Technology has evolved exponentially over the past century. Television was invented just shy of 100 years ago; now, everyone walks around with access to books, television, music, and other communication right in their pocket.
Consider the classic case of Blockbuster versus Netflix. Netflix approached Blockbuster with a business proposition at the dawn of the internet, highlighting a shift to streaming services. Blockbuster executives laughed and showed them the door. Rentals, they said, are eternal.
Technological changes have revolutionized the way we work, forcing businesses to adapt or face extinction. Here are just a few of the ways technological innovations are reshaping the future of business.
Drag and Drop no-code solutions
Creating a website or application was once a specialized undertaking. Companies would have no other option but to outsource to developers to bring their vision to life. Then, they’d also be dependent on their developers to make any changes. In many cases, web design and web development were two separate wheelhouses, creating more complexity in what’s now a much more straightforward endeavor.
The introduction of drag and drop, no-code solutions for building websites and apps have transformed how companies create a web presence. As a small business owner, you can use these tools to create your landing page or website without outsourced assistance. While there are valid arguments over whether that’s the best option, it’s a great starting point.
This shift toward using no-code development also benefits the experts in UI and UX design. Rather than dedicating countless hours to creating something from scratch, dev teams can use UI and UX design tools to simplify repetitive tasks and streamline their workflow.
When Pokemon Go hit the app store in 2016, it took the world by storm. Since then, the push to incorporate augmented reality into business practices and marketing efforts has skyrocketed. From the introduction of the Microsoft Hololens for business in healthcare and manufacturing to IKEA’s furniture placement experience, augmented reality offers endless opportunities.
Even so, we’re just at the cusp of this transformative technology. It’s expected that the use of this technology will continue to grow at an accelerated rate in a world filled with uncertainty regarding the pandemic. London Fashion Week made headlines with their augmented reality show recently, allowing them to keep luxury fashion designers in business while adhering to safety regulations. Many retailers are exploring augmented reality as a way to reduce physical contact with products while still allowing customers to “try on” outfits.
As the metaverse movement builds steam, it’s expected that businesses using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality will become commonplace in our daily lives.
Personalization has created a buzz in the world of marketing. Incorporating personalization into a marketing strategy has proven to effectively double conversions.
While many business leaders were aware of the benefits a personal touch could bring, incorporating personalization at a granular level wasn’t scalable. Consider the development of a simple merge tag in email platforms. Before this option was available, emails would be addressed to the entire audience, as typing in individual names wasn’t realistic; the new personalization issues are an evolution of this practice.
AI-driven personalization uses integrations to capture customer behavior and relevant data to hyper-segment email lists. These programs can determine anything from browsing history to when cart abandonment occurred. Using AI-driven personalization makes it possible to retarget and cross-sell through automation.
The next level of AI-driven personalization will capitalize on the video marketing revolution. Tools like Hyperise can already create smart overlays on a video to incorporate the recipient’s name and business information. Even their logo can be naturally integrated into the background.
As this technology becomes more accessible, small businesses hoping to compete will have the tools they need to do so.
Fintech – the portmanteau of financial technology – is perhaps one of the most significant disruptors to modern business. The consumer banking industry, in particular, is struggling in light of fintech innovations.
Traditional banks are forced to compete with online banks that have minimal overhead and a progressive business model. While the Great Recession is more than a decade behind us, the millennial generation is inherently distrustful of big banks as a result, since they came of age during that time. Fintech also creates a 24/7 access environment, which consumers find preferable to the often limited hours of brick-and-mortar financial institutions.
While the business of banking is the most affected, other businesses are also experiencing the effects of Fintech – in most cases, for the better. The rise of Fintech has made it easier to send and receive money internationally, often circumventing banks entirely.
Crowdfunding apps like Kickstarter also empower business owners to seek financing from peers rather than applying for high-interest loans. Furthermore, smart invoicing, cloud accounting and AI-driven forecasting make it possible to run a business from anywhere, giving entrepreneurs more freedom.
All of these changes are just the tip of the Fintech iceberg. From Robo advisors to digital currencies, we’re truly at the dawn of the Fintech revolution.
Cloud Technology and Remote Work
Before the pandemic, there was already a significant shift toward remote work – now, it’s a necessity in many cases.
Fortunately, the pandemic hit during a period when cloud technology was already established. The days of saving a version of your spreadsheet and emailing it to a colleague are long gone; now, everything is live. Cloud technology and remote work capabilities are why many businesses that survived the pandemic are still here.
Beyond the shift to a remote work business model during the pandemic, cloud technology has also opened up access to the global talent pool. Geographic location is no longer a top priority when hiring, as companies can engage the services of contractors from around the globe. This access also provides the opportunity to forgo the nuances of hiring employees and creating a team of contractors to get things done. On the other side of the equation, more individuals are shifting away from traditional work and finding entrepreneurial success as remote contractors.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to objects that connect and exchange data with similar objects via a shared network – such as a Google Home Assistant. This interconnectivity is reshaping how businesses handle inventory, communicate data, and promote productivity.
For example, a seafood company tracking their live lobster inventory could use RFID scanners to quickly scan the crates being loaded for transport. Thanks to the IoT, each scan would automatically update the central database, presenting live, accurate information and streamlining the supply chain.
In addition to directly impacting the supply chain and inventory management, businesses can also use the IoT to improve the customer experience.
Gamification and Engagement
Gamification is an innovative concept that relies on technology to implement rather than being a form of technology itself. The term refers to incorporating game-like experiences into non-gaming programs, such as to-do lists, employee engagement tools, and so on.
The primary benefit of gamification is its ability to engage both customers and employees in a business. Simple things such as leaderboards and achievements increase buy-in. A prime example of gamification in business processes is Salesforce’s Trailhead. This onboarding program takes place in an animated hiking trail, with relevant language and over 400 badges where “players” can win for completing professional development courses.
Nike is another brand leveraging gamification to improve customer relationships. Upon launching the React shoe line, users were invited to test the shoes in a digital setting. Lancome took a similar approach by incorporating scavenger hunts within their store to increase product awareness while engaging customers.
The key takeaway: technology is an exceptional medium for making business fun.
Taking a mobile-first approach
Early adopters of mobile internet will remember the challenge of trying to see a desktop-optimized website on a phone screen. Now, mobile browsing dominates internet usage at 68% as of 2020.
As technology evolves, companies must shift to a mobile-first or responsive website. Not only will this improve the user experience during browsing, but it also ensures the data is SEO-friendly.
Creating a mobile-first interface goes beyond ensuring your website format fits a mobile device; you must also consider what information is most important on the go. For example, if you own a restaurant, what information would a potential customer want while standing on a sidewalk looking for a place to eat? Likely the address, hours, and contact number. It may also be beneficial to include a pop-up to book a table.
It’s also integral for companies to consider how to integrate video content for mobile devices. As many consumers are using mobile browsing in public areas, incorporating elements like closed captioning is a must. These shifts in consumption habits are pushing many businesses to rethink their core web presence.
Finally, the increase in cloud computing, data capturing, remote work, and mobile consumption results in an increased need for cybersecurity. As many technological developments are outpacing cybersecurity capabilities (consider the overnight shift to remote work on unsecured networks during the pandemic, for example), companies are now prioritizing this concern.
Technology is continuously changing how we interact with the world around us. Businesses must continually adapt to ensure long-term success.