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Bane and Boon: How Tech is Affecting Small Business in 2016

Andy O. Heikkila

Technology is often both a bane and a boon for small businesses, consisting of tools that boast incredible solutions but through which we incur unintended side-effects.

With much of 2016 left, here are some of the ways that technology will affect small businesses moving forward.

New Payment Options Creep Forth

Apple Pay, Google Pay and a myriad of other payment apps have been taking the market by storm recently, making payments as easy as a smartphone button-click. In 2015, Apple Pay accounted for about $2 out of every $3 spent with contactless payments, and that number is only projected to grow.

The new smartphone-as-a-wallet trend adds to the explosive growth of the Internet of Things, and while we might not see full scale adoption of mobile wallets in 2016, we’ll definitely see a bigger push toward them. While business owners shouldn’t just drop everything right this instant and convert all systems to mobile pay, they can begin preparing and familiarising themselves with this technology, it might be the norm in the next couple of years.

Related Article: Is Silicon Valley Still the World's Top Technology Hub?

Moving Further Into Cloud Necessitates Big Focus on Security

As the Internet of Things grows, so does the world’s reliance on the cloud. In 2014, 37 percent of small businesses had moved some or all of their systems to cloud, a number that is predicted to grow to 78 percent by 2020. We’re already seeing the beginning of the exodus as companies begin adapting some of their most important and sensitive processes to use cloud-based programs, such as customer database applications.

Even day-to-day programs that you need to access, such as online accounting software, is moving to the cloud. Flexibility like this allows business owners to process invoices and manage cash flow on the go. While cloud programs are great, this mass migration toward all-things-connected means that greater security measures will have to be taken in the fight against malware and cybersecurity.

Headlines in 2015 seemed to feature some type of cybersecurity theme almost every other week. Fortunately for small business owners, most cyber criminals have focused mainly on big fish in the past, but cybercrime is on the rise and half of all data stolen is financial information. So it’s more important than ever to implement security measures.

Mobile Beacons and Location Marketing

Mobile beacons started gaining traction in mid-2015 and are expected to directly influence retail sales in 2016, further solidifying a growing trend in location based marketing as a whole. With beacons, brick-and-mortar stores are hoping to compete with the online industry by pushing highly targeted pop-up notifications to customers’ phones via Facebook and other apps.

Related Article: From IoT to Wearables: The 3 Technology Trends You Need to Watch in 2016

These push notifications would provide for special in-store offers and coupons. In return, the location-based app will record valuable customer data with the goal of developing competitive price points, promotions, and other marketing strategies. Small businesses of 2016, especially ones with physical locations, would be looking at a competitive advantage by investing in the mobile beacon game.

Drone Deliveries to Hit (Possibly During Summer)

Drone delivery is poised to revolutionize the retail industry as soon as the FCC creates legislation that regulates the little flying machines (expected around June 2016). People with Etsy shops may be able to provide drone delivery services on their own, but it’s more likely that small business owners will be using a third-party of some kind to facilitate drone deliveries. Perhaps they’ll use a private company such as Amazon to blow other carrier services out of the water. Either way, drone technology is set to change not just small business, but the world at large--and it’s going to change extremely soon.

Skill Gap Will Make Hiring Harder

The infamous skills gap will continue to make hiring hard in 2016, even though about 75 percent of IT firms are reporting that they are “understaffed” or are currently “looking to hire”. For the small business owner, the lack of both hard and soft skills will make finding that perfect, complementary candidate who will take your business to the next level that much harder. The good news is that there are plenty of different solutions to the hiring problem, and a renewed interest in coding and tech skills now may pay off later.

Related Article: Plug In: 4 Ways Technology Is Changing On-the-Job Training

Technology is one of those fickle things that will continue to grow and force us all to adapt. With the good comes the bad, however, and the duality is something that we all have to grapple with. The good news is that whether or not technology is a bane or a boon is entirely up to you, and how your business approaches and applies that technology. How has tech affected your business in 2016?

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
Andy O. Heikkila Member
Andy O. is a writer, business owner, and artist out of Boise, ID. He likes writing about tech, business, and everything in between.