Each new year brings its own tech trends, and 2019 is no different.
With around 28 million small businesses in the US, your enterprise faces stiff competition. Fortunately, this year's tech trends will bring more opportunities to grow, deliver a stronger customer experience and ultimately help your workforce perform better than ever.
How you ask? Here are the top seven tech trends you should be aware of in the coming year.
AI-driven cybersecurity will protect against threats
Cybercrime is a huge concern for businesses of all sizes, but disruptions caused by attacks can be particularly damaging for smaller enterprises. With experts predicting cybercrime will cost around $6bn each year up to 2021 (on average), no business can afford to take security lightly.
Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, but cybersecurity tools incorporating AI help to make their work harder. The likes of Symantec's Targeted Attack Analytics (TTA) tool, Sophos' Intercept X software and others utilize AI to reinforce systems.
More and more small businesses will embrace such AI-enhanced cybersecurity measures, which can identify potential risks faster and more effectively. This could be a bigger investment than some budgets may allow for, but if there's one thing worth leaving your comfort zone for, it's cybersecurity.
Analytics and data will facilitate more effective strategies
Analytics provide small businesses with comprehensive insights into their customers' activities and behavior, and this will continue to be an indispensable resource in 2019 – through increased intelligence and machine learning will help you get even more out of it.
As analytics tools become smarter, you will be able to use these in other areas such as hiring and branding. Having access to historical data from across all areas of your everyday operations (pulled from customer interactions, your affiliate platform, etc.) will reduce the danger of making costly mistakes, as you'll be taking fewer punts and drawing on hard data instead.
Live chat and chatbots will enhance the customer experience
Have you embraced live chat yet?
If not, you're missing out. 73% of consumers cite live chat as the most satisfying communication method a business can offer, and it's not hard to see why: It's fast, it's free and it prevents you having to listen to that same "your call is important to us" message endlessly while on hold.
Live chat software such as LiveAgent will become more widespread in 2019, with more customers expecting to find it on commercial websites. Likewise, chatbots are a great resource for small businesses unable to offer 24/7 support: prospects can still receive professional assistance during the purchase process without needing to contact a live agent.
Edge computing will make data-gathering faster
Edge computing is becoming more crucial when end users are generating and consuming vast amounts of data.
With edge computing, small businesses can gather data directly from sensors and numerous other kinds of connected devices (at the "edge" of the network, instead of in the cloud or a data center).
This information will either be evaluated at the source or transmitted to a local server or computer for a more streamlined process. As a result, less data is transmitted and your network traffic will be reduced. Why waste bandwidth when there's an easier option?
Small businesses will take better advantage of telecommuting
Small businesses typically operate in small offices where space is at a premium. Employees may be forced to work in close proximity and lack the breathing room they need to be comfortable.
Working from home is one solution to this problem, but it also reduces your own overheads and expenses. Likewise, employees can cut travel costs and operate in their own environment.
The ongoing growth of productivity, project management and collaborative tools will make telecommuting more prevalent in 2019.
Automated marketing will continue to save time and resources
Automated marketing helps small businesses reach existing and potential customers in a faster, simpler way. There's no need to waste precious hours completing repetitive tasks manually when software will do it for you.
For example, Google's responsive search ads use machine learning to transform your raw ideas into optimized ads. Some automated-email platforms can also personalize subscribers' messages to suit their unique habits and preferences.
These are just two examples, but both show how AI and machine learning is making automated marketing more effective. Generating interest, building your brand and pulling valuable data will be easier in 2019 thanks to AI and machine learning, leaving your team more time to focus on critical duties.
More businesses will leverage virtual reality (VR) to boost engagement
VR is no longer the stuff of sci-fi: Now, it's available to everyone for an affordable price.
This widespread availability offers small businesses a fantastic opportunity to create more engaging content that immerses prospects in your brand. For example, you can give users the chance to see how one of your upcoming products handles and performs more powerfully than with a simple video.
Likewise, hands-on tutorials can save customers the time they would otherwise spend trying to understand a new purchase or calling your support team. Tours of your facilities, presentations and product showcases can all be made far more engaging through VR.
Expect to see small businesses taking advantage of virtual reality in the coming year and beyond, as the technology continues to grow.
Ready for the future?
These seven tech trends have the power to transform your small business's work, allowing you to provide a higher standard of service, maximize productivity and foster stronger relationships with customers. Technology keeps evolving at a daunting rate, but it's vital that you stay up to date to give your company the best opportunities.