Tech Trends for Small Businesses to Watch

Do you ever wonder if your business isn’t as successful as it could be because you’re not utilizing technology to your advantage? Maybe you’re losing out on sales and not reaching as many customers as you can or perhaps you’re not delivering the kind of service you aspire to provide. 

Regardless of your answer, technology is constantly evolving and it’s important to stay educated on new trends and offerings. While it can be daunting at times to keep up, with the right recipe, technology can help bring in accelerated sales, build repeat customers and ensure that your business is leading the way with innovation.

Some of the tech buzzwords that we heard in 2018 will continue into this year – 5G, cybersecurity and digital transformation will be at the top of the list. For a small business owner, applications for each of these trends will continue to grow and become even more strategic to every business.

Here are a few technological considerations for small businesses to keep in mind, and how to apply them, as we dive into the new year.

5G for business 

2019 is going to be unique in that connectivity is beginning to fundamentally change with new 5G standards. 

Some primary differences between 4G and 5G are much higher speeds and lower latency – latency is the time it takes to get a response to information sent. For example, latency is the brief delay between the moment you press play on a streaming video app and the moment the video shows up on your screen. 

Simply put, 5G will eventually be faster. In a recent AT&T 5G mmWave trial, we observed wireless speeds of approximately 1.2 Gbps. Imagine the possibility of being able to download a 1-2 Gigabyte file on your phone in 30 seconds. 

Higher speeds and lower latency will enable an abundance of use cases for small businesses. Have you ever started a video conference and seen the dreaded “loading” message?  Or, the picture quality is poor and video is lagging behind the audio? Have you ever found yourself waiting for what seemed like forever for your credit card payment to process? 

Future 5G will help reduce that lag time and make many bandwidth-related activities more seamless. It will eventually bring faster speeds for all aspects of a business. We will ultimately see drastic improvements for simple things like speedy Wi-Fi in waiting rooms and improved video at a dental office.  

Additionally, many small businesses like lawyers, photographers and small medical offices send large files over their network. 5G will eventually make sending and receiving these files faster for all parties involved. 

The low latency that will eventually be possible with 5G can create a network that makes a near-real time connection possible. It will ultimately help enable all technology aspects, including the massive Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality and augmented reality. 

Imagine training a new restaurant employee – flipping the virtual burger while feeling the tool in their hands, and hearing the food sizzle, while smelling the aromas. All without using your valuable inventory. Imagine Internet of Things (IoT) sensors doing everything from tracking food sources to ensuring you have the restaurant stocked with paper towels for when that post-soccer game rush hits.

So when will this become available? The pathway to 5G has already started. Carriers, including AT&T, are turning on various forms of 5G and advanced services in parts of several cities in 2019 and smartphone makers are set to announce 5G phones this year.  And, there’s a mobile hotspot on the market, which can be used by small business owners with connectivity needs on the go. 

2019 will be the start of a major transformation where small business owners can get their hands – and devices – on 5G, laying the foundation for future innovation and growth. 

Cybersecurity 

2018 was a big year for large-scale data breaches and ransomware threats affecting small businesses. In fact, a recent Ponemon Report found the number of attacks is rising with 58 percent of small to medium-sized businesses experiencing a data breach in the past 12 months.

Who are the culprits you ask, and what are these hackers after? It’s your data they want. Small businesses have moderate yet valuable data, but typically have minimal or non-existent cybersecurity postures in place. 

Many small business owners think that the nature of their businesses keeps them flying under the radar and that a hacker isn’t interested in what they have on their network. That couldn’t be farther from the truth – hackers don’t discriminate and malware looks for any open door to infect. Often, the small business becomes the conduit to additional vulnerabilities, whether it be through their customers or their partners. 

The risks will not stop in 2019, and in fact, it’s likely that we will see more of what we saw in 2018 affecting small business owners. Fortunately, there are simple steps that small businesses can take to help improve their cybersecurity position.  

It begins with educating employees – who in fact are the No. 1 root cause behind data breaches across North America and the UK, according to a Ponemon Study – and buying cybersecurity insurance. 

Many employees may not realize that email is one of the easiest ways hackers can gain access to a company’s data. It’s important for everyone on payroll to understand that when in doubt, don’t open emails from unknown addresses or click on a link if you’re unsure if it’s secure.

2019 is the year that small businesses can take advantage of cybersecurity insurance. Something that was once only attainable for big enterprise is now being made available more broadly and affordable for companies of all sizes. Make 2019 the year to protect yourself, your customers, and your invaluable data. 

Digital transformation 

For many small businesses, this term may seem intimidating and “too high tech” to be applicable, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Digital transformation can mean different things, depending on a business’s size or where they are on their digital journey. 

Simply put, digital transformation is about adapting your business to drive customer experiences and business outcomes in today’s digital world. For some, this can mean moving data and applications to the cloud. For others, it can mean applying Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to cut costs and boost revenues. This could be a farm adding sensors to their crops to improve yield and cut water use. A simple solution with great results. 

The reality is that small businesses can’t continue without a technology strategy and expect more impactful business outcomes. Customers expect the same excellent, seamless experiences enabled by technology in a waiting room as they do in their living room.

The simple keys to digital transformation are planning, patience and partnership. It’s critical to invest time in creating a plan to transform your business operations. 

It doesn’t matter if you are in the beginning stages or already well into your journey – it’s important to take the time to get it right. I’m a big advocate of using a consultant to assess your business and provide that your digital transformation meets the goals of your business objectives. 

I encourage all small business owners to look into the new year with optimistic eyes about what technology can help do for you – everything from boosting revenues, to protecting your business, to improving your customers experience. 

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