For small businesses, the quick pace of change in technology can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it can be frustrating to buy the latest device or software solution, only to find out a few months later that it’s already outdated. On the other hand, those constant developments have made it possible for small businesses to have access to technology that significantly simplifies, enhances - and sometimes even makes possible - the way they do business, and at an affordable price.
While it won’t have too much of an impact on your business to stick with version 5.0 when 6.0 was just released, it is important to keep an eye on the big picture and stay up to date with emerging tech trends. For an example, you don’t have to look any further than your child’s smartphone – augmented reality didn’t seem ready to hit the mainstream anytime soon until Pokemon Go burst onto the scene. Now experts are discussing its B2B uses.
New developments like these can impact your business significantly, whether you’re actually using the latest tech or not. To help keep you on trend, here are some of the emerging technologies already beginning to disrupt business as usual.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI was once the stuff of movies, but it’s now being utilized in various ways across different industries. Think IBM’s Watson’s “cognitive dress,” created for the 2016 Met Gala, that changed colors based on the emotions expressed in tweets about the gala in real-time - or H&R Block’s new tax time solution that incorporates Watson in order to hyper-customize taxpayers’ filing experience.
AI doesn’t mean sentient robots – at least not yet. What it does mean is that customers will soon look for - and then come to expect – company websites, brick and mortar stores, products and solutions that feature “cognitive” capabilities that make every consumer experience customized and effortless. Sites or solutions that make them do all the work will soon seem too much of a hassle to deal with.
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2. Internet of Things. What began simply with a smart thermostat and a few cars with Wi-Fi, is now blossoming into a full-blown tech revolution. Home automation is no longer a futuristic scenario – customers can tell Alexa to play their favorite music, ask Google Home to turn their lights off, and use their smartphones to monitor their home’s security from anywhere.
So when they come to work or get ready to make a purchase, those customers will expect no less than the same level of connectedness from the companies they work for and do business with. From shipment tracking to customer service, the “smarter” your processes and tools, the better. Using any method less efficient than smart automation tech will soon seem as inconceivable as not having a website.
3. Virtual Reality. VR is not just for gaming anymore. While it was first introduced as a novelty that gave some people motion sickness, virtual reality has now developed to the point where it’s being used successfully in business applications such as remote real estate tours, construction design and virtual event attendance.
While the big names in VR gear, like the Oculus Rift, may be too expensive for some, there are many affordable headsets that simply require the user to insert their smartphone, that virtual reality apps are destined to become a game changer soon. Why spend time and money travelling or creating a physical model of something, when VR allows your customers and employees to have the same experience?
By starting to incorporate elements of AI, the internet of things, and virtual reality into your business model today, you’ll already be at the forefront of your industry when that technological tipping point is reached.
About Shama Hyder
Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.
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