3 Disruptive Technologies that Are Making Their Way to Small Business

Get ahead of the competition by implementing the latest tech in ways you can afford.
VR headseat
Incorporate VR technology into your retail store by creating virtual dressing rooms. (Photo: Wayne0216/Shutterstock)

Sometimes an innovation comes along that completely changes the future of the game – think laptop computers, cell phones and, more recently, cloud computing. All good examples of disruptive technology.

You may already be using a cloud-based solution for accounting and inventory management. But here are three other disruptive technologies that have the power to make your business more streamlined, innovative and profitable.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence can help behind the scenes with accounting and managing client accounts. (Photo: enzozo/Shutterstock)

Robots aren’t taking over the world yet, but they are helping businesses become more efficient. As AI continues to develop, more companies are using chatbots to improve customer support and provide more engaging brand experiences.

AI is also useful in the back office. For example, Botkeeper promises to help you with your business accounting. According to the Botkeeper website, “Your bot will interact with you, answer your questions, and prompt you for information when needed just as a bookkeeper would.”

In theory, using a bot to manage your books can save money on bookkeeping and free up time for your accountant to focus on projections and analytics that impact business decisions.

Botkeeper founding partner Enrico Palmerino said even bookkeeping firms are using the service to help manage client accounts. “It is far more cost effective for them to use Botkeeper versus employing bookkeepers in house.”

Proximity marketing

“If your in-store customers are using smartphones for research — and you know they are — there’s a good chance they’re looking at Amazon or another competitor,” explained Richard Graves, co-founder and CEO of Bkon, a proximity marketing platform that allows store owners to market directly to their in-store customers.

In short, you can provide information, including product reviews, to shoppers while they’re in your shop so they don’t go looking for it on a competitor’s site.

When you add Physical Web beacons near products or signs, shoppers with smartphones can tap, swipe or scan to immediately get more info. “Effectively, the physical world becomes searchable,” said Graves.

physicalwebbeacon

An example of a Physical Web Beacon. (Photo: Bkon)

Say your cafe sells coffee from a particular Sudanese village. A beacon near your informational display could take customers to a YouTube video on how buying your coffee supports the fair trade movement.

A beacon could also take customers to a coupon or an in-store-only promotion. A sandwich shop could send a link via beacon to its mobile app for easy online ordering.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) apps

With the launch of the Oculus Rift last year, virtual reality stepped out of the sci-fi world into the mainstream market. Sally Eaves, CEO of technology group TechKinect and director of innovation at Intrapreneurship International, explained that VR and AR technology is allowing brands to connect with customers in a new, experiential way.

With VR, a customer can put on a headset and experience your business without being there. For instance, fashion retailer Topshop has partnered with the Xbox Kinect to create VR dressing rooms where shoppers can see how clothes will look without trying them on.

Sally Eaves, CEO of TechKinect, describes virtual reality dressing rooms as ‘the ultimate test drive.’ (Photo: Sally Eaves)

“It’s the ultimate test drive,” said Eaves.

Small businesses could use AR and VR to share origin stories of their products or conduct market research on potential services, products or store plans.

While creating proprietary AR or VR apps can get pricey, Eaves said small businesses can creatively use third-party VR tech to drive traffic to their store. “Pokémon Go is a classic example, which has opened the door to new marketing opportunities for many small businesses at minimal cost.”

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