It’s going to be a good year for small businesses. As the disruption of the last two years begins to ease, and people start returning to their normal lives, there is going to be a boom in spending and small businesses will see a significant chunk of that.
One survey shows that seven out of ten small businesses predict that their business will grow in the first few months of the year. More than two-thirds (36 per cent) plan on increasing their investment into their business to help it grow even further.
One of the best opportunities for businesses to invest in growth is through technology. Indeed, according to KPMG, 80 per cent of revenue growth across all businesses will come from digital offerings. Small businesses that make the right investments will find that they have more products and services to sell, and the business will run more efficiently, meaning that it will be more profitable.
Small businesses do need to be careful about how they spend their limited resources. However, there is no need to invest in massive data centres managed by teams of IT specialists to start taking advantage of technology. Some of the most effective investments can be modest indeed.
1) Make remote work permanent with the right IT tools.
For many, working remotely was the only way to continue operating through lockdowns and COVID-19-created disruption. Rather than return to the office once the risk is gone, however, why not invest in a better remote working environment? With the right set of cloud services, video conferencing tools, and a collaboration environment, you can establish a highly productive workplace without anyone needing to come into the office.
Not only does this help save money (with office space becoming ever-more expensive), but it allows you to access skills and capabilities that would be otherwise impossible. When your team’s all working remotely, for example, you could bring onto the team staff from interstate and overseas, that might have skills you can’t find locally or have less expensive salary expectations than local staff. That will help you grow headcount and the business at maximum efficiency.
2) Automation gives your company free help.
There are all kinds of automation tools that are now available and priced at a level that small businesses can afford. Payroll automation, for example, ensures that staff are paid on time without the accounts manager or owner needing to find the time to approve the transactions and send out payslips. Chatbots are another example, for their ability to handle first-level customer support and enquiries, and allow staff to focus on the more complex challenges.
Marketing automation is a third small business-friendly form of automation. With marketing automation, it’s possible to provide offers to customers without the direct management of the marketing team. This allows for ongoing, high-value engagement with customers without being a heavy drain on the staffing resources.
3) Go global.
For many small businesses, servicing the local area has been the extent of their capabilities to date. Without the money to invest in marketing to new demographics and people on the ground to keep an eye on operations, it has been expensive and inefficient to try and reach an audience the next city over, let alone internationally.
But technology changes that. It has never been easier to set up a Web store, integrating a secure (and automated) payments platform to allow customers to buy directly from you. Reaching those customers, all around the world, has never been easier thanks to the existence of social media and its audience of billions. More and more, small businesses are finding rapid-global growth simply by refocusing their efforts on selling unique and interesting ideas and products through online platforms.
4) Invest in 5G.
Finally, small businesses would do well to invest in 5G in the coming year. 5G speeds outpace most landline Internet connections (unless you have enterprise-standard fibre connections), and are priced at a consumer level. By investing in 5G small businesses will be able to do more – video and content streaming becomes effortless, AI applications become possible, the company Website will become faster, and it will be possible to collect more detailed data on the customers, allowing for the business to move in-line with customer interest. 5G will truly unlock a new revolution in Internet capabilities for small businesses, without costing them much more (if any) than their current Internet bill.
These are just four technology-driven opportunities that small businesses have ahead of them in 2022. None of which will add to the budget bottom line – the big story of 2022 is how technology is going to democratise the opportunity for businesses of all sizes, with SMEs getting access to the kind of solutions that were previously enterprise class, and from there being able to compete with the big businesses on ideas, innovation, and service quality.