2018 ushered in a lot more than New Year resolutions and promises. Record cold temperatures hit many areas of the world hard, from Tallahassee, Florida to New York.
What does cold weather have to do with small business IT trends for 2018? Well, it has given us much more time to contemplate the future of information technology for small business owners and operators. With the thermometer plunging below zero, there’s not much else we can do but predict the future for small business IT.
Here’s 9 small business IT trends you cannot ignore in 2018:
- Faster Wireless Broadband
WiFi is awesome. We seem to not be able to live without. Wireless carriers continue to evolve their networks and 5G wireless speeds are coming, soon. We’ll see 4G speeds evolving and getting faster, while 5G launches in more areas. I’ve found that 4G cellular connection is pretty much as good as WiFi speeds. However, with 5G you won’t even be looking for a WiFi spot.
- Going Global
Although local SEO has received plenty of attention from techies, the fact remains that globalization will be the dominate eCommerce theme in 2018 and moving forward. A customer living in Brazil who wants to find the most affordable big screen television will search worldwide on the Internet for the best deal.
Local commerce will still represent the majority of small business sales in 2018 in niches such as grocery and automotive. However, for products like furniture, appliances, and pharmaceuticals, the marketplace will evolve into a virtual global store. Already eBay, PayPal, Alibaba and other companies are bringing our worlds closer and closer together.
- Expect Cyber Security to Get More Complex
Most small businesses do not have the financial power to recover from a rash of identity thefts, malware, and other security exploits. After the Equifax hacking incidents that happened in 2017, a new focus on developing more intricate firewalls and other security protections have emerged from IT conferences held throughout the world.
In 2016, more than half of all unwanted website intrusions targeted businesses. 2018 will be the dawn of a new era of more complex security tools for small businesses to combat the increased threat of security hacks.
- The Use of Freelancers Will Grow
From developing code for a website to integrating apps into online marketing programs, small businesses will increasingly turn to professionals who offer their expertise on a freelancing basis. As more companies adapt their business models expect companies to warm even more to using experienced freelances in lieu of employees.
- Generation Z Customers Want Personalization
Is it possible to combine information technology with a personal approach to customer services? The answer better be yes, because that is what Generation Z wants from businesses. Generation Z comes from the age demographic years between 1996 and 2010. By 2022, Generation Z will represent nearly 40 percent of American consumers.
Business owners will have to accommodate the desire for more personalized customer service by merging automated systems with personal interactions. Personalized customer service also involves social networking posts and sending emails about upcoming specials.
- Huge Technical Advancements for Virtual Reality
It seems like this trend has appeared on the list for the past five years. Is this really the year virtual reality takes off? Small business owners and operators should expect virtual reality to reduce training costs by implementing creative virtual reality technology that allows employees to develop skills at their preferred paces. YouTube supports 360-degree videos; you can expect demand for the technology to come from customers who want to explore how your products perform.
- Speaking of Videos
You can humanize and personalize your brand by using videos in your marketing. All the social platforms support and encourage native video. No longer is it enough to upload a video to YouTube, you must now think about video on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. You can use video to share your thought leadership and educate a customer to a sale. You can also use video to showcase how your product or service can benefit a customer.
- AI will Be Important for Businesses
Many business owners believe incorporating artificial intelligence technology with their IT platforms is cost prohibitive. However, in 2018, you cannot ignore the cost of not using AI. Around 60% of businesses already collect information by implementing artificial intelligence strategies.
AI is here to stay and small business owners will fall behind if they ignore the critical technology. Many vendors such as Salesforce and Intuit are already using AI in their solutions to benefit their business customers. AI helps you gain more insight from data, respond better to customers needs and more.
- Branding Will Become Personal
It used to be CEOs sat behind a desk all day and let their employees be the face of the brand. That mindset has changed dramatically, as CEOs have learned the importance of presenting their personal brands online. Consumers want to see the face of a company, and personal branding makes that happen. The same principle applies to small businesses, as savvy operators take to Twitter to answer customer questions and interact with potential customers in real time from their small business websites.
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