Johnny Five is Alive - Chatbots
Short Circuit Movie (1986)

The small business world is changing. The mom and pop stores you used to know are being consistently replaced with smaller companies who know how to manage the complexities of IoT and welcome their customers into business with AI or chatbots.

Although key trends that have persisted over the years, such as a focus on cyber security and digital transformation remain significant, we’re also seeing new opportunities emerge in the form of increased cloud adoption, new technology for accepting mobile payments, and of course, the ever-growing popularity of collaboration tools. Here’s a quick guide on the trends you should be watching out for.

IoT is Hot, But Security is Hotter

In 2017, IoT security is a concept that’s capturing the minds of businesses more strongly than ever before. As more small companies deliver connected devices into their stores and offices, from displays to locks and surveillance cameras, concerns about security continue to grow. According to a 2017 study on IoT application security, 58% of respondents feel nervous about the concept of getting hacked through their IoT devices, while 44% said that they weren’t doing anything to counteract those attacks.

The concept of IoT is fairly new, and organisations are having a tough time coming to grips with security initiatives. Back in November of 2016, the National Institute for Technology Standards offered some voluntary guidance intended to help improve security within IoT devices by constructing them with safeguards at a systems level.

Cloud Computing Becomes Commonplace

According to the “State of the SMB Cloud” analysis revealed by IDC in 2016, SMB cloud adoption has built up from 20% to 70% for companies with fewer than 100 employees over the last five years. Additionally, adoption has risen to 90% for firms with between 100 and 999 employees.

There are plenty of factors encouraging adoption, from a higher need for cloud storage and archiving services, to the increased presence of BYOD working and collaborative apps. As SMBs continue to embrace the idea of keeping their data on the public cloud or adopt new hybrid solutions, new cloud services will continue to develop.

Johnny Five isĀ Alive! The Rise of the Chatbot

Although it’s fair to say that small and mid-sized businesses are less likely to turn to AI services on a huge scale (particularly compared to large enterprises), AI might begin to enter the SMB workplace in the form of intelligent chatbots capable of interacting with customers via mobile devices and online interfaces.

Large, small, and mid-sized companies are all beginning to recognise the value of chatbots for customer service and other solutions, such as providing shipping solutions, finding products, and finding business locations.

Mobile Payment Grows More Popular

As we’ve all jumped on the mobile bandwagon, we’ve seen businesses adopting more mobile-friendly apps and websites to serve the latest consumer. One particularly interesting new trend is the use of mobile payments. Android Pay, Apple Pay, and others are becoming more common among SMBs and consumers alike. These services allow for simpler payments through wireless transfers.

Some services also offer additional technologies, such as increased security through host card emulation. This allows apps to store and transmit card information through the cloud, meaning that data can be accessed securely by merchants. According to Javelin Strategy, mobile payments have tripled in volume since 2013 and is expected to reach a value of $92 billion by 2019.

Collaboration Tools Get Bigger

Finally, although email is still the most popular form of workplace communication, collaboration tools are quickly finding their niche. Slack, Skype for Business, and Google Hangouts are all growing in popularity, achieving usage from 42% of companies.

Right now, Skype for Business is the most widely-adopted application, followed quickly by Slack and Hangouts. However, Microsoft Teams, unveiled in 2016, is expected to see even more growth over the next two years. If plans for adoption hold true, Microsoft Teams will be the most commonly-used collaboration solution by the end of 2018.