How entrepreneurs are capitalising on technological advancements to thrive in an ever-changing world.
IN 2020, ONLINE SALES IN THE UNITED STATES will increase by 32%, to an all-time high of $791 billion—the fastest growth in decades. Even more astounding, the US Department of Commerce reported in August that online shopping in the United States increased an estimated 9% in the second quarter of 2021, increasing even as vaccinated shoppers returned to stores.
Shopping online is here to stay. According to a recent Adobe report, e-commerce spending in the United States is expected to surpass $1 trillion in 2022. “A significant portion of resource investment,” McKinsey & Company writes in an April 2021 report, “needs to shift away from new brick-and-mortar stores and toward technology.”
In other words, the world is changing rapidly, and entrepreneurs must constantly adopt new technologies to improve their customer connections. Here are five trends that will help you stay on top.
Customers will increasingly expect “phygital” transactions in the future—experiences that combine elements of in-store and online shopping in an omnichannel environment.
However, for small businesses, phygital offerings such as augmented reality—which allows a potential customer to use their smartphone to outfit their apartment with a digital hologram of a custom-made armchair—can be prohibitively expensive.
One solution? Businesses can reward their followers on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram for sharing a discount code, for example, which drives new traffic to the store and encourages returning customers to purchase.
Additionally, for online-only retailers, seasonal pop-up shops can leverage customer geo-location data to pinpoint the optimal physical location for establishing a temporary space.
When a brand is located in a popular area, it can capitalise on events such as Black Friday. The possibilities for developing phygital offerings are limited only by imagination, and customers are increasingly expecting “experiences” when shopping—whether online or in-person—so fusing the two worlds may be the quickest way to establish a memorable interaction with customers.
In a world as rapidly changing as this one, it’s just as critical to stay current on the latest digital tools as it is to stay ahead of emerging risks. Fortunately, State Farm provides 24-hour virtual assistants to assist business owners in quickly connecting with the appropriate agent to customise a business insurance plan to meet their specific needs.
Working with over 300 distinct professions — from photographers to plumbers to accountants — local State Farm agents meet business owners wherever they prefer (in person, online, or over the phone) to assist them in protecting their assets.
According to Investopedia, State Farm is the best choice for small business insurance because it offers a variety of coverage options through a nationwide network of local agents. Because these agents are also business owners, they understand the needs of other business owners, allowing them to focus on growing confidently.
While large corporations already use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), technological advancements are making it easier and more affordable for small businesses to leverage these tools as well.
Entrepreneurs can streamline research and development, identify supply-chain inefficiencies, find the best job candidates, and improve cybersecurity by utilising AI/ML software programmes. However, technology is perhaps most significant in terms of customer acquisition.
Artificial intelligence-enhanced software or plug-ins can deliver real-time, personalised ads and messaging to consumers, enabling small business owners to better segment customers, connect with repeat customers, and customise push notifications.
Additionally, AI-enabled chatbots are rapidly improving. Previously, chatbots had to be programmed with a specific scripted response to each question, which frustrated many customers.
However, with AI-powered chatbot programmes, the more sessions logged, the more helpful the computer programme becomes—providing an easy way to improve customer service online while also freeing up employees to provide better in-person service.
The majority of small businesses use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, if only to communicate with their customers. However, small businesses are increasingly leveraging those platforms and others, such as TikTok, to build their own communities.
Large brands have been doing this for some time now through the creation of unique offerings such as online classes, which enabled Michael’s craft store to maintain contact with its customers during the pandemic.
However, small businesses have stepped up to the plate as well, offering everything from virtual chocolate tastings (chocolatiers) to remote instructional classes (local hardware stores).
This fosters personal connections with the brand and the development of an online community of like-minded individuals interested in the business. Once a business owner has built that community, it becomes much easier to reach members through advertising campaigns on social media platforms that include “buy-now” links, effectively transforming the platform into a version of Amazon’s one-click shopping experience.
When social community and social commerce are combined, they can provide a significant boost to any small business.
Cybercrime is at an all-time high, and small businesses are a growing target. According to one estimate, 47% of small businesses suffered a cyberattack in the last year—and 44% suffered multiple attacks.
And yet, according to BullGuard research, nearly 60% of small businesses believe they will not be targeted. Small businesses must take the threat seriously—and seize the opportunity that it presents.
By prioritising cybersecurity technologies, businesses will not only mitigate the consequences of attacks, but will also earn the trust of consumers and encourage additional business from them.
Increasing cyber security is a simple way for entrepreneurs to protect their assets while also instilling confidence in their customers and growing their brand.
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