What lies ahead for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in 2018? What’s in store for your business? It’s hard to say; I can’t get out my crystal ball to find the answers—but I do know this: All SMBs need to leverage these three tech innovations in order to remain competitive in today’s marketplace.
If you are not a mobile-friendly business yet, you need to make the transformation in 2018. In 2016, Google reported there were more searches conducted on mobile devices than on computers and tablets combined. Additionally, Google now ranks mobile websites higher in search engine results. So, if your website isn’t optimized for mobile: A.) Your poor user experience could be scaring your audience away. No one wants to scroll from left to right to view a website. B.) Your website might not even be found in the first place.
As an increasing number of consumers start their days with smartphones in hand, small businesses must make sure their websites, email, and other digital marketing efforts are all mobile-friendly.
The future is now—especially when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI). In 2018, AI technologies will become more accessible, small businesses included. SMBs leveraging AI should focus on customer service first. According to a recent study, 52% of Americans give customer service in the U.S. a grade of “C” or lower. However, survey participants said they expect that grade to rise by the end of the year as chatbots make customer service more responsive and more personalized. In fact, 55% of all Americans—and 65% of Millennials—are eager to have chatbots involved in the customer service process.
But don’t expect to replace your entire staff with robots. Gartner research shows AI offers the greatest value when businesses use a combination of human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other.
Voice search is skyrocketing. Today, consumers can ask Alexa, Siri, Cortana, or Google to look something up, share the latest weather forecast, or even order something online. SMBs will need to make some adjustments to accommodate this shift, primarily with the keywords they are targeting. Keywords will need to be worked into more natural-sounding sentences or questions that users might ask if they were talking to a voice search system. Don’t hesitate here—Apple is working on a home system to compete with Amazon’s Echo (Alexa) and the Google Home.
Other Takeaways for SMBs
- Consumers are demanding a better customer experience. This is particularly important for retailers and restaurant owners.
- Socially-responsible businesses will continue to attract consumers who prefer to do business with companies that give back, are community-oriented and care about social issues. Millennials and Generation Z are particularly tuned into this dynamic.
- There’s a rising awareness about and among women and the roles they play in businesses. Consumers (and employees) expect parity and equality. And make sure your staff receives sexual harassment training.