When industry experts focus on IT developments and trends, most of the attention is given to large organizations or billion-dollar corporations. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s important to recognize that evolving IT trends also influence small businesses. It could be argued that small businesses are more sensitive to changes in technology, giving us even more reason to study what’s happening on the ground floor.
Look Out for These Five Trends
Now that we’ve finally escaped the shadows of last year and have progressed into 2017, we can look at some of the trends that are taking place and use them to more accurately predict what will happen this year. With that being said, here are a few of the IT trends that are sure to have an impact on small businesses in the coming months.
There was a time, not too long ago, where small businesses looked at cloud computing and Software as a Service (SaaS) with some fear. The idea of storing everything in the cloud, despite a somewhat tumultuous cybersecurity landscape, was troublesome.
Times have changed, though.
According to the annual Wasp Barcode Technologies State of Small Business Report, 57 percent of larger small businesses (101-499 employees) are using or plan to use SaaS this year, while 38 percent of smaller businesses (5-10 employees) plan to.
Those numbers line up with other research that suggests 85 percent of small business executives are willing to invest more in SaaS solutions between now and 2020.
The primary reason behind the increase in SaaS usage among small businesses has to do with savings and flexibility. Instead of investing in expensive hardware and IT infrastructure, companies just have to pay a monthly subscription fee. Plus, it’s easy to get started.
“Budgets are being decreased and the business units are already going out and buying SaaS without talking to the IT departments about it. They’re finding that they get more choice, they get it faster, they get it with less hassle — it’s instant gratification if you will,” Gartner (News - Alert) VP Daryl Plummer explains.
2. Enhanced Focus on IoT Security
The IoT clearly offers small businesses a number of wonderful advantages. It allows for increased connectivity, lower IT overhead (thanks to BYOD policies) and better functionality across the board. However, it’s hard to ignore the risks associated with IoT security. This year, you can expect to see more small businesses place an emphasis on this aspect of IoT adoption.
According to a recent study on the topic, 58 percent of IT and security practitioners are concerned about their organization getting hacked via IoT devices. Despite this fear, 44 percent say their organization is doing nothing to prevent these attacks, while 11 percent are unsure if anything is being done.
“The problem is that many connected devices aren’t built with security foremost in mind, and as a complicating factor, they are typically connected to a central home office or small business WiFi (News - Alert) router,” security expert Timur Kovalev explains. “The average WiFi router isn’t designed with security as a top priority either.” Kovalev cites a study in which only six of the 20 most popular wireless routers are fully updated with advanced security solutions.
While it’s imperative that small businesses consider hiring – or contracting with – an IT professional to establish secure connections, small businesses can also do a number of things on their own to reduce risk. This will be the year that small business owners finally understand the importance of taking preventative action.
3. Intrigue in Augmented Reality
“Gartner predicts that by the end of 2017, one in five leading global retail brands, or 20 percent, will be using augmented reality (AR) as an integral technology supporting the shopping experience,” Forbes contributor Louis Columbus notes. “The potential to significantly improve upsell and cross-sell rates are evident, as is the opportunity to provide customers with the option of trying on clothing or sampling makeup virtually before buying.”
While you won’t see many small businesses using augmented reality in 2017, you can expect to see them looking forward and taking note of what larger brands are doing. Augmented reality clearly has a role in the future of retail and it’s only a matter of time before small businesses are able to get involved.
4. More Mobile-First Development
The desktop still has some utility in certain instances, but mobile devices are clearly the primary touch point. This year, small businesses will finally focus more on mobile-first design and development than on desktop. This will impact the way in which these businesses communicate and function in just about every facet.
In addition to internal changes, this mobile-first mentality will directly affect the way in which small businesses interact with customers. Desktop user experiences will be replaced by mobile touch points that encourage speed and functionality.
5. New Payment Options
In addition to mobile design and development, look for small businesses to start accepting new mobile payment options as a way of competing with larger organizations that allow customers to pay with any number of options.
As small business expert Anita Campbell explains, “The use of mobile payments is on the rise, thanks to apps such as Microsoft (News - Alert) Wallet, so it makes sense to incorporate their use as an option. Also, companies like Microsoft partner Merchant Account Solutions have made mobile credit card readers readily available to small business users.”
The easier businesses can make the transaction process for customers, the better their results will be. There’s no place for friction in the buying process anymore and small businesses are finally discovering the value in streamlining how business is done at the point of sale.
Small Business Shakeup
If all of the indicators prove true, this year will be transformational for small business – especially when it comes to IT.
There’s a lot happening in terms of new tools and technology entering the market, so it’ll be interesting to watch how small businesses respond and adapt.