Technology is growing at an exponential rate, with constant opportunities to increase productivity and introduce new business initiatives. While you may not wish to embrace the following tech trends wholeheartedly, it’s likely that more than one of the below is likely to impact your operations in the coming months in the course of your interaction with employees, suppliers or customers.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
High on the list of tech trends come chatbots and AI. Companies large and small are beginning to latch onto the power of chatbots for customer service and other uses, such as finding products and pinpointing business locations. They provide a more individual and personal (albeit slightly limited) customer service point, a value which millennials set much store by. Advanced chatbots, which use artificial intelligence and continuously get smarter as they learn from conversations with people are the next generation – think Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. AI programmes have beaten humans at poker, chess and other strategic and reasoning games. It’s a trend set to continue.
Sales and content marketing integration
Purchasing – even large purchases such as cars – is taking place ever more frequently online but the buying decision process is often a combination of online research and personal sales contact. In B2B major decision situations, a face-to-face meeting is generally still an imperative. However, enhancing the customer journey with online content, which establishes your brand’s credibility and position while bringing your products or services to life, will increasingly be an integral part of the process.
Front-line salespeople, who are in constant contact with the customer, can identify content topics and use them in the sales process, too. Good content marketing connects with customers rather than selling directly. It can pique interest at the research stage and reinforce a relationship, building on trust developed during personal contact and surrounding the purchase.
Web-based video conferencing is now relatively commonplace and email is embedded in the workplace as the go-to communication tool. However, with mobile users habitually using instant messaging in their personal life, a business alternative is a natural progression. These are starting show their worth in boosting productivity, teamwork and communication particularly for SMEs with remote workforces and teams that need to chat, send documents and collaborate in real time. Free apps include Google Hangouts, Slack and Facebook Workplace with paid-for Microsoft Teams –compatible with Office products – launched in late 2016.
Internet of Things – cybersecurity
Workplaces have become a web of connected devices, whether personal (tablets, smart phones), desktop (phones, PCs) or infrastructure (thermostats, alarm systems, lighting systems). Their ability to send and receive data and interconnect, known as the Internet of Things (IoT), is becoming a significant security risk. An IT security audit of all devices and protocols should be on the top of your list. Quite apart from mobile loss or theft, the use of apps or unsecure Wi-Fi connections can leave businesses vulnerable to hacking or a malware attack which could compromise personal and business data and thus business continuity and viability. Similarly, cloud based data needs to be super-secure. With the advent of the new EU data protection laws, a breach could become very expensive financially, as well as reputationally.