COVID-19 has irreparably changed the way the world does business in less than a year, and it shows no signs of letting up. Small businesses have had a tough journey in 2020 but they are flexible in some ways that larger businesses aren’t.
The fact that small businesses are not yet established works to their advantage when it comes to restructuring processes to be more coronavirus-friendly.
Rather than retrofitting the latest digital technology to outdated company infrastructure, small businesses can from the ground up with modern programs. All in all: there are less variables that can go wrong with smaller companies.
Here are two trends we’re taking as a given to continue as we move into 2021:
Increased digitization of all aspects of business
All businesses can expect some aspect of daily function to transition into the internet space. Social distancing basically demands it! This is especially poignant for a business which has any contact with the general public as customers.
Remote work increasingly common
Again, remote work will become standard across the board for any applicable job functions because of social distancing. The coronavirus has proven resilient. There is a good chance we have another year of quarantining and social distancing ahead.
Without further ado, here are the technologies that all small businesses should have to adapt to 2021.
1. Tax Management
If your company is conducting business internationally, you should be outsourcing all duties related to compliance to international tax law. There is a good reason there are entire industries dedicated to international tax compliance.
One such industry is global tax management programs. Think you don’t need one? Do you know which countries have the highest and lowest tax rates in the world? Do you keep track of how often these change?
I didn’t think so! But fortunately, there are programs that DO keep track. Digital tax management can take a huge burden off your small business’ plate for a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer later when you inevitably get it wrong.
For a small premium now, you could have access to programs that eliminate all the guesswork for both you AND your customers. The ideal tax program calculates international taxes quickly and accurately before delivering it to end users in a timely manner.
Automation saves labor costs, and it also saves your small business time. And if small business owners can all agree on one truth, it’s that EVERYONE can afford to save more time. As working remotely becomes the norm, so does increased digitization.
But instead of spending more money on labor to run the programs, you can choose to invest in applications which completely automate your daily processes.
For example, you can use automated email outreach to refresh your connection with customers.
You can also use automated programs for billing (which in itself eliminates an entire job a human used to perform), employee scheduling and vacation requests, and more. The possibilities are endless.
Now is the time to start investing in automation. The best part is that these programs are increasingly affordable.
3. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence has a long way to go, but the current status of the technology is already pretty darn revolutionary! Artificial intelligence (AI) opens up channels of communication to customers that were previously unattainable for small businesses.
For instance, chatbots can market services, solve customer’s problems, answer common queries, and upsell clients all in one powerful little program.
Chatbots have been around for a long time. Think about it: the automated phone systems which prompt customers with something along the lines of “say your first and last name and press pound” have been around for at LEAST a decade.
So clearly automated messaging services have proven effective at managing customer queries.
But up until the recent iteration of artificial intelligence, these systems were fairly rudimentary and not much more than interactive answering machines. Chatbots and the AI that backs them up are different. They actually are processing the information given to them and responding to it, rather than just following a series of electronic prompts.
Beyond customer interactions and chatbots, AI offers predictive tools so that businesses can stay one step ahead of trends.
As a general rule of thumb, all businesses should get used to the concept of software as a service (SaaS). The world was already moving at a rapid pace into the digital realm, but now COVID-19 is pushing us faster than ever before.
Small businesses can take control of their destiny and get ahead of the storm. Or, they can put off investing in new technology and spend their formative years later playing catch up.
The businesses that will survive to see 2022 are making the choice to go digital. Are you?
Michael Zhou is a Senior VP of Business Intelligence Development and has assisted the Fortune 1000 company with expertise in the web as a whole, including ground-zero marketing efforts that benefit both consumer and vendor. He is also contributor on Esprittoday.