5 tech trends SMEs should know about

In this digital age, it can be difficult to keep up with all the latest and greatest technical innovations. Here are five key trends for SMEs.

“The Australian economy, like many other economies, is undergoing transformative change,” said Bernard Salt, a renowned Australian demographer and partner at KPMG.

“Digital disruption as well as changed business models are reshaping both the workforce and business. The new technologies … are in fact motivating forces creating the businesses of the future. These processes are creating exciting opportunities for agile and responsive businesses.”

Mr Salt was recently commissioned by NBN Co to produce a report on the major technological trends currently facing SMEs.

The report mentioned that established SMEs in traditional industries “such as construction, retail, agriculture, health and professional services” are seeing business growth, due in part to new technology being introduced.

Here are the top five tech trends identified in the report, and how they can benefit businesses of all sizes:

1. Virtual reality and augmented reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are typically mentioned in the context of video games, but SME applications of these technologies are becoming ever more common.Man wearing a virtual reality headset

Some early applications of these technologies can be found in the retail, real estate and virtual tourism industries, to name a few.

“Adelaide-based Georama Pty Ltd, founded in 2006, is an award-winning virtual reality tour business that showcases the Australian outback to global tourists,” the report said.

“Within a decade, it may be that many of this nation’s 126,000 small retailers (employing less than 20 workers) will be supporting online sales with virtual reality technology.”

One small business that has used AR through the popular game Pokémon GO is Reload Bar & Games in Canberra, as covered by My Business previously.

In the game, various real-world locations are augmented to become ‘Pokéstops’: areas where players can find items.

These Pokéstops can have lure modules added to them, which draws Pokémon to the Pokéstop, providing an incentive for players to go there.

“[For] businesses that are fortunate enough to have a Pokéstop nearby, then they can use that, because the Pokéstop is leading to increased traffic of customers walking around with their phones, and if you can find a way to tap into that, then you should do well out of it,” said Jim Andrews, co-founder of Reload Bar & Games.

2. Advanced video collaboration

Advanced video collaboration (AVC), referring to video streaming and collaboration, is another technological trend that is predicted to be beneficial for SMEs.

Technology group Cisco said that video viewing accounted for 70 per cent of all online traffic in 2015, and will increase to 82 per cent by 2020, which shows that embracing AVC is a way for SMEs to maintain growth.

The education industry is also embracing AVC, according to the report.

“Adelaide’s Royal Institution of Australia has created an online science channel with 2.5 million users to deliver high-definition live-streamed events and discussions, documentaries and interactive activities,” it stated.

While supporting growth, AVC can also help businesses avoid losses. Various security providers incorporate high-definition video streaming from security cameras to devices such as smart phones, so business owners can watch over their physical premises as long as they have an internet connection.

3. Data analytics

Data analytics may be the most complex of the technological trends, but it can also provide the best growth prospects when used correctly.

“It is now possible with data management technology to canvas transaction data to identify consumer behaviours and market opportunities,” said the report.

“Data analytics is a techA high technological-looking microchipnology that could support further expansion of small business in support of the efficiency of larger businesses.”

Data analytics is a reoccurring topic on My Business.

For example, using predictive analysis instead of only using data collated from the past is one way of ensuring growth for your business.

“You really can't get future decision-making based on previous data,” Zane Hall, CEO of SMG Technologies, told My Business.

4. Cloud computing

Harnessing the power of the cloud – the notion of using software and saving files over the internet, as opposed to hardware and storage located on your premises – is a concept that SME owners have been picking up on.

Consider point-of-sale (POS) technology. Through various businesses, such as New Zealand-founded cloud POS provider Vend, SMEs can complete the sales process at any location in the store.

Melbourne retailer TheSuperCool uses the cloud-based POS system as an extension of their store concept of the 'travelling merchant'.

“We began wanting to … appeal to a nomadic lifestyle … that vintage peddler idea back in kind of the early 1800s, where people would take their wares on their little peddler cycle-mobiles. And they'd come to different towns and make retail an event,” said TheSuperCool co-founder Kate Vandermeer.

“[We now] have the ability to be more mobile within our store.

“We were definitely finding customers would walk around the store and want to engage with us, but not necessarily [want] to come back to a traditional counter.”

5. Fintech

As defined in the report, the term 'fintech' covers “a range of applications and business models that are evolving with the digitisation of financial processes associated with banking, accounting and payment systems”. Hence it is an area that could deliver strong growth for businesses.

One example of fintech helping SMEs is lending platform RateSetter.

“The fintech industry is evolving new businesses and new efficiencies that will enable small business to expand and prosper,” according to the report.

“Fintech has the capacity to reshape financial transactions at both the consumer and the business level.”

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