SMB Technology

How SMBs can leverage technology to fuel growth and productivity

A full decade after she first launched a business from her kitchen table, Dune Jewelry & Co. CEO Holly Daniels Christensen found herself back there in 2020. But now she was connecting directly with thousands of customers from afar, via their mobile devices.

In her “Kitchen Table Talks,” a series of Facebook Live video discussions, Christensen has been chatting with other fashion, luxury and style experts on how to look and feel your best, even from a distance. “I’ve had customers send private messages talking about what a hard time they’ve been having,” says Christensen. “[Kitchen Table Talks] have really helped some of the people who are anxiety-ridden take their mind off things.”

National Small Business Week is the perfect occasion to spotlight a company like Dune Jewelry & Co., whose team is about 30 people strong. Their jewelry incorporates sand and earth elements from thousands of memorable and iconic locations around the world.

“Even if they’ve ordered from us two or three different times, customers might not realize they can use sand from their honeymoon or flowers from their wedding in a piece of jewelry,” she explains. “We’re focused on opening up people’s creativity and helping them be creators of their own jewelry.”

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Associates can of course walk customers through their options in store, but they can also connect online via a chat box on the Dune website. On the back end, Christensen is upgrading Dune’s e-commerce platform to allow for greater personalization. She also recently deployed a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that will help automate Dune’s customer service operations. Like most cloud-based tools, the SaaS platform will allow the team to monitor business operations from their laptop or smartphone, even while they’re off site.

Dune is a great example of how small businesses can avoid being held back by legacy IT. To follow in their footsteps, you have several other technologies at your disposal:

Boost employee loyalty and productivity at the same time

The worldwide digital transformation accelerated by COVID affected not just companies, but individual work habits as well. For example, market research firm Gartner recently reported an 11 percent increase in the proportion of employee time spent using mobile devices, like smartphones, tablets and laptops. Desktop use, meanwhile, declined 8 percent. And nearly 1 in 5 workers now consider themselves digital technology experts.

As a result of these workflow changes, employees have had to find new ways to stay connected and productive. A next-gen mobile device like Galaxy Z Fold3 5G empowers them with the ability to multitask more productively — in up to three apps at once — dragging and dropping content between apps and even writing by hand with an optional S Pen.

Create safe, immersive and helpful in-person experiences

Amid new health and safety protocols, small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may not be able to easily set up contactless showrooms for product discovery, or communicate with customers without staff nearby.

In their 2021 Trend Report, consulting firm SMB Group suggests edge computing could change all that — by allowing data to be processed closer to where it’s used on the network. Edge computing is often a feature of internet of things (IoT) environments, where embedded sensors in a phyiscal building can connect to digital wayfinding and navigation apps, for instance. SMBs can also use location-based services supported by edge and IoT technology to offer personalized advertising and special offers depending who’s browsing and where.

Wayfinding and navigation apps can help customers find the items they want more quickly, reducing their time in the store and preventing crowd congestion. The moment a customer grabs something off the shelf, you can promote an accessory or other related product, encouraging upsells with items of genuine value to the customer.

Reduce paperwork and admin chores

Market research firm IDC has predicted that by 2023, 60 percent of “digitally determined” SMBs will use artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce human intervention where it’s not adding value. The challenge might be figuring out where to start.

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At many SMBs, too much time is spent sifting through and coordinating contracts. ZDNet offers a helpful guide for SMBs, explaining how AI technologies like machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) can simplify contract management and ensure they’re legally sound .

Grow online revenue by making changes faster and easier

Many SMBs that offer e-commerce use website plugins that are connected to their content management system (CMS). Even without in-house developers, SMBs can now access “headless commerce” tools that split their back-end e-commerce architecture from the CMS. Companies that do so can quickly create special e-commerce microsites for peak seasons, or add “buy” buttons for social media — while boosting their SEO.

According to Shopify’s guide on getting started with headless commerce, one of the biggest business drivers is the increasing volume of customers shopping on mobile devices.

Whether you try one of these solutions or all of them, this National Small Business Week can be a catalyst for your business’s digital transformation.

A key part of succeeding as an SMB is spending less and doing more — securely and efficiently — which is much easier with a mobile device management (MDM) tool. Find out how you can get started in this free beginner’s guide. You can also explore exclusive business pricing, financing and trade-in options and other deals on everything from phones and tablets to monitors and memory.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change that innovation brings. He has written extensively for CIOs, CMOs and other senior enterprise decision makers as a journalist. As a content marketer, he has worked with some of the largest brands to the most disruptive startups.

View more posts by Shane Schick