4 cutting edge tools for small business

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Small businesses are often perfectly positioned to utilise the latest tools and technology to provide a unique and greater experience to their customers. However, many may be afraid to experiment with them for a number of reasons – there is the perception that only larger businesses can benefit or that these tools may remove the personalised look and feel to their business. That is not necessarily true – how a business applies a tool can make all the difference.

Here are 4 tools that can take a small business to the next level and really set it apart from its competition.

1. Chat Bots

Chat Bots (short for Chat Robots) are computer programs that simulate human conversations with people using artificial intelligence and machine learning. They can transform the way a user interacts from a series of self-initiated tasks to a quasi-conversation. A Chat Bot is created to assist a user solve a problem or attend to their query. They can provide very simple information, like a weather report, or help you troubleshoot a computer problem, or schedule an appointment. Chat Bots are the perfect customer experience tool for small businesses to adapt. Chat Bots have opened up incredible opportunities for small businesses across all sectors. This is the first time people are spending more time in messenger apps than in social media, which confirms they will become an important marketing and customer experience tool in the near future.

2. Augmented Reality

Effectively, how it works is an image is placed as a hologram over a shot of your environment. To see the image, the viewer needs to be looking through the lens of their phone, and they can then even snap a photo of a person sitting at the dinner table with their own family, for example. This exciting technology offers some very compelling and unique opportunities to small businesses who would like to offer a really unique and compelling customer experience. For example, in the case of a retail store, users could create a hologram of an item of clothing (or whatever item your store is selling) that the customer can then place over an image of themselves, and possibly even share on their social media.

3. Internet of Things

The Internet of Things refers to the concept of connecting any device with an ‘on’ and ‘off’ switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from mobile phones, tablets, washing machines, lights, home appliances, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.  According to analyst firm Gartner, by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. Small business can make use of this technology to generate more sales from repeat customers. Businesses could also start looking at other ways of being connected online – for example, store maps, product trials, and product information all available as a digital feature.

4. Rapid prototyping and guerrilla customer testing

A rapid prototype is a “guess made tangible.”  Say you have an idea for a product. Using the cheapest and easiest method possible, create something your customers can interact with and then test out your idea. A rapid prototype quickly shown to actual customers could save you huge amounts of money in the long run. All it takes for small business to use these methods is as simple as a pen and paper prototype of your idea ask asking people for their opinions on what you want to show them. You can use design tools like ‘Canva’, PowerPoint or Keynote to make simple interactions to test out your idea. These are just a few of the innovative technological solutions offered in today’s business landscape to help small businesses create unique customer experiences.

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Katja Forbes founded syfte, a specialist business in research and experience design in 2014, and is an Australian pioneer in the field of experience design.

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