19 November 2012
With technology moving at such a dizzying pace, it can be difficult for busy small business owners to keep up. Here are just a few ways that you can keep your business up to date.
A study by the European Commission found that while 71% of British people currently shop online, only 14% of small businesses in the UK sell their products online. While research from BaseKit has found that 60% of businesses have yet to get online – and just 16% of those that have think they have a web presence to be proud of. Plus, the UKTI say that only 18% of UK SME business use cloud solutions to help their businesses run more efficiently.
But staying up to date with the latest innovations need not be hard.
Use technology to improve efficiency
Business software and digital technology have come on leaps and bounds in the last five years. Software can now be used on multiple devices ‘on the go' thanks to cloud technology that stores your data online and pretty much every business process can be automated, leaving more time for you and your employees to get on with running your business.
Assess your business needs and where you spend a lot of time that takes you away from growing your business. Do you want to communicate with customers better? Make more sales? Spend less time on admin? Marketing automation and email marketing software can help boost sales, while accounting and stock management software can save you time, money and stress.
Get a presence online
Having a website or some form of online presence is essential for almost all businesses in this day and age. Even if you only have a one-page site, at least you have something that is searchable online and that you can refer people to when you don't have a business card to hand.
Use social media
The best thing about social media for small businesses
is that it's a free way for you to promote your company and get closer to your customers. Unlike a website, it's really easy to get set up and keep it updated regularly.
Accept payments online
You may already have a website but do you sell through it? More than two thirds of British people shop online because it's convenient and it saves them time (and sometimes money). While opening an online store may not be suitable for every consumer business, for many it is a great way of finding a whole new set of customers not restricted to one geographical area. There are plenty of options open to you, from selling on eBay to hosting your own shop, find out more here
With mobile internet usage increasing all the time, this is the biggest growth area in technology for businesses. Using Google Analytics, you can monitor how many people visit your website using a mobile device. If it is a significant and growing proportion, you may want to invest in optimising your website for mobile viewers.
Many ready-made website templates now come optimised for mobile or a web designer should be able to help you update your current site with a few small changes. Other possibilities open to businesses include developing a mobile app (more complex than just a simple website), and using QR codes
on your marketing materials.
Stay up to date
Because things change so quickly in technology, it is a good idea stay informed of any big developments in IT. Visit websites and subscribe to newsletters that specialise in IT for the smaller business.
For example, did you know that, from 2014, Windows XP and Office 2003 will no longer be supported by Microsoft? This means that companies using this operating system will no longer get automatic updates, security fixes or help from Microsoft. Find out more here
With an increasing number of firms doing business and communicating online, you need to be aware of potential threats to your business like viruses, malware and spam emails. Keep anti-virus software up to date on all company computers, keep passwords secure and regularly back up important files.
Some small businesses use digital media and technology really well, for many it is their business. Nobody is expecting you to be a digital expert as well as a business owner or to run your business entirely online. But with a few simple changes outlined above, you could possibly create a new sales channel for your business, find new customers and discover more efficient ways of working.