Technology continues to revolutionise small business, and for those ready to embrace the opportunity, 2018 promises to be an exciting year. So, what are the top technology trends you need to know about in 2018?
To help make sense of the fast-changing landscape, we asked some of our innovative app partners – all leaders in the small business technology industry – to give us their predictions for the year ahead.
Facebook advertising costs will rise, along with the need to personalise customer experience
Facebook advertising costs will go up. It’s economics 101. More SMEs want to use it, and ad space is limited, which means rising costs, according to Tracey Wallace, Blog Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce.
“So, while Facebook Advertising will be important in 2018, it’s equally important for you to look to personalisation to better the customer experience, which historically has involved wowing the customer via providing exceptional customer service, fast shipping, low prices, an easy to navigate site.
“In 2018, though, personalisation and localisation are being added to that mix. This is because easy to navigate websites, fast shipping and transparent pricing are already the norm. Now, brands must look to new tactics to make their customer experience a differentiator.
“Local SEO, proper email segmenting, on-site customer segmentation and personalised customer service will be ever important to making sure people remember you and not another brand,” Ms Wallace said
Small businesses will need to secure their information in case of disaster
From data breaches to natural disasters, 2017 showed us just how important data security is. According to Nelson Da Silva, Chief Revenue Officer at Receipt Bank, small businesses need to take steps to secure their information in case of disaster and this is where accountants and bookkeepers can play a key role.
“This starts with moving your books to a secure cloud platform such as Xero and Receipt Bank,” Da Silva said. “This enables you to easily maintain your audit records by snapping your receipts and invoices with an app. It also includes adding two-step verification to your email accounts and using a password manager to generate and store secure passwords.”
Open banking will become a powerful way for businesses to get paid
Duncan Barrigan, Head of Product Management at GoCardless predicts that in 2018 open banking will usher in a new era for bank-to-bank payments, making it the most powerful way for small businesses to get paid.
“Until now, banks have been the sole owners of financial data like account balance or payment history, Barrigan says. “With Open Banking, small businesses will be able to tell their banks to share relevant data with app providers like GoCardless, allowing us to make payments that are ‘smarter’ (e.g. could be triggered when money is in your customer’s account), faster, more secure and less likely to fail. And for small businesses, that will mean better cashflow and less time chasing payments.”
Machine learning will automate will automate the back office
A trend that’s on just about everyone’s radar for 2018 is machine learning – but how will this impact small businesses? It’s clear that accounting software is going to continue to embrace machine learning capabilities. According to Jamie Shulman, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Hubdoc these developments will enable faster and more accurate document coding and data extraction, as well as the automation of complex, repetitive, and time-consuming processes.
“Machine learning will help to automate the small business back office and perform much of the heavy lifting associated with financial management. This will increase accuracy and efficiency in financial reporting, as well as move us closer to real-time financials. Having the capability to make informed business decisions in real-time will be a huge win for small businesses!” Shulman said.
Next week we’ll look at more ways we predict technology will revolutionise the small-business landscape in the year ahead.
Nick Houldsworth, GM Ecosystem, Xero