When it comes to business trends, if you’re not innovating you can be sure your competition is. Whether you’re a start-up or an established market leader, new technology is constantly changing how we win and service clients. This can be as varied as streamlining your business’ processes, ensuring regulatory compliance or increasing sales.
In 2019, more focus will be placed on preparing for and developing the latest technological advances (such as chatbots), using automation to your advantage, and ensuring that you have the best possible data to ensure you target the right audiences.
There is also still a degree of confusion over the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that were implemented in 2018, and it’s safe to say that collecting and using your data wisely will continue to be of utmost importance for businesses.
To get your year off to the best possible start, we’ve rounded-up the key small business trends to take advantage of in 2019 and beyond…
Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence.
In 2019, it’s likely that most of us have come into contact with a chatbot, a programme that’s designed to imitate human conversation when prompted, and often delivered through digital chat applications, such as Facebook Messenger. Being able to respond to simple queries (such as ‘what are your opening hours?’ and ‘can I track my order?’), chatbots have been increasingly used by businesses over the past few years because they enable you to provide a quick response. With 70% of people now expecting a response to a social media query within 15 minutes, chatbots are only going to become more common in customer service in 2019.
However, chatbots won’t replace human customer service teams completely. This is because although they are frequently grouped into the category of Artificial Intelligence (AI), they don’t imitate humans in the same way that AI systems do. These systems collect data and use human reasoning to generate a response, whereas chatbots only recognise keywords to pull predefined responses from a database.
Therefore, the perfect situation for businesses is to be able to triage enquiries and then hand conversations over to a person at the right time. Though speed is valued, provided a personalised response is still extremely important.
Greater demand for good data.
The need for quality data enables workflow automation, saving you time when it comes to completing a variety of manual processes. When it comes to sales and marketing, this could be triggering an email communication to be sent to a potential customer when they complete a certain action (for example, visiting a particular page on your website). However, despite the fact that more emphasis is now being placed on personalising your marketing communications, the majority of businesses are still not even collecting data that is in a usable format. Data is vital, more focus will continue to be placed on it, and companies that fail to collect this usable data will fall further behind their competitors.
Nonetheless, while it’s all well and good collecting as much usable data as possible, it’s also important to consider where this data has come from. With hefty fines being imposed on any companies that do business with those in the UK or EU and fail to comply with the newly implemented GDPR, you should ensure you’re up-to-date with what’s required from your business.
This includes getting consent from anyone you collect and use data from, and have policies in place to show how you process such data.
Automation of manual processes.
On a similar note to the above, 2019 will be the year that an increasing number of businesses will start to take advantage of automation for key processes within their organisation. As well as being able to automate customer flows and complete actions such as track payments and review legal documentation, it will also be increasingly used in the sales process to collect qualified leads, nurture them, and identify the hottest prospects. Automation can also be used to collect customer feedback , testimonials and case studies. Software, such as Infusionsoft by Keap, can provide an all-round automation solution for many businesses. .
There are many benefits for small businesses that automate as many of their key processes as possible, the main being that it can save you time and improve overall productivity if you have limited resources. It can also minimise risk of human error, increasing efficiency and accuracy, and making record keeping easier. Most vitally, however, is that it can help your business to provide a consistent and professional experience to your potential and current customers.