In many ways, 2017 is shaping up to look a lot like 2016 when it comes to small business technology trends. Industry experts see a continued evolution of technologies and strategies that either emerged or continued to grow throughout the past year. Below, we'll look at a few of these.
Advertising fueled by technology
One of the biggest tech trends in both small and large businesses in recent years has been the increasing reliance on technology to make advertising more efficient. As technologies continue to improve and more data is amassed, 2017 will only see improvement in this area. More and more marketing will be automated, including both social media campaigns and email marketing campaigns. Automation tools from providers like Hootsuite1 and Pardot2 are expected to grow in popularity. As a result, businesses will be able to spend more of their time and resources on gauging the effectiveness of campaigns rather than setting them up.
As more and more businesses discover improvements in online advertising results, the field will become increasingly competitive, which may drive ad prices up.
Video and social media will continue to grow in their importance to online marketing strategies. The social networks will continue to mature in how they deliver video experiences, and businesses will mature along with them in finding ways to take advantage of them. Live video on Facebook, Twitter's Periscope, and Instagram are already starting to take off with businesses, and 2017 will see strategies honed and perfected. Meanwhile, more and more commerce will take place directly from social media and the video content that appears within it. Look for Facebook and Twitter to marry video (both live and recorded) with recent improvements to social account-based transactional features. Think "buy" buttons3 and Messenger/Direct Message support.
Artificial intelligence and chatbots
Businesses will benefit more and more from artificial intelligence as the technology continues to improve after years of increasingly impressive growth. Some will be able to leverage the technology themselves, while almost all will be affected by it indirectly as it continues to influence other parts of the Internet and the world at large. For example, Google will continue to make changes to how it gets users to the information, products, and services they're looking for, and this will be largely driven by artificial intelligence.4
2017 will almost certainly see the rise of more and more businesses taking advantage of chatbots,5 which are AI-based programs that can be used to have conversations with customers and help them get the information and/or service that they're after.
In fact, a good deal of this human-to-machine discussion will likely take place via Facebook and Facebook Messenger as the social media giant has begun providing businesses with such abilities, and enabled developers to build useful applications on top of them.6 This plays directly into earlier comments about social media becoming more of a means for commerce.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things has gained some major momentum in recent years, and this is yet another technology trend that will see continued growth throughout 2017. With smart devices from Google and Amazon, such as Google Home7 and Amazon Echo,8 continuing to penetrate consumers' lifestyles at relatively low cost, even small businesses stand to gain a new avenue into people's buying habits as consumers simply speak commands in their home and make purchases. Other businesses will benefit from their own smart devices that give them new ways to get work done. Think smart locks, mobile card readers, Internet-connected kiosks, and potentially "smart" versions of standard equipment that can benefit from connecting to the Internet for data purposes and/or supply replenishment purposes (look at what Amazon is doing with its Dash Replenishment).9 It's early days in this space, and the possibilities are endless.
Customer data vulnerabilities
When you look at all the amazing technologies that have emerged or drastically improved over the past decade, it's hard not to be in awe of what has been accomplished. Unfortunately, not all these trends are positive. For all the benefits that technology has given businesses, it has also brought the very real threat of data vulnerability, and in perhaps no other period has this been as evident as it is now.
Technology will continue to enable businesses to gain more data about their customers and use that to their advantage, but that also means businesses face the responsibility of keeping that data safe in an increasing climate of cybersecurity fear.
Cybersecurity has been cited by many small business owners as one of the top concerns they face moving forward, so at least the problem is on their minds, and is not being completely ignored. However, it remains to be seen if enough action can be taken by businesses and third-parties they hire to truly keep customer data safe.
If your company is concerned about cybersecurity, click here for some information from Nevada State Bank on how a Layered Defense Approach can help protect your business from fraud.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A.