27 December 2020

The tech trends small businesses need to watch in 2021

The uptake and use of technology ramped up in 2020 as the COVID-19 effect saw physical interaction limited and businesses increasingly focused on efficiency. Here’s a look at the tech trends that are here to stay and that could offer opportunities for your business in 2021.

1. Online shopping – online retail sales saw year on year growth of 60% according to figures for October 20201. Whilst much of that growth was driven by enforced lockdown, shops having to close and people choosing to stay at home, commentators predict that the trend will continue. Offering customers a choice of how to shop with you by embracing ecommerce could help broaden your market.

2. Social media – as well as being a useful tool to communicate and keep in touch with customers or potential customers, keeping your business front of mind, social media also presents growing sales opportunities. Marketplaces are becoming increasingly popular, with research showing that a fifth of consumers used social ecommerce during the first lockdown2.

3. Review sites – as customers increasingly shop online, review sites are growing in importance and influence as a means of building trust in products, services and brands. Make a point of keeping on top of reviews so that you can quickly identify any issues, respond to feedback and show that you care. It can help enhance your reputation.

4. The Cloud – providing a welcome alternative to costly IT servers and allowing users flexibility and security of access, many businesses may have increased reliance on the Cloud as employees were forced to work remotely. Recognition of potential cost savings and efficiencies from being able to upload, download and access documents from anywhere whenever you need to, are likely to see usage grow.

5. Automation & Software – using specialist software can reduce the need for manual processes around stock control, invoicing and accounting. With research suggesting that self-employed people in the UK spend 15 working days a year on financial admin tasks, and 19% have felt the risk of managing that sub-optimally3, investing in software makes sense.

6. The Internet of Things – whilst the Internet of Things (IoT) may seem futuristic, many of us are already using smart technology in our daily lives. Business use to reduce waste or monitor stock are easily accessible tools. As businesses are increasingly focused on efficiency, expect demand to grow.

7. Digital banking – allowing you to bank 24/7, from wherever you are, digital banking has long created benefits for busy businesspeople, allowing them to monitor and control their finances. But now, a new generation of digital banking is set to make life even easier for small businesses. Apps like HSBC’s Kinetic is fast, responsive and intuitive, providing you with insight into your expenditure, cash flow breakdown, same-day overdraft application and the ability to integrate with your accounting software.

8. Artificial Intelligence – no longer the stuff of sci-fi movies, the democratisation of the technology by big players such as Amazon and Google, means that AI is much more accessible and small businesses can adopt it quickly and cost-effectively. Use it to gather, analyse and use data more effectively.

9. Data – small businesses are starting to recognise the value of data and, with gathering it becoming easier, using it to forecast or make decisions will continue to grow. Again, the big players are proving a valuable way into the technology, with Google Trends, for example, presenting a real opportunity for smaller businesses to access location specific information.

10. Smarter supply chains – the pandemic refocused attention on supply chains, with some 85% of global supply chains facing disruption4. While technology couldn’t have entirely changed that, the digitisation of supply chains can create greater efficiency and responsiveness. With larger organisations increasingly reliant on smaller firms for supply, the integration of supply chain optimising technology and the sharing of data will be a growth area.

Increasingly accessible and affordable technology could transform your business – providing opportunities for greater efficiency, a platform for growth and ensuring you can compete in a fast-changing world.

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