From making tax digital to your new contactless terminal, it’s hard to ignore how technology and the digital world are rapidly transforming the way businesses operate. While it’s easy to cling onto old habits, SMEs that welcome technology in small doses will not only streamline existing processes, but ensure they remain ahead of the curve when it comes to meeting customer expectations. With a combined turnover of £1.8 trillion, nearly half of UK SMEs agree that technology would improve their productivity – providing a huge boost to the UK economy. We take a look at five simple ways your business could integrate new technology for enhanced efficiency, and an even brighter future.
Cash only? While it’s important to keep your till stocked, SMEs that refuse card payments now run the risk of losing business altogether. In fact, research has revealed that small cash-only businesses have less than five months to make the switch before customers lose patience; Birmingham’s shoppers proving the most impatient at just 3.5 months. With the total UK contactless spend reaching £69 billion in 2018, businesses that accept this form of payment can open the door to even more visitors keen to pay with their cards, smartphones or wearables (and not miss out on those lacking the change). Plus, with payments below £30, a simple tap does wonders for your productivity, reducing queue times and allowing your customers to pay swiftly during busy periods.
With a sea of apps designed to propel SMEs forward, it’s worth investigating which innovations could work for your business. For restaurant owners looking to fill their tables, apps like OpenTable make it easy for hungry guests to discover your place and book a sitting (minus the phone call). Similarly, apps like Qkr! were designed to make eating out a breeze by allowing customers to pay via their smartphones – the kind of tech that has the potential to transform your front of house. With payment acceptance in mind, low-cost solutions like Square allow any sized business to accept all major cards via a small card reader – whether face-to-face, over the phone or online. The free POS app also allows you to track sales, issue digital receipts, and receive sales reports.
As your team begins to grow, organisation is key should you wish to maintain good communication and a steady workflow. Whether you’re an office-based business or tend to work remotely, software like Trello offers a flexible solution to streamlined project management. If you haven’t already, SMEs sharing large files on a regular basis should consider secure online hubs such as Dropbox or Google Cloud Storage. For avid notetakers, Evernote allows users to capture information quickly via computer or smartphone, minus the pen and paper. When it comes to communication, collaborative workspaces like Slack allow teams to set up project-specific channels and correspond via relevant workstreams. For conference calls from any device, anywhere in the world, Skype for Business puts you in the same room as colleagues with built-in instant messages and screen sharing capabilities.
Under lock and key
Though it may be the last thing on your mind, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to security. SMEs that choose to ramp up their surveillance will not only reduce the chance of theft, but be given peace of mind after a long and busy day. From CCTV to intelligent alarm systems, there are a number of options available to align with your key concerns, dependent on the size and type of your premises. Providing video surveillance and notifications direct to your smartphone, video or ‘smart’ doorbells such as ring allow you to monitor front-door activity 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the world. With customisable security at your fingertips, just a few small changes could keep your business safe and sound – and at a relatively low cost.
Robots at the ready
Though the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) may sound far-fetched, SMEs are already enlisting the help of advanced technology to better serve the needs of their business. Whether it’s a photographer investing in their very first drone, a toymaker exploring 3D printing, or SMEs using smart speakers like Amazon Echo, the integration of AI is fast catching on and for good reason. If you’re a consumer-facing business, chatbots can serve as virtual assistants in your absence, offering swift, pre-set responses and effective customer support 24 hours a day. Whether via your company website or Facebook Page, automation can always be adopted to answer your customers’ most basic questions, without compromising that personalised approach should you ever wish to step in.