It’s time to settle in because we’re not going back to office hours and business-as-usual anytime soon.
In fact, McKinsey estimates that 20–25% of the workforce could work 3-5 days from home: up to five times more remote work than before the pandemic. And that’s a huge opportunity for SMBs.
As people work, shop, and do more business online, no one thinks of you as a small business anymore—you’re just a business—with the same chance of making the sale or landing a big client as any multinational enterprise.
While previously, large organizations had both the time, technology, and the money to make every work process that bit faster and smoother than the little guy, now many of these tools are affordable and accessible to small businesses. Plus, SMBs typically aren’t weighed down by legacy systems and time-consuming approval processes.
It’s the closest SMBs have come to a level playing field in decades.
So, are you ready to capitalize on this opportunity? Here are four small business IT solutions you can deploy right now to challenge the big guys.
1. Let chatbots handle simple customer support
Too understaffed to offer 24/7 customer service? Why not let a chatbot handle simple customer service inquiries—just like big businesses do.
A chatbot can answer basic customer service support questions like order status, business hours, and shipping. It can even help customers request a demo, complete a sale, or find items on your website.
That means customers aren’t left waiting for you to respond to simple queries, and you and your team aren’t tied up answering them—it’s truly a win-win.
And customers are only getting more used to chatbot interactions, with 40% of internet users worldwide perfering to interact with a chatbot over a virtual agent.
Some chatbots to take a look at include Tidio, Gorgias, and Intercom. And, again, there may be custom-built integrations that make implementation a fast and simple process if you’re using an off-the-shelf website.
2. Add eSignatures to your tech stack
If eSignatures aren’t part of your tech stack already, why not?
This plug-and-play solution digitizes the process of circulating and signing documents like sales contracts, NDAs, and employment offer letters.
In more complex purchases that involve a procurement process, multiple stakeholders can sign anywhere—no printer and scanner required—speeding sales.
Document turnaround is quicker too, with digital contracts signed up to 80% faster than paper contracts, and completion rates increasing by 26%.
This is tech that can transform all areas of your business, from how you process invoices and manage suppliers, to hiring new staff and closing deals.
eSignature tools also go far beyond just signing. To save time and streamline your document workflows, you can integrate them with your CRM to send legally binding documents out directly from tools like Salesforce, without ever switching applications.
Add to that the built-in reminder system and secure online document storage, and you’ll wonder how you ever operated without it.
3. Optimize your website for voice search
“Hey Siri, what’s voice search optimization?”
That’s the question every small business owner should be asking right now.
Voice search optimization is the newest form of search engine optimization (SEO) and is expected to be supported on 8.4 billion devices worldwide by 2024.
To take advantage of this new consumer search tool, rewrite your website copy to optimize longtail keywords—those five-to nine-word phrases you want to be known for. Think about the questions people would ask a friend in order to find your business and weave those phrases into your business and product descriptions.
4. Install a recommendation engine online
Recommendation engines—machine learning tools—that interpret customer behavior are a game-changer for both product focused SMBs and those in B2B.
For many small businesses, eCommerce-style “you might also like,” “recommendations for you,” “complete the set,” or “customers who bought this also bought,” recommendation engines draw on collaborative or content filtering, or a combination of both, to upsell and cross-sell your products online.
Collaborative filtering compares a user’s behavior, preferences, and activity with that of other users to predict what they might like. Content filtering uses product categories, attributes, and colors to suggest similar or related products.
But recommendation engines aren’t just for B2C companies. The same kind of analysis can empower B2B businesses to sell more products.
B2B recommendation engines instead work with existing customers to help identify similarities between customers, so you can focus your efforts on the customers that are ripe for a cross-sell or upsell.
If you have an off-the-shelf e-commerce website like Shopify or BigCommerce, there are a variety of recommendation engine apps you can add to your site, or take a look at third-party brands like Unbxd or Klevu. And for B2Bs, recommendation engines like Excelion plug neatly into your CRM via API integration.
Adaptation is your biggest advantage
In uncertain times, the businesses that can adapt fastest are the ones that will flourish. So, take the plunge and try something new to streamline your workflows and give your business a competitive edge.
To find out more about some of the ways SMBs can leverage the new, hybrid ways of work, take a look at our latest e-guide, How small businesses can navigate hybrid work to their advantage.