Keep Up with Technology to Make Your Small Business More Successful in 2019
Staying on top of new tools and technologies — and new ways people are using those technologies — can quickly become all-consuming as a business owner. You know it’s important. In fact, a recent Forbes article attributes the downfall of many independent and small businesses to a lack of technology tool adoption. But where do you even begin? When “technology” can mean anything from creating a website to figuring out when and how to adopt artificial intelligence on your website, how do you prioritize? A good place to start is with the customer.
Improve Customer Experience with Technology
Most advice on improving the customer experience involves three concepts: painless interactions, consistency in experience and product, and fantastic customer service. When done well, you can use your inherent strengths as a small business (personalization, responsiveness, etc.) partnered with technology to deliver on those core concepts. Using customer interactions as your guiding tech light (with your payment services and point of sale system, for example) is more than a matter of convenience. Here are a few ways to do so:
Mobile Payments Technology
When is a phone not a phone? When it’s a wallet. It may not need to be said, but we’ll still say it: Smartphones are pretty much everywhere. Statista reports 24 million smartphone users across the country, representing about 68 percent of mobile users in Canada (based on the 2016 census population). Global research and data analytics company Nielsen reported that nearly one-third of Canadian smartphone users have tapped into mobile payments, including anything from paying for a rideshare directly to merchant processing in an app to using Apple Pay or Google Pay at a restaurant. Google also notes that Canadian consumers are ready and willing to ditch their real wallets in favor of virtual ones.
Mobile payments have revolutionized the way businesses are thinking about payment processing. On one front, we’re moving toward more secure, authenticated ways to process payments. And on another, we’re moving toward faster, more convenient ways to pay for your customer. To accept mobile payments at your store, you need to get a point-of-sale device that’s equipped with NFC technology. This doesn’t have to be expensive. The Square Reader for contactless and chip is just $59 and lets you accept contactless cards, chip credit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay anywhere.
Removing Pain Points and Barriers with Technology
At the center of consumer behaviour is the concept that people avoid tech pain and take action to bypass uncomfortable situations. Of course, there are exceptions. But using the “pain principle” to examine your customer experience can help provide insight into where technology can do the most good for your business. Pain can mean literal pain, like that dentist appointment. But it can also mean going to a different coffee shop because you’re not sure you have enough cash on hand for the cafe down the street that only accepts hard currency. Pretend you are one of your customers or have someone else do an audit of your customer experience — whether online, in person or a combination of both — to find potential sticky points that can be addressed with your current or new technology tools. Removing the pain can be a win-win, too.
As a freelancer or creative services company, time spent sending printed invoices and tracking down payments is time that could be better spent doing pretty much anything else. Generating digital invoices that can be paid through an email link and allowing ongoing clients to save their payment information is nothing short of miraculous for all involved.
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Evolution of Technology: The Omnichannel Experience
Consumers are increasingly connected — and they expect convenience. They channel-hop from online stores to physical stores and social media; they use smartphones and tablets, apps, and other avenues. They look up product reviews on their mobile devices while they’re in the store or on their desktops at home. They extensively compare prices amongst your competitors. They check social media channels to see if there are any discounts, or to see what others are saying about your brand. They want shipping flexibility — the option to choose whether they can get something delivered or pick it up at your store that same day.
And most important, they want the experience to be delightful, seamless, and personalized to their preferences.
Omnichannel marketing is a fully-integrated approach to commerce that provides shoppers a unified experience across online and offline channels. To attract today’s connected customers, businesses need to create a web between all their customer engagement channels. The result is not only more sales but also a superior customer experience. To move into omnichannel retail, you need to get a baseline understanding of how your customers interact with your business. Your first stop? Your data. So if you’ve been dragging your feet on setting up a robust online store or social media accounts, it’s time to get them up and running stat. Square and Weebly give sellers one cohesive solution to start or grow an omnichannel business. An integrated suite of services make critical business tasks like engaging with customers, managing orders, growing sales, and making informed business decisions easier than ever for sellers.
This is admittedly a lot. But by using the guiding principles of focusing on your customer needs, helping them (and you, hopefully) in avoiding pain, and building trust through technological tools, you can zero in on what will work best for you in making your business more successful in 2019.
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