Staying on top of the latest trends in technology can be crucial to business growth.
This statement is as true for SMEs as it is for large enterprises. According to a recent report from Dun & Bradstreet, a majority of small business leaders believe that they can generate more revenue with access to the right tech. Yet research also shows that SMEs are more hesitant than larger organisations to invest in new technology.
At Valda Energy, we want to support your SME by showing you how to take advantage of the key technologies affecting UK businesses. We’ve gathered together five of the technology trends capable of transforming SMEs and offered suggestions on which type of business could benefit most from each.
The use of AI (artificial intelligence) and automation technology is often considered to be confined to large organisations. Research shows that large companies are most likely to have an AI strategy, but AI and automation can still help transform productivity for SMEs in several ways.
AI tools allow businesses to automate daily tasks such as email and invoicing. They can also help SMEs analyse large amounts of data for useful insights into customers, competitors, and employees. In taking care of those tasks, AI technologies give human workers the time to focus on other business activities. For this reason, artificial intelligence is predicted to boost the productivity of labour in the UK by up to 25% by 2035.
Developing your own AI can be a costly and complex process, so SMEs are best off taking advantage of existing platforms that can be scaled to their required size. There are even some free and open-source software systems available.
Do you have time-consuming processes that could be automated? Or are you looking to gain insights into large amounts of data? AI may be able to save you crucial manual input hours.
It has been predicted that AI will power 95% of all customer interactions by 2025. Within this space, customer service chatbots are proving especially popular. 80% of sales and marketing leaders surveyed by Oracle either already deploy chatbots or intend to do so by 2020. These statistics suggest that businesses who do not make use of chatbots are at risk of being left behind.
Thankfully, chatbots exemplify how AI can be particularly useful for SMEs. Deploying chatbots can bridge the service gap for businesses with small teams. Chatbots use rapid data processing to automate responses, meaning no customer has to wait for answers. They are capable of interacting with many users simultaneously and offer 24/7 availability to customers. These capabilities can transform the quality of your customer service, allowing you to retain customers over time.
A cheaper alternative to AI-based chatbots are command-based chatbots. These answer questions based on a bank of pre-determined answers but cannot answer anything outside of those parameters.
If your business deals with a lot of similar customer enquiries, chatbots may be more than capable of fielding them. This could free up your employees’ time to help with more complicated issues.
According to the European Statistical Office, 41.9% of British organisations adopt some form of cloud service. The rise of SaaS (or Software as a Service) is a cloud-based technology trend that allows SMEs to harness the same powerful tools as enterprises.
SaaS offers access to all manner of IT services via the cloud, allowing users to log in from anywhere at any time. This convenience creates new opportunities for SMEs to collaborate and stay productive.
That’s not the only benefit of SaaS for SMEs. Because their software is supplied and managed remotely, on an already-developed application, businesses save the cost and effort of server maintenance. SaaS services tend to be available on a pay-as-you-go subscription basis with no large upfront fees, which can make them a more cost-efficient solution for SMEs.
Is your business undergoing rapid growth or change? If so, the configurable, flexible and scalable qualities of SaaS solutions could be well suited to you.
In 2018, cash was used for only 28% of all payments made in the UK. Retailers in the SME sector are seeing benefits from the growing shift to digital payments. A survey of German SMEs saw more than half of businesses report a positive impact on sales and the share of new customers due to cashless payments. While customers grow more comfortable paying without cash, SMEs gain faster, more efficient payment processes and the added security of having less cash on premises.
New cashless payment methods are also on the horizon. SMEs looking to get ahead of the competition may wish to adopt voice ID or fingerprint scanning for payments as the move to a cashless society pushes ahead.
Cashless payment systems are easy and cheap to set up, but they do come with charges for processing card payments and potential susceptibilities to fraud. However, retailers need to evaluate whether this offsets the loss of business from not offering card payments.
Due to transaction limits on cashless payments, this tech is best suited to any industry where businesses rely on taking frequent small transactions.
As going digital becomes more of a necessity for UK businesses in the 21st century, the threat of cyber-attacks and data breaches has grown. A report from cyber insurance firm Gallagher found that 1.4 million UK SMEs were affected by a cyber-attack or similar cyber incident in 2018. Each of these incidents cost on average nearly £6,500 to resolve.
These statistics show that SMEs should use technology to safeguard against the threat of cyber-attack as well as improve their business performance. Putting into place practices for backup and disaster recovery is recommended. Other key actions SMEs can take to keep data safe include updating software regularly, strengthening system passwords and installing anti-virus software.
Costs can vary from relatively inexpensive software to expert defence from cybersecurity firms. What is certain is that the cost of doing nothing and experiencing a cyber-attack can be very high.
Yes! As the statistics show, all SMEs should be increasing their focus on cybersecurity. Be sure you have a good cybersecurity strategy in place before you take advantage of any other new tech.
Cloud, AI, SaaS, chatbots, cybersecurity: although these technologies can seem intimidating, they can all reap benefits for SMEs. These tech trends give smaller businesses access to some of the same powerful solutions as enterprises at less cost and complexity than ever before.
Before deciding which – if any – of these trends you’d like to implement into your small business, we recommend getting more information on them from trade bodies, at trade events, or by participating in local business networking events. The experiences of others who have adopted new tech trends, or the guidelines provided by a relevant trade association, can be valuable sources of knowledge when considering your own options.