According to Deloitte’s recent small business study (commissioned by Google), 80% of small businesses in the U.S. are not taking full advantage of technology. Among the least digitally-engaged small businesses, 40% believe that digital tools are “not relevant” for their business. Moreover, 38% believe that “they are not effective.” In addition, 34% identified “privacy and security concerns” as being among their top three digital barriers. It’s an astounding indication that less digitally-engaged businesses may be unaware of the benefits associated with digital tools. That’s why we’ve put together this tutorial on digital tech for small businesses.
AR & VR
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been the trend for some time now, but 2021 might be the year in which both technologies become truly embraced by small businesses. That’s because AR and VR enable us to experience the world in a different way. As a result, small businesses can use AR and VR to deliver a different brand experience to consumers.
Another key point is that, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, VR networking events have become somewhat of a norm. Trade show exhibits can be affordably transformed into VR and AR experiences for show attendees. This became much more popular during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when companies nationwide scrambled for a way to still put on these important promotional events. For this reason, AR and VR will continue to lead tech for small businesses tech in 2021.
AI & Analytics
Other technologies on which businesses will be focused in 2021 are artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics. These two technologies go together for small businesses like a hand goes together with a glove. They enable businesses to not only collect massive troves of data but to also use machine learning to make sense of that data. The insights businesses gain in this way can be used to better target marketing campaigns or find new efficiencies in internal processes.
AI and data analytics are ideally used to create a custom user experience, because these technologies put together enable you to predict customer wants and needs, and, ultimately, their buying behavior.
According to E-Marketing Associates, another significant transformation ahead from the list of small business challenges in 2021 will be going cashless. Their February 2021 blog post, “Small Business Challenges for 2021,” points out that, throughout the U.S., business leaders are steadily adopting various methods to facilitate digital transactions, mainly through e-commerce software. Within the next decade, very few businesses will still accept cash payments because digital currency is more than likely here to stay.
Financial Times reported in 2020 that, to date, Sweden has been winning the cashless competition. In fact, most Swedish retailers not accepting cash, and only 20% of all financial transactions. Of course, many other countries are also gaining considerable headway. For this reason, this initiative also induces us to think that cash may go away entirely. However, this is really not the case, especially with U.S. cities fighting against cashless business establishments.
Finances Online points to a number of other countries that are swiftly joining the Swedes in cashless transactions. To date, China, Denmark, South Korea, Somaliland, and the United Kingdom top the list of “almost cashless” countries.
In 2021 and beyond, smart companies will venture deeper into blockchain for digital currency due to its robust cybersecurity qualities. Cybersecurity is the #1 issue for small businesses in 2021 and beyond. That’s because during this pandemic-induced era of “everyone working from home,” cybercriminals have found a treasure trove of unsecured technology infrastructure in home offices.
Some of the keys to meeting the challenge of greater data protection, particularly for small businesses with distributed teams, will be:
- Segmented virtualized servers
- Multifactor authentication
- Training employees about cybersecurity
- 24/7 network monitoring software
We’ll tackle all five of these challenges in a future post here on the EZnet Scheduler blog.