Latest Tech Trends of 2018 Taking Over SMEs

70% SMEs have either zero or negligible online presence, and just about 2% use digital technologies for business growth, hence opportunity-loss is immense

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.


–Stewart Brand

The impact of technology on enterprises, large or small, is inescapable. Research shows what common-sense dictates - adopting critical technologies is one of the foremost factors propelling businesses forward, especially when easily available low-cost, high-speed internet with affordable smartphones, tablets, and other connected devices has changed the way India does business. No wonder that organisations across the world, including India, are going all out to embrace the latest innovations in technology.

When it comes to SMEs, however, the story is starkly different. Almost 70% have either zero or negligible online presence, and just about 2% use digital technologies for business growth. The opportunity-loss is immense.

Challenges for SMEs to adopt innovative technologies

The key business goals of any SME include improving revenue growth, increasing employee productivity, and acquiring more customers, which can be successfully addressed by technology. But often, the scale of investment for such solutions seems overwhelming, especially since top technology trends are developed for larger enterprises. Fortunately, SME's contribute a large-enough chunk of global business for these products and services to be suitably reconfigured. Still, given the enormous number of solutions on offer, the challenge lies in selecting the right technology for their business needs. Identifying business areas that can most benefit from technological upgrades and then exploring the available digital solutions are key to maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Top tech trends shaping small and midsize businesses

  1. Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning: Often understood as a value-add CRM tool, AI is said to revolutionize the sales process, allowing for enhanced digital marketing strategies, data analytics, and sales forecasts. Many small businesses may still consider AI too complex for their needs, but those who have applied machine-learning to existing customer data have discovered patterns and trends that they, otherwise, would have been oblivious to. These timely and efficient decisions have helped SMEs achieve faster industry-growth at the expense of the competition who haven't adopted AI yet.

  2. Augmented Reality: AR may currently seem like a fun technology, but it is expected to transform small businesses in many industries including realty, retail, travel and medicine in the near future. The ability of AR technology to integrate with the real world, allowing customers a view of improved possibilities in real-time is what makes this solution attractive with untapped potential as proven by smart businesses that have implemented AR technology & attracted new customers.

  3. Cashless Payment Systems: Easy payments by customers is the driving force towards a cashless society. The future of small businesses relies in adopting mobile payment tech innovations such as mobile wallets, in-apps and person-to-person (P2P) payment options. Not only does continuous security upgrades of online payment technologies retain credibility, but they also help enhance various business processes and the overall customer satisfaction for SMEs.

  4. Continuing Shift to Mobile-based Commerce: The exponential growth of mobile-phone users makes having a stellar online presence critical for small businesses. As more and more consumers resort to their phone for communication and shopping, creating an experiential connective platform for users is imperative. A business model that includes a progressive web app with integrative tools such as GPS-related marketing, chatbots, and live stream videos will eventually lead to such businesses outpacing the competition.

  5. Blockchain Technology: Essentially an electronic ledger, this technology could be the much-needed answer to the unique needs and challenges of small businesses. Enabling maximum transactional security and privacy without involving a third party for validation, it provides the added advantage of cost savings. By accepting digital currency payments (cryptocurrency), SMEs are afforded greater speed and transparency in various processes.

Many of these trends are yet to become mainstream for SMEs, but research indicates that even adopting one of these trends creates visible results by raising employee and customer engagement, causing an almost immediate impact on revenue and growth. This digital age has been a great equalizer for business, but for small and medium enterprises to compete with conglomerates, SME leaders must effectively capitalize on adopting the "right' technology at the right time.