Technology has always been a gamechanger, but in the last 200 years, it has had the dominant hold on business development – more than philosophy, more than society, and more than the environment. The influential face of technology shows no signs of changing, and small & medium enterprises of all kinds are enjoying improvements thanks to several new or newly accessible technologies.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are more in-reach than ever. If an SME has a very techy chief executive, it might involve AI directly, but more likely is to use products that make AI accessible to the layperson. These technologies could be advanced hacking protection or on the customer-end, AI chatbots, which can help to reduce overhead costs by automating much of customer service. AI also goes hand-in-hand with automation improvements, which are another technology that are shaping the SME field.
Automation has always been an important part of business development. Since Adam Smith wrote about the labor division, it has been obvious that to make business more profitable; it should be made more efficient. Automation is possibly the best way to increase efficiency – it is what drove the industrial revolution. Nowadays, SMEs are more likely to use work order software to automate their workflows and paperwork instead of recruit a millwright and build a machine. However, the efficiency improvements that come with automation are still driving profitability to this day. The difference is that these efficiency tweaks are far more accessible to SMEs than they have ever been before – business owners don’t have to invest masses for small increases on ROI; with software solutions, they can pay a comparatively minimal fee.
The Cloud has taken the internet by storm and is now a very common part of our everyday lives. This is especially true in business. The benefits are obvious for tech SMEs: rapid scalability in delivering online due to massively flexible server utilization. For other SMEs, the benefits are less direct but still prominent. They include sites that are more difficult to attack using traditional means (like the infamous DDOS attacks, which can now be protected against by the cloud), something that no SME owner should take lightly as 43% of cyber attacks target small businesses and 64% of companies have experienced web-based attacks.
Developments in marketing technology are also shaping the environment in which SMEs do business. The development of social media isn’t particularly new, but the ability that user data can give you to target potential customers across platforms, in your local area or if they have previously visited your site (via retargeting) is incredible. It allows businesses to survive in an increasingly competitive landscape simply by having a wealth of information about their niche and being able to target their niche properly. Hyper-focused targeting means that customer acquisition costs can increase because each customer’s ROI will be much higher – if they have been properly selected, they will have higher brand loyalty to the SME in question.