In every aspect of life, the rapid progress of technology has made what was cutting-edge a number of years ago virtually obsolete today. The world of business has proved no exception to this rule with ground-breaking innovations rolling out seemingly every couple of months and for those that can keep up with this rate of change, the scope of opportunity has never been greater.
For example, the last half a decade has been revolutionised by the development of the smart phone. Ushering in a new age of inter-connectivity, approximately 2.6 billion smartphone owners are in possession of a device that allows them to shop and make purchases literally within a matter of seconds. This trend has been characterised by the rise of virtual marketplaces such as EBay and Amazon, but has removed the need for many businesses to have a physical presence outside of somewhere to store merchandise.
Faced with numerous prohibitive expenses, many small businesses have previously been doomed before they even began. Charges such as ‘open market rent’, which meant rental rates can rise based on the level of demand have previously priced newcomers to trading out of areas with high customer footfall, but the Internet has placed all competitors on an equal playing field.
Therefore if you’re looking to make a sale of any sorts, having an online presence is an absolute must-have no matter what it is you are selling. You could be offering the highest quality product on the market, but if consumers cannot get to it then they cannot buy it. Accustomed to having everything just a few clicks away, few will persist if they cannot reach your offerings immediately on demand.
Indeed, this theme of instantaneous satisfaction is now the norm in the world of commerce. Communication between a buyer and seller has always been key in order to develop a long-lasting relationship, and the expectation is that a responsible business owner will always be ready to discuss any issues that may arise. This point is typified by the statistic that 69% of people surveyed will hang up instead of leaving a message on a business answerphone, as they know that a rival firm will be more than happy to provide them with what they seek.
To avoid such a scenario, there is more to communication than just being reachable via phone and email (though these are both crucial). Put in the time, and establish yourself a presence across all forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, but also consider going further and joining Instagram, LinkedIn and as many sites that you can find that your potential audience may be frequenting.
Another very effective way of utilising social media is to set up a YouTube channel, so that customers can get to know the person behind the company. Many individuals have gone from literal nobodies to global celebrities thanks to the video sharing platform, and companies of all size understand the value of such a resource. In 2014 the ALS Association raised more than $100 million in a month as the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ went viral, and even more established names such as Volvo have taken to promoting their brand through online videos, which attracted more than 75 million pairs of eyes to their latest developments.
Whilst a small business is highly unlikely to be drawing such an audience, the point is that social media of all forms means that with the right creation and promotional strategy, you can reach a large amount of potential customers at no cost. Traditional advertising on television and radio is being phased out more and more as an unwanted distraction, but social media makes all the difference as this time, they are the ones coming to you.
However for every business opportunity that technology opens up, the opportunity for problems also increases. As the world has become more and more digitised, recent years has seen a huge explosion in the amount of online-based crime, as hackers target those they know do not fully understand how to protect themselves. Last year within England and Wales alone such a trend was made very apparent, as 1 in 10 people were reportedly the victim of some form of cybercrime.
Should your online presence be compromised, then hackers can not only drain your bank accounts, but have access to any and all personal information you have posted online. Small businesses in particular are seen as juicy targets as in theory they have more money than a random person, but will not have the resources to mount an effective defence. More than any other area, this is therefore something to invest in, and numerous anti-virus packages can be had to guard yourself. Take to time to stay aware of all the latest news regarding online threats, and ensure that any staff you may have are similarly aware of what to be on the lookout for.
What to Take Away
Whilst the aforementioned trio of points may seem obvious, small business ownership can be one hell of challenge. It’s easy to overlook stuff or just not have time to get around to it, hence why it is worth highlighting those actions you can take which can have such a sizable effect. Technology when used in a safe and responsible manner is the cornerstone of success for so many businesses, and even the smallest newcomer can rapidly grow and prosper if they fully embrace such a versatile and far-reaching digital wonder.
Written by Justin Fox
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