These are just some of the big, bold adjectives that people throw around when describing new trends or technologies. Heck, you may have heard these first-hand from a friend, colleague, or (more likely) a salesperson trying to get you to sign up for their product or service.
While there’s nothing wrong about being open to new tech trends, you do have to be discerning when it comes to which ones to invest in. The last thing you want is to jump into an overhyped trend that doesn’t add value to your business.
Need help figuring out which technologies are worth your while? We’ve put together a quick overview to get you started.
When implemented correctly, cloud-based systems can truly transform your business. They can improve your productivity, save you money, and help you scale.
Cloud computing has been around for a while now, but the industry continues to expand. In 2017, Forbes forecasted the cloud computing market to grow from $260.2 billion to $411billion in 2020.
There are a number of reasons for this. For starters, consumers and businesses alike are increasingly relying on multiple devices (most of which are mobile) to run their lives and businesses. As a result, the necessity to access tools and information from anywhere is driving the adoption of cloud platforms.
People these days also have a lot more trust in the cloud. While security breaches used to a big concern among IT professionals, it’s been found that cloud solutions are more secure than on-premises systems.
You’re probably already using the cloud in some way, shape, or form but it’s still worth evaluating your current technology stack to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your systems. Go through the business applications that you’re using and ask the following questions:
- Is my business on the right plan?
- Am I (or are my employees) getting the most out of the solution?
- Does this app integrate with the other programs that we’re using?
- Could there be a better solution in the market?
And if you’re still not using cloud-based systems, it’s high time to do so. A good first step is to identify manual or inefficient processes in your business then find solutions to replace them. For example, if you’re doing manual financial reconciliations, then consider looking into accounting applications that can do the heavy lifting for you.
Once you know what you need, check out different apps using marketplaces such as CUE, so you can easily compare apps the determine the best choice for your business.
Business intelligence and analytics
Business are becoming smarter thanks largely to reporting and analytics solutions that help entrepreneurs better understand market, consumer, and business data.
“Key tools that we have worked with our clients to use include dashboards that allow visualization of their data such as Tableau or Alteryx whereby they can monitor key data points in real-time to make informed decisions,” says Carlos Castelán, Managing Director of The Navio Group, a retail consulting firm.
“For example, management teams can monitor their spending by product category or by supplier to help them gain key insights into the business in a matter of seconds that might otherwise require manual reporting from employees.”
You can effectively collect and analyze data by using the right tools. While there are apps that are specifically made for business intelligence and analytics (Tableau and Google Analytics for example), many platforms have built-in reports that you can utilize.
Your point-of-sale system, for example could provide sales and inventory reports, while your accounting software can provide invaluable financial insights.
The best way to get the most out of data and analytics is to incorporate them into your systems and process. In other words, you need to make data analysis and action part of what you do.
As Castelán puts it, “After setting up the system, the key becomes integrating the insights into existing businesses processes to act on the information. This is where businesses are able to gain a competitive edge by reacting quicker and having more information.”
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Want to take your data analytics to the next level? Incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into your efforts.
Here’s the good news: solution providers are progressively making AI accessible to SMBs. A while back, Google introduced automatic insights in the Google Analytics mobile app to save users time from having to manually analyze web data.
As Google notes on its blog, the functionality “combs through your data to give you meaningful insights and recommendations” and “offers quick tips on how to improve your Google Analytics data.”
AI isn’t just about data analysis though. The technology also provides value by analyzing your information or behavior, then making predictions or recommendations on what you can do to improve.
Google, again, is making waves in this space. The company recently introduced smart replies in Gmail, a feature that analyzes email content and then suggests possible responses.
They’ve also started rolling out AI-powered grammar suggestions in Google Docs to help users spot and correct typos.
Robots are starting to enter the SMB space. Not so much in a Jetsons type of scenario where Rosie the Robot Maid helps out with chores, but more along the lines of friendly web and mobile assistants who can assist shoppers.
We’re of course referring to chatbots.
As more and more consumers embrace chatbots, businesses are increasingly seeing them as efficient communication channels.
Chatbots can streamline customer service by being programmed to answer common questions. If a user lands on your website, you can install a chatbot to handle basic conversations and then have a live customer rep answer more complicated questions.
The technology can also be used in marketing. HubSpot, for instance, uses a Facebook Messenger bot to distribute content and subscribe users to its blog.
If it makes sense for your business, see if chatbots can help your team connect better with prospects and customers. If you need an extra hand in the customer service department, for example, then these nifty bots could be a godsend.
Determining which technologies to invest in can be overwhelming, but it’s a necessary task for any entrepreneur. Fortunately for you, there are a number of resources that can make this process easier.
At CUE, for example, we help you figure out the right software for your business so you can save hours from perusing review sites and forums. Not only that, but CUE can help you score deals to lower your costs, and our dashboard simplifies how you manage your apps.
If you’re in the market for new business software be sure to check out CUE today.