Starting a business is not a walk in the park – it comes saddled with a great deal of anxiety, fears of the unknown, and second-guessing yourself on every decision you make. You also have to worry about competition from other existing players in your market and the bigger chains that could come in to stomp everybody out once they have their eyes set on your market. The more worrisome fact is the pessimistic data stating that one-third of new businesses fail within the first two years of operations.
However, you can improve your odds of business success by taking proactive steps to use technology to your advantage. Traditional small businesses have a reputation of being slow to adopt technological changes. However, seeing that the odds are already against you, adopting technology in order to level the playing ground is a no-brainer.
Website and email
The world has gone digital and your business needs an online presence if you want to market and sell to people beyond your immediate locality. In fact, you might not be able to extend your addressable market beyond the foot traffic that passes through the front of your business if you don't have an online presence.
A website is a good tool to start building your online presence – it doesn’t have to be particularly complex at the beginning. A simple web brochure detailing your products, service, location, and contact details is a good start.
You'll also need to get a professional email service that gives you XYZ@yourbusiness.com. It is often disconcerting to see a business owner whose email address is XYZ@gmail.com or XYZ@aol.com. It simply doesn’t look professional and it throws up credibility issues. Having a professional email also makes it easier for you to conduct email marketing campaigns to increase your sales.
Digital finance tools
Finances are an important part of your business that you can't afford to ignore – technologly can help you set up a full-fledged accounting department without necessarily hiring accountants.
Credit card processing solutions can also help you take advantage of the switch towards a cashless economy by enabling you go beyond the limitations of the traditional cash register. You may also want to explore other payment solutions such as Square, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay if your business is a located in a place that has many millennials or upwardly mobile young professionals.
You can also use online invoicing service to collect payments from your clients and customers instead of send emails that are often easy to ignore. Online account software can help you streamline your business finances and make it easier share your books with a professional account when you do need someone to go over your books.
Chatbots for customer service
You need to make serious investments in setting up vibrant customer service system if you conduct a significant part of your business online, via a website, mobile apps, or social media. Thankfully, you don't really have a build a dedicated customer service department if you run a small business neither do you have to outsource your customer service to teams in Philippines and India.
Chatbots are simply computer programs that use artificial intelligence (AI) to make conversations with humans. Chatbots can be useful in providing prospective customers with more information about your products, setting up virtual tours, and booking physical meetups. Chatbots can also help customers find products, pinpoint your location on the map, and log customer complaints.
If you are tech-savvy or if you have a techie on your team, you can build chatbots that work on Facebook Messenger, Skype, SMS, and Office 365 mail using Microsoft’s Bot Framework.