When you think of small businesses, you may think of classic mom-and-pop, Main Street stores with just a few employees, and even fewer expenditures. Even TV and movies love to paint small businesses as old-fashioned shops with carefree owners who spend their time lounging and chatting up regulars. While this rosy picture may be accurate for a few small business owners, for the vast majority, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Small businesses and their owners face unique, difficult challenges that have no clear solution. This was especially clear when the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage in early 2020. While big businesses had the technological infrastructure to weather the storm, many small businesses simply couldn’t survive, through no fault of their own. For the businesses whose doors didn’t shutter in the early months of the pandemic, they soon found that innovation was the only way they could survive. From Zoom meetings to online ordering, COVID-19 forced small businesses to evolve. And even as the pandemic reaches its two-year anniversary, these involuntary changes aren’t leaving any time soon. As the country (and the world) continue to live with the pandemic, more small businesses are beginning to utilize these new technology trends to survive in this new normal.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence
When it comes to saving time, there is no better tool for small businesses than automation. Automation can complete many of the small, minute tasks that add up. Things like welcome emails, communications with leads, and inventory management can all be automized, allowing more time for business owners to focus on profit-driven tasks. Best of all, there are useful automation software for nearly every facet of business. Spending a lot of time setting up meetings? Try out Calendly, a useful tool that minimizes the time-consuming back-and-forth of arranging appointments. Want to set your social media posts weeks in advance? Try Hootsuite or Sprout, two programs that can post to your company’s social pages automatically. More and more small businesses are utilizing tools like these to cut down time spent on tasks that don’t affect the bottom line.
This increased adoption of tech shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, small businesses that extensively utilize digital tools earn twice as much revenue per employee than businesses that don’t. It’s simple: When businesses let technology handle small, everyday tasks, they become more successful. However, this doesn’t mean that once a business automizes some things, it’ll magically increase profits. Small businesses have to constantly be on the lookout for programs that give them an advantage over their big-business competitors. One of these programs is quickly growing in popularity, and could even be considered an evolution of automation: Artificial Intelligence (AI).
One of the most popular AI programs for small businesses is chatbots. With these bots, businesses can communicate with web visitors and determine if they need help automatically. More uses include creating marketing content and streamlining inventory management. Although similar to automation, AI goes one step further: It can analyze data and make logical decisions for your specific situation. From resume scanners to employee schedulers, Artificial Intelligence is becoming more useful (and more affordable) for small businesses that seek to prioritize their efficiency.
Digital Advertising is Changing
For the past decade, there has been a single, dominant platform in the social media advertising business: Facebook. It has long been known that advertisements are the lifeblood of the world’s most popular social media site. In fact, Facebook makes a whopping 98% of its revenue from ads. Because of its unending data collection, Facebook can target ads at the micro-level, allowing them to charge advertisers even more. However, extensive data collection and ad-supported social media aren’t exclusive to Facebook anymore. While the company is still making a gaudy amount of money from ads, cracks are beginning to show.
One thing is certain: Facebook is getting older. Now, if your business’s target demographic is 45+, you won’t have much of a problem. But if your business is targeting the coveted 18 to 34 demographic, you may need a more complex marketing strategy. That’s because young people simply don’t use Facebook as much as they used to. In 2016, 60% of teens used Facebook at least once a month. In 2021, that number dropped to 27%. Apps like Snapchat, Instagram, especially TikTok are simply more popular with young people, creating the need for multi-front digital marketing strategies.
The great thing about tech is that there are a virtually infinite number of programs that can help increase efficiency and revenue at small businesses. The bad thing is that, sometimes, too many programs can cause diminishing returns. After all, if you’re uploading data to a dozen different software programs every day, are you really saving time? Additionally, if you’re uploading the same data, over and over again, there’s a higher likelihood of data errors as well. That’s why small business owners have begun to embrace software integration. With integration, not only does software help you complete tasks, but it also communicates with your other software programs. Uploading information from a new lead? With software integration, you can simply add the information once, and it’ll be available on all your integrated programs. Employees need to communicate in order to get work done efficiently. Why can’t software do it too?
While the dream of completely seamless integrated software isn’t quite here yet, there are a number of programs tailored for small businesses that are incredibly convenient. Software like Quickbooks and Xero integrate accounting, expenses, and even employee scheduling. With these tools, small business owners are realizing just how much time, money, and effort they can save by utilizing software integration.
By now, you’ve almost certainly heard the risks of having poor cybersecurity infrastructure. Without protection, small businesses put themselves, their data, and their customers at risk every day. Thankfully, more and more small businesses have realized this risk, and have taken steps to minimize their chances of a catastrophic data breach. In fact, over half of small and medium-sized businesses now have a cybersecurity plan in place. And as cybersecurity programs continue to become more available and affordable, this number is certain to rise in the coming years. While cybersecurity risks are, of course, ever-present, the rising popularity of cybersecurity solutions among small businesses is incredibly promising. Cybercrime risks are unlikely to completely disappear any time soon, but if more and more businesses begin to prioritize cybersecurity, nefarious cybercriminals will have to work harder to wreak their havoc.
Unfortunately, reality isn’t that rosy, at least not yet. While some small businesses have finally taken action to protect their cybersecurity, for many businesses, there’s still work to do. Only 9% of small businesses have cyber liability insurance. Therefore, it’s no surprise that 83% of small and medium-sized businesses are not prepared for the financial consequences of a cyberattack. Ultimately, many small businesses have not reached true cybersecurity protection. While it’s great to see more small businesses finally begin to take cybercrime seriously, there’s still a long way to go. And while companies that have invested in cybersecurity can do business with peace of mind, those that haven’t will be at risk every single day.
No matter what industry your business is in, cybercrime poses a very real threat. At AXEL, we want to help you keep yourself (and your customers) safe from the threats of ransomware and data breaches. That’s why we created AXEL Go. AXEL Go uses military-grade encryption, blockchain technology, and decentralized servers to ensure it’s the most secure file transfer software on the market. Whether you need to transfer large files or send files online, AXEL Go is the best cloud storage solution. If you’re ready to try the most secure file-sharing app for PC and mobile devices, download AXEL Go for free here.
 “Small Business Technology Trends: Deloitte Us.” Deloitte United States, May 20, 2020. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/technology-media-and-telecommunications/articles/connected-small-businesses.html
 Rist, Oliver. “Small Businesses Are Using AI-Sometimes.” PCMAG. PCMag, December 7, 2021. https://www.pcmag.com/news/small-businesses-are-using-ai-sometimes
 “Facebook Ad Revenue 2009-2020.” Statista, February 18, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/271258/facebooks-advertising-revenue-worldwide/
 Leonhardt, Megan. “Teens Have Been Losing Interest in Facebook for Years.” Fortune. Fortune, October 26, 2021. https://fortune.com/2021/10/25/facebook-teens-usage-harm-studies/
 “10 Small Business Cyber Security Statistics That You Should Know – and How to Improve Them.” Cybersecurity Magazine, May 20, 2021. https://cybersecurity-magazine.com/10-small-business-cyber-security-statistics-that-you-should-know-and-how-to-improve-them/