As a nation of small businesses and sole traders, the UK is a hotbed for independent technology development and freethinking solutions. According to Forbes, a great digital experience for customers and business networks is now a must-have rather than a perk. Here are four tech trends for 2014 that SMEs should be embracing and developing.
1. Mobile payments
Mobile payment systems allow SMEs and sole traders to take and make payments on-the-go. They've revolutionised how pop-up stores, travelling traders and service providers visiting premises can collect payments for their products and services.
There are plenty of options out there. Two of the top contenders are mobile card machines (which require a debit/credit card to be inserted) and smart device apps/software (like PayPal) that let consumers pay on the spot whilst SME representatives can see on their own smart device that the payment has gone through.
2. Social media
Social media exposure has changed the face of marketing around the globe. Social media is about choice, exposure, interaction and interest. Every SME should be making a mark.
It's not just Facebook that can help an SME. Accessing the right social media network could help SMEs focus on a broad spectrum of potential clients or a niche group. Twitter hashtags, Instagram accounts, Facebook pages, LinkedIn accounts, China's Sina Weibo – SMEs need to dig in and branch out with regular, honest, good quality content to inform, entertain and engage.
3. Exporting online
The current coalition government is keen to promote UK SME exports. For many SMEs, that means credit. Not sure if your SME's Credit Expert Report is up to the challenge? UKTI wants to make business advice and credit more readily available to SMEs in the hope of doubling the UK's SME exports by 2020. Chancellor George Osborne recently spoke at the Federation of Small Businesses conference in Aberdeen, estimating £400 million could be added to the UK economy from SME exports if more small businesses were given the advice and access to resources needed for them to confidently venture into export markets. For many SMEs, that means heading online. He cited China as being a huge potential market for British SME products and services, making website localisation a key tech trend.
4. Cloud services
Cloud storage and IT services are a common solution for businesses of all sizes. And for SMEs, the growth in demand for cloud services means more affordable solutions are cropping up here in the UK.
So, what are the pros of storing information and managing services online? Globalisation of access is a huge pro for any business. As an SME, being able to easily access data from anywhere in the world means quite literally keeping the business at your fingertips. It means faster access, quicker communication and more growth potential.