there is still a low adoption rate of other simple technologies amongst Australian SMBs. Only 22% are using video conferencing, 52% have a website, and 54% have a presence on social media (Sensis 2017). If you’re not already using these platforms, they are a simple and cheap way to help promote your business, and adopt new technology. Plus, be sure to check out our suite of ReadyApps that streamline the way you do business – our team can help find a solution that suits you.
2. Work with the right partner to help you make the most of new technology
Connecting with a technology partner that is committed to supporting your business is essential to implementing a long-term technology solution.
A great example of this is a local business called Binary Beer. Binary Beer is an Internet of Things start-up that connects the supply chain of draught beer using Vodafone’s NB-IoT network. Put simply, they use IoT technology to track beer kegs to make sure they don’t get lost and the beer remains fresh.
Binary Beer works directly with suppliers to provide a cost-effective solution that attaches to a keg, then transmits information about the location, age and storage conditions of the beer back to the supplier through Vodafone’s NB-IoT network. This allows the brewer to make informed decisions to optimise their supply chain, protect their reputation and sell better beer.
Businesses like Binary Beer demonstrate why the IoT industry is a great space for small business and start-ups. This technology offers endless possibilities, and the agility of small businesses means that they can experiment and take the time to work with technology partners to provide effective solutions for their clients.
The smart approach is for small businesses to link up with smart partners who can work with them to develop competitive advantage and leverage opportunities available with emerging technologies.
3. Look to the future and see what opportunities are available with developing technology
One of the best ways to stay ahead of the curve is to identify opportunities to experiment with emerging technology before your competitors.
Artificial Intelligence is an interesting example of emerging technology that is quickly becoming more readily available to smaller businesses, and can often be adopted and implemented much faster than in big corporate organisations.
With the power to provide value beyond just a transaction level by supplying insights – AI will be infinitely beneficial for small businesses. For example, chat bots are now used more widely, as these tools can now easily plug into many websites. They help to support sales teams and manage customers enquiries with a huge range of benefits for a business, such as:
- 24/7 availability – no longer do customers need to wait for answers, as chat bots can help improve and maintain customer satisfaction and establish your business as a leader in your field
- Cost efficiency – a chat bot is a one-time investment that can reduce staff hours and numbers overall
- Streamlining workflow – Introducing this technology helps you focus on the most important tasks without sacrificing your customers happiness or falling behind
These are the cornerstones of survival for a small business, therefore it’s critical for small business owners to have this insight so they can look at a business model and think about what could benefit from being automated and adapt with the times.
With the backdrop of a rapidly evolving business landscape, small businesses owners must be able to sense the need for change, define the nature of the change required, and then implement that change efficiently, effectively and safely.
The best way to do this is to stay aware of new technologies and be prepared to respond and react as innovations emerge in your field. In order to do this, you need the right technology partner. That’s where we all need to come together to inform and empower small businesses to ensure they succeed and thrive in a disrupted future.
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