2018 is looking to be a crucial year for small businesses. Innovative technology for gaining and retaining customers is slated to become more accessible but at the same time, new risks are emerging. Here are four key trends to be aware of and how online inventory management can help.
Following on from the trend that developed in 2017, emerging technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and machine learning will continue to build market presence. Use of these technologies will become more accessible to small businesses as they develop, becoming available for low or no cost. Arduous business tasks such as accounting and inventory control will continue to be simplified as accounting software and online inventory management tools develop. The advantage of machine learning in the customer relations aspect of businesses will lessen pressure on businesses with fewer staff.
The older buzzword, the ‘cloud,’ that we’ve all become familiar with will begin to slow down in 2018, being replaced with the new trend – ‘microservices’. Microservice architecture offers unique processes for individual businesses through independently deployable services. This offers many benefits such as more secure storage of your data, lightweight structures that are easier to alter and navigate, and the ability to personalise a microservice to meet your business’ needs.
Unfortunately, with the growing popularity of networked data storage, hacking is on the rise. With large corporations being targeted, customers will continuously be disappointed with the consequences. As a smaller business, you can provide a more transparent explanation of any fraudulent issues, and your customers will appreciate being updated with as much information as you can share.
To avoid hackers, a security plan for your business should be put in place, with a password system to secure your information. Regular checks on security and account information will keep your business safe and gain the trust of your clients. With enterprise level security, cloud software can be a great option to keep information safe. For example, storing sales and procurement data on an online inventory management platform is likely to be much safer than local storage.
Remote Work: The New Frontier
The struggle of finding a company workspace in the realm of larger corporations won’t be an issue for small businesses in the future. In 2018, remote access is set to grow. This has benefits for both employers and employees. Working remotely allows workers the comfort of their own home, and lessens the cost of office space for businesses. Staff in the field, such as sales teams, will continue to benefit from mobile technology, for example, sales staff are more motivated and responsive to customer needs when they have access to CRM and online inventory management tools.
While there is possibility for issues with distraction or lessened productivity, developers are already creating tools to assist with communication in a distributed workforce, and with a smaller team, this is even less of an issue as you can readily check progress.
From a promotional perspective, 2018 will see a leap in the popularity of personalised marketing. Whether marketing through email or through advertisements, audiences now require marketing material specifically focused on them to capture their attention. Click segmentation tools are useful and affordable for small businesses to separate mailing lists into categories such as interests, demographics, and interactivity. This hyper-targeting dispels the generic feel of traditional one-to-many marketing, creating a stronger business-to-customer relationship.
Overall 2018 is looking positive for small businesses, with the key goal being to create relationships and connections with customers to encourage loyalty towards your business. In this aspect, customer service and satisfaction is crucial. Changing norms in company workplaces work in favour of smaller businesses, allowing remote access and accessible tools for storing information available, saving money and securing data. The bottom line in 2018 is to remain as flexible as possible to make your year a positive one.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.