PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Technology Small Business Owners Should Know About, Explore and Test

By at 11 May, 2023, 2:56 pm

Small Business Success Strategies

By Barbara Weltman –

It’s no revelation that technology is changing fast. In fact, 90% of the world’s data was generated within the past two years. At its core, technology can help small businesses and entrepreneurs save time and money. It can:

● Help small business owners do things faster, more accurately, and less costly.

● Provide information to enable smart business decisions and innovation.

● Improve the customer experience.

● Detect or forecast problems.

And, much more.

To utilize technology, it’s essential to understand the options, and what is on the horizon, and then determine what’s needed for your enterprise.

Metaverse

The metaverse is the space in which the virtual (online) world meets the real world through a computer-generated environment. There’s virtual reality (VR) accessed with headsets and augmented reality (AR) accessed with glasses. By 2023, it’s expected there will be 1.73 billion AR active user devices. The metaverse can also be accessed with apps created for this purpose.

The SBE Council, which recently launched the Metaverse Business Alliance, offers a number of ways to help you better understand the metaverse: a webinar held during Small Business Week 2023 and various articles such as marketing and the metaverse and other thought pieces that touch on the workforce, new business models and economic opportunity for businesses across industry sectors.

What can the metaverse do for your business now?

There are businesses based on selling virtual goods and gaming, with opportunities for startups in this space. For other businesses, the metaverse can be used in marketing by utilizing immersive technologies to better interact with customers. For example, Sephora’ Virtual Artist is an app that uses AR for customers to try cosmetics before they buy. Similarly, IKEA’s IKEA Place enables customers to visualize furnishings in their homes. Think “virtual fitting rooms” and “try before you buy.” The metaverse is also useful for employee training; users won’t be injured while learning to use tools. And the metaverse can be leveraged for conceptualizing construction projects, enabling walk-throughs before any walls are up.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

IBM, a leader in AI, defines artificial intelligence (AI) as leveraging computers and machines to mimic problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. Doomsday predictions that AI will destroy the human race are likely exaggerated and are certainly premature. Currently, AI can’t replace every worker and do every function required by business.

But AI can’t be ignored.

As quoted in The Washington Post, “Every job will be impacted by AI,” said Pieter den Hamer, vice president of research who covers artificial intelligence at market research firm Gartner. “Most of that will be more augmentation rather than replacing workers,” he added.

What AI can do for your business now?

AI can be used to create content and marketing materials as well as interact with customers. For example, ChatGPT can generate original content and assist with research and brainstorming. Chatbots can answer customer questions. G2 has a review of the Chatbots in 2023 for small businesses.

The Internet of Things (loT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices—computers and sensors in objects—to send or receive data. Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa can be used to control lighting and security measures.

For small businesses, the use of IoT is extensive. For example, a restaurant, which is subject to FDA food and safety requirements, can use a sensor in its refrigerator to monitor the temperature and send data to a computer or mobile device via Bluetooth to alert staff if the temperature does not comply with the government’s rules, and the problem can be immediately fixed to ensure that the restaurant stays in compliance. You can learn more about leveraging IoT in this SCORE webinar.

What can IoT do for your business now?

IoT is a data gatherer that can be used to help you make business decisions. You may already be using IoT if you monitor employee activity on company computers (e.g., checking if and when they are online while working remotely). Again, the use of IoT for small businesses is extensive. For example, businesses with delivery trucks can avoid the need for drivers to report on mileage, information needed to schedule oil changes and other vehicle maintenance, creating predictive maintenance solutions. T-Mobile offers IoT solutions for small businesses.

Moving Forward

Most small businesses don’t have IT staff in-house. They may not even have any IT person or company in their list of contacts. To decide which technology can be useful or will be in the near future, it is essential to find the right party for advice. Before you do, however, take a hard look at your current operations to determine where procedures and tasks can be streamlined, what processes are time-consuming and costly, how marketing activities can be transformed and expanded, and identify pain points where technology may provide a solution.

Conclusion

Don’t have a false expectation that implementing a new technology in your business is beyond your budget. There are usually cost-effective ways to get started, and many of the technology solutions can save money in the long run. Again, re-think your business plan and decide what can be useful for your business. Then get the right advice on what to do and budget accordingly.

Barbara Weltman is a member of SBE Council’s advisory board, and has been a leading consultant for small businesses of every kind for over twenty years. She’s the founder of Big Ideas for Small Business® and has written numerous books on small business operations, including J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Starting a Home-Based Business, and The Rational Guide to Building Small Business Credit. Follow Barbara on Twitter @BigIdeas4SB.

 

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