Small business owners are missing out on the opportunity to boost sales by not embracing advanced technologies, including the cloud, artificial intelligence and new customer relationship management (CRM) tech, according to several recent studies. They're also making the mistake of believing such technologies are too complex or expensive for enterprises of their size.
For example, according to a Salesforce survey of small businesses in the U.S. with fewer than 100 employees, just 49 percent are using any kind of business process automation, while only 21 percent have adopted business analytics or business intelligence software. At the same time, however, a global survey by GoDaddy earlier this fall found that a majority of entrepreneurs -- 81 percent -- agree that technology makes it easier to start a business.
Looking ahead, surveys such as these suggest that small business owners will need to use more automation and cloud-based reporting applications if they want to stay competitive in the near future. That's because their customers are increasingly expecting them to respond quickly via the communication channels of their choice.
'Huge Opportunities To Supercharge Businesses'
"[T]here are huge opportunities for them to leverage technology to supercharge their businesses," Jamie Domenici, vice president for small business marketing, said in a statement accompanying the release of Salesforce's study. "There is a common misconception that CRM, automation and other technologies are too complex for small businesses, but in fact, they're easier to use than ever and can help them work smarter, save time and connect with their customers in new ways."
And that's exactly what customers have come to expect, according to another study recently conducted by Microsoft.
"More than ever before, customers want to interact digitally with businesses in the same way as they do with friends and family: through social media and mobile devices," Microsoft's small business blogger Cindy Bates noted. "Given that the ability to acquire and retain customers is perhaps the single most important factor for small business success, it's critical that business owners can deliver on these digital experiences."
Cloud Is 'Propellant' for Entrepreneurs
In fact, GoDaddy's 2016 "Global Entrepreneur Survey," conducted this summer by Morar Consulting, noted that the growing availability of affordable and easy-to-use cloud technologies is "arguably the single most important propellant for entrepreneurial growth. Ideas jump from concept to a full-fledged online store and social media presence in a single day. The ability to leverage trillions of dollars of digital infrastructure has wiped away a good deal of the risk of starting a new business, and has encouraged entrepreneurs to take the leap."
With a full half of the Millennials telling Morar Consulting that they plan to start small businesses over the next 10 years, that means ever-growing competition for today's small enterprises. However, many of these small businesses have yet to move past older tech tools, such as email or spreadsheets. to track customer information, the Salesforce study found.
"[W]hile not having enough time is one of the top business-related issues keeping small business owners up at night, the majority ironically are not taking advantage of modern technologies to help them work smarter and more productively, such as CRM, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI)," according to the study. "Ultimately, small business owners who embrace the benefits of modern technologies stand the best chance to succeed in the future."