It’s no secret, technology evolves quickly. With new releases and optimizations launching daily, it’s not always easy to keep up, especially for the time-strapped small business owner. However, early adoption can drive a growing business.
By Suhaib Zaheer
Consumers and enterprises have been quick to adopt modern software solutions to gather data and save time, but small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are still hesitant to adopt such technologies. Today, small companies can find low-cost and easy-to-implement technology solutions to cover almost any part of their business – especially marketing.
Here are three ways small businesses can take advantage of new technologies to take their business to the next level.
1. Voice Search is the new SEO
Voice searching is an inventive piece of technology that meets the millennial need for instant gratification. Consumers can ask a question to an internet-connected device outfitted with voice-recognition technology – a digital assistant – and receive a human-like response. Folks are using Alexa, Siri, Google Assistants and more to ask, “where’s the best ramen in Austin?”.
According to Search Engine Land, voice-based commerce sales in the United States reached $1.8 billion in 2017 and are projected to reach $40 billion by 2022. While voice isn’t likely to surpass traditional search any time soon, it is an opportunity for small businesses to get ahead of the competition.
How to take advantage
Similar to keyword search, page speed is paramount in voice search. Web pages that load faster naturally have a higher chance of being picked up by voice assistants, who are searching the internet at lightning speed. The average voice search results page loads in only 4.6 seconds — practically twice as fast as traditional web pages. Small businesses can take steps to improve their speed by choosing the right web hosting plan, enabling caching, and optimizing images to name a few.
Site security also offers an optimization advantage for HTTPS-secured websites, which make up 70.4% of Google Home results. Most web hosts, like Bluehost, offer free Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, which activate the padlock and HTTPS protocol. If you don’t have an SSL certificate through your web host, Let’s Encrypt provides free certificates as well.
2. Amp up your revenue with eCommerce
While the brick and mortar shopping experience still dominates, eCommerce is expected to surge by 20% to become a $4 trillion market by 2020, according to Nielsen data. The good news is, advances in affordable software continue to narrow the gap between small business merchants and their powerhouse competitors.
If you have a brick and mortar store but haven’t taken the leap into eCommerce, don’t panic. There are three basic parts to starting an eCommerce store – web store creation, promotion, and fulfillment and shipping. While each of these parts has many steps, there are several ways SMBs can take advantage of software to lessen the stress and time required to get up and running.
How to take advantage of technology
When building a web store, there are several platforms that do the heavy lifting, from handling secure payments to inventory management. For example, WooCommerce is a completely customizable plugin that walks you through the process of creating a store. WooCommerce integrates with WordPress, web hosts and countless other platforms to make the process as simple as possible no matter what you are selling.
Just like driving traffic to a brick and mortar, SMBs need to promote their online business once the web store is up and running. According to HootSuite, 72% of users have bought a product they saw on Instagram. Instagram shoppable posts allow brands to send traffic directly from a post to check-out, without leaving the app. Consumers simply see, tap, shop – creating a fast, natural progression from browsing to buying.
Once the orders start coming, SMBs can take advantage of shipping partners like ShipStation, a web-based software designed to make e-commerce stores efficient at processing, fulfilling and shipping orders.
3. Do more with automation
Software automation promises to give small-business owners more time for the inherently human aspects of running their businesses, which magnifies and multiplies their advantage. In fact, according to a Salesforce Research report, small business owners with less than 200 employees that automate their processes are 1.6X more likely to be growing than those that don’t. Automation is a crucial component in helping small businesses scale by taking tasks that were previously done manually, such as social media management and customer communication, and streamlining them.
How to take advantage
Social media is a crucial marketing channel, but it often becomes an afterthought for many small businesses. Tools like Hootsuite, Buzzsumo and Sprout Social make it simple for small businesses to not only monitor business mentions but also schedule social media posts. This form of “set it and forget it” automation helps small businesses keep a regular cadence of social media posts without manually posting on every platform.
On top of scheduling social media, small businesses can also take advantage of Chatbots, programs built to automatically engage with received messages. Chatbots leverage a variety of mediums like SMS text, website chat windows, and social messaging services across platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Chatbots can take a huge chunk of activities off the shoulders of marketers; answer some queries, execute orders, gather information and even provide customers with guidance on certain products or services. Sprout Social’s guide to chatbots can help SMBs figure out which bots are best for their needs and how to create a Chatbot strategy.
Suhaib Zaheer is the General Manager and SVP of Bluehost.