As a small business owner, you may not be on the forefront of developing technology as enterprise-level businesses often are, but tech still plays a vital role in the growth and efficiency of your business. These small business technology trends are important to watch in 2019. While new infrastructure like 5G will emerge, personalized marketing, software unification and cybersecurity can have a direct impact on small business.
In the modern workplace, more and more tech solutions are becoming necessary for communication. Companies use Slack to connect teams, Outlook to send important documents, Salesforce to manage customers, Basecamp to plan projects and Google Drive to store important company information. In 2019, Monday.com predicts that solutions will merge.
"Connecting software to work with other software is hard," said Roy Mann, CEO and co-founder for Monday.com. "There is going to be a breakthrough with integration platforms that will allow any software to connect well with any other software."
This connection will finally link multiple platforms and allow for seamless communication. Mann uses the example of customer information changing simultaneously across platforms if it's adjusted in just one. This unification can save businesses time and promote internal efficiency.
Importance of cybersecurity
With several data breaches over the last few years, small businesses are still being targeted by cyberattacks. According to a poll from Insureon and Manta, only 16 percent of small business owners think they are susceptible to a cyberattack. Yet, 61 percent of attacks occur at smaller businesses.
2019 could see the beginning of a cybersecurity movement among SMBs. Jim Lippie, general manager of cloud computing for software company Kaseya, said small businesses will start viewing security through the lens of an enterprise business.
"They will finally take security measures to heart," he said. "SMBs, like their large enterprise counterparts, will lock down on a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery solution to keep protected, and also form new standardized blocking and tackling game plans to keep the business even more safe."
Many small businesses have been targeted in the past, so 2019 could be the first year where SMBs start fighting back.
Social media influencers and personalized marketing are becoming a viable avenue for connecting with customers and showcasing products. Gone are the days of driving sales through traditional print advertising. Now a business must be dynamic in how it approaches its marketing operations. In 2019, that means working with influencers.
"Consumers want more authenticity in their advertisements, often in the form of a recommendation from someone they trust, like an influencer," said Alex Shvarts, CTO and director of business development for FundKite. "2019 will see more businesses using local and microinfluencers, such as restaurants and gyms, as opposed to the makeup and fashion brands currently dominating the influencer scene."
Personalized marketing can help you connect with your customer base and develop a niche within your industry. Working with influencers means understanding your business's needs and doing your research on who's an influencer within the industry. Our guide to influencer marketing has some other great tips on how to get started.
5G is the fifth generation of cellular capability. It's been a long journey since 1G – or analog cellular – was released in the 1980s. 5G promises faster speeds than 4G LTE with little to no latency. 4G latency, or a delay in data transfer, is about 50 milliseconds, which is half the latency of 3G. 5G will drive latency down to around 1 millisecond, according to Huawei.
This advancement is a major step in the development of the internet of things (IoT). It will support and assist an army of interconnected devices, which will include everything from your vehicle to your refrigerator. While there is a lot of hype surrounding 5G, there is no clear-cut formula or standard for 5G yet.
All the major telecommunications companies have said they're working toward developing this technology, but it's very much still in its infancy. [Read related article: How 5G Will Change Your Small Business.]
Social media advertising
On a par with influencer marketing, small businesses will begin to adopt social media advertising in 2019. While influencers are considered social media advertisers, social media advertising encompasses other areas, like pay-per-click marketing. The rise of social media advertising is in step with the personalization of consumers – people want to be served ads of products they want to buy.
"As more businesses start micro, social advertising will continue to grow as a cost-effective and efficient way to target specific audiences," said Matt Rosenberg, communications manager for Wix.com. "The ability to create unique and differentiating content that engages customers through social media channels is paramount in today's growing digital landscape."
This trend is paying dividends. Rosenberg cited one study that said three-quarters of U.S. consumers purchased a product they saw in a brand's social media post. If you're not already active on social, it's time to start showcasing your brand. [Interested in finding the right social media marketing solution for your small business? Check out our top picks.]
Artificial Intelligence and SMBs
Artificial intelligence has been a hot tech topic for years. As it's implemented into more solutions, small business owners will begin to use and interact with AI in 2019 more than ever before. That could mean a wide range of implementation scenarios, from voice assistants to personalized customer experiences.
"While artificial intelligence may sound like something that only enterprise companies use, in 2019 we'll see it make big inroads into small businesses," said Meredith Schmidt, executive vice president and general manager of small business and essentials at Salesforce. "AI will help small businesses offer more personalized experiences to their customers by maximizing their time and automating manual tasks."
AI's SMB presence varies widely from business to business, but using tech solutions integrated with AI can help save businesses time. Salesforce found that 55 percent of small businesses cite insufficient time as a substantial challenge. As a result, AI is poised to make small business operations more efficient.
"If you are spending almost a quarter of your day on manual tasks like inputting data, as our research showed, AI and automation can be a huge asset," Schmidt said.