In today’s disruptive business economy, there’s endless opportunity for small and midsize businesses to revolutionize the ways they are doing business, particularly for digital native SMBs, born and rooted in digital technologies. According to IDC, midsize companies that align their long-term business goals to their digital transformation strategy are 2x more likely to report double-digit revenue growth and 4x less likely to report a revenue decline.
Using emerging technologies to support digital transformation initiatives, such as moving to the cloud, SMBs can effectively compete with larger competitors. Why? Large enterprises have traditionally had the resources available to them to capitalize on the newest tech. But as innovation moves even quicker and becomes less expensive, SMBs often have the added benefit of agility to more quickly identify, test and implement new tech that ultimately gives them an even greater competitive edge.
Over the next five years, there are five technologies that, if implemented correctly, can help to set SMBs apart from each other and larger competition.
IoT and Machine Learning (ML)
IoT and machine learning aren’t new to businesses, but today we’re seeing broader and smarter applications of both technologies. One of the places where this is most apparent is in customer satisfaction and customer experience. By gathering data through IoT and analyzing it through machine learning, companies can ensure their offerings meet the demands of their customers.
For example, in the retail industry, companies can analyze IoT data and usage data using machine learning to predict what products or solutions might best fit customers’ needs. With that predictive data, retailers can also make sure the right advertisements and deals are placed in front of the consumer – at the right place and the right time – to ensure purchase or conversion. This enhances the customer experience, and ultimately improves customer loyalty.
Combining IoT and machine learning means more personalized experiences for customers, and a quicker way for companies, including SMBs, to meet their demands, and companies are going to take advantage – the AI in IoT market is expected to grow from $5.1 billion in 2019 to $16.2 billion by 2024.
Artificial intelligence and bots
You likely interact with bots almost daily, whether it’s a text from a restaurant confirming your reservation, a call to customer service or an email from a company answering your questions. Even over the past few years, bots have become increasingly mature, better understanding natural language, and in turn, resulting in less frustrating experiences.
Now is the times for SMBs to capitalize on AI and bots. AI platforms are growing at an unprecedented 28% rate from 2019-2023 due to their unique ability to be nimble: getting work done faster and more accurately. Especially in SMBs, AI can help to keep overhead low and employees more productive.
Augmented reality (AR)
According to Markets and Markets, the AR industry is expected to be worth more than $85 billion by 2025, and it’s clear why. Powered by headsets like Microsoft HoloLens, Google Glass and a host of others, customers and employees can be transported across the world and be virtually inserted into conferences, meetings, job sites, medical emergencies and more all while looking at the same data, making suggestions and implementing changes. The introduction of AR in the workplace takes video conferencing one step further by allowing employees and customers to virtually make decisions in the same space.
This is a significant opportunity for SMBs. By connecting employees to each other and to customers virtually, they can realize a multitude of time and cost savings, that result in greater productivity and an increased bottom line.
Optical character recognition (OCR)
If you haven’t heard of OCR yet, you’re sure to soon. Grand View Research found that the OCR market is expected to reach $13.38 billion by 2025. These applications are pulling a 180 on how documents are processed. No longer do companies receive scanned documents like a PDF or image and just file it away electronically for safekeeping. Using OCR, applications can extract data from any scanned document or image and bring it into a format for online review and immediate processing into an accounting system. When used with AI, that same transaction can be automatically approved for posting and payment or receipt.
The idea of robots might not be new, but the accessibility of this technology we’re seeing today opens the doors to SMBs. As robots become less expensive, they’re making their way into the middle market, and into smaller companies, too. Businesses and merchants large and small are using robots to accomplish administrative tasks and upskill their workforce to do more meaningful tasks that have a greater impact the bottom line. For example, robots today have the capability to do things like machine tending, precision and circuit board testing. The World Robotics Report found that robot sales have doubled over the past five years, and expects those numbers to grow even faster in the years to come due to their unique ability to upskill the workforce.
We’ve seen the power of digital voice assistants in our personal lives, and we’re about to see them mature in the business world in a big way. The use of voice assistants is expected to triple over the next few years with 8 billion digital voice assistants expected to be in use by 2023. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are working on voice-enabled business applications to manage meetings, book conferences, order products and control devices, all through voice commands. For SMBs especially, voice technologies can help to increase productivity, collaboration and communication.
There has been no time quite as open to opportunity and innovation for SMBs as today. By aligning to a digital strategy, SMBs can disrupt their more traditional competition and gain a competitive edge against them. Companies who embrace new technologies like the five listed above, as well as others that are sure to be introduced, will have a unique ability to drive their businesses forward.
Subhomoy Sengupta is the head of small and midsize enterprise operations at SAP. In this role, he is responsible for driving go-to-market activities, leading the sales organization and delivering best-of-breed solutions to small and midsize businesses around the world – helping them compete better, win and grow. Sengupta has held various leadership positions at SAP, including a successful tenure as the head of small and midsize sales operations in India, and most recently serving the Board area Global Customer Operations as chief of staff. @SubhoSubhomoy