With technology always and rapidly evolving, it can be tough for small businesses to keep up.
While nearly all small and medium-sized businesses in Australia have a computer, according to Sensis’s 2013 e-Business Report, more are acquiring laptops and tablet devices, how effectively they use that technology can influence how successful they’ll be.
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As Australians increasingly access the internet on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, businesses should factor that into their digital planning for 2014, says Sensis’s advertiser insights manager Christena Singh.
“When people come in (to a business website) on a mobile device they need to get a mobile experience,” Singh says, warning that if a customer doesn’t get a mobile experience they will probably go to another business that does.
Australians using the internet on their mobile phones continued to grow over the past year at 68%, up from 58% last year, and half of Australians accessed the internet on a tablet, the Sensis report says.
Here, Singh shares the top five technology trends small businesses should prepare for in 2014:
1. Making sure websites are optimised for mobile
With more and more people using mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones to access the internet, it’s become essential for businesses to ensure their web presence appears and functions well on those screens.
It’s called “mobile optimisation”.
“The proportion of small to medium enterprises with a website that’s optimised for mobile has gone from 5% two years ago to 17% this year,” Singh says.
She says start-ups and small businesses should make ensuring their websites are optimised for mobile devices number one on their list of things to do in 2014.
Singh says optimised sites could include buttons that use a smartphone’s maps function to locate the business or a button to dial its phone number.
2. Consider the devices that customers use to access a business’s website
Singh says if a business is targeting a population demographic that uses tablet devices then they should consider putting in place features that cater to that audience.
She says businesses may look at having apps created that work on particular devices, adding that 5% of businesses have an app and 13% are looking at having one next year.
Software and data storage in the cloud is becoming increasingly accessible and attractive for small businesses that don’t want to pay the costs of expensive hardware or computer program tools.
“It (the cloud) can save you costs and give businesses access to any number of utilities without purchasing them outright,” Singh says.
She says businesses could use the cloud to access software such as word processing and store files which can be accessed from almost any location.
4. Considering innovative technology such as apps, wearable technology
Singh suggests businesses should consider what technology is gaining traction with consumers and investigate ways it can be applied in their own business.
She says wearable technology is an area that’s emerging as popular with consumers, noting that Google Glass, Google’s wearable computer, is a device that’s eagerly anticipated.
“Look at technologies and how they might be able to draw people into your business,” Singh says.
She says a tourism-based business may look at using wearable technology in some way to enhance a customer’s experience.
Location-based technology is also innovative and could be used in stock handling, Singh says.
“Taking a leaf out of the consumer book and seeing how some of the new technology can give you benefits and how you can flexibly do business,” she says.
Singh says one of the most important things start-ups and small businesses need to have when adopting new technologies is to have a strategy to back up what they’re doing with it.
“Small businesses are spending on average $15,800 on technology. That’s quite a lot of money for business to be spending,” she says, noting that only about 19% of businesses had a digital strategy.
Singh says a business may spend money and time on social media but without a strategy behind it, that money and time could be wasted.
“There should be strategies in terms of website presence, social media and how they work and develop leads,” she says.