Published: 19/01/2018

5 tech trends small businesses need to watch for in 2018

Bitcoin, AI, VR, Fintech, sharing platforms. You have probably heard of all of these terms in the news and is it any wonder: technology is accelerating at a rapid rate. Society is being shaped by the developments from big tech giants and pioneering individuals like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Businesses need to be aware of changes that might affect them. Remember when Blockbuster passed up on purchasing Netflix? This shows that businesses really need to be ahead of the curve. Failure to adapt could be critical in the long run. So what will this year bring for technology and more importantly, what are the trends that businesses, particularly small businesses, need to watch for in 2018...

Augmented reality to get real

Remember Pokemon Go? The sight of seeing grown adults walk into fields to catch digitally imagined creatures was a bizarre hit - but it was also a glimpse into the future. This was augmented reality: essentially using technology to change physical surroundings via a computer, tablet or phone. How could this shape businesses though you might be asking? Well quite a lot actually. Many property companies are using this tech to show clients how homes may look with a new piece of furniture or a cupboard. And with the brand new iPhone X having an inbuilt AR platform for IOS and even Google with their new glasses almost ready for launch, there is no doubt that the term augmented will become commonplace in 2018.

Lots more bots

We are getting closer and closer to Artificial Intelligence becoming front and centre of society. This might not be great if you’re a reader of dystopian fiction but could be potentially fantastic if you’re a business owner. Let’s say your website has a live chat function where you might have a person on the end of this. Well now there is no need for this. Instead you could use 'chatbots' to speak to clients instead.

This is something a lot of large companies are currently doing on their sites. Chatbots can engage in conversations with customers and fulfill their requests. They also answer questions given to them instantly. If you have a website which has this feature, it’s worth exploring this feature. Automation of this kind is only going to become more commonplace in businesses. Therefore this is worth considering.

Talk to me

2017 was the year of ‘Hey Google’. Voice activation is becoming more and more mainstream. According to Campaign Magazine, this type of technology will have over 1.8bn users by 2021. Why is this relevant? Because people are now starting to buy products from an Alexa or a Google Home device without having to switch on a laptop or even check their phone. Devices are redirecting people to products which they are after. With this expected growth in voice activation, there will be a major scramble for retailers to get attention. This type of technology might be in its infancy but this is an important innovation which could have widespread effects for all businesses. 

The power of Artificial Intelligence

Back to the topic of Artificial Intelligence, and no, robots won’t be washing your dishes in 2018 - unless your name is Elon Musk. This year will see a huge increase of AI platforms being used on E-commerce sites. Through this type of efficient automation, customers will be able to get offers and recommendations catered to their preferences. No more boring emails that have no relevance to a user.

Thanks to the growth of new AI platforms, the user experience can now be improved significantly. Think of it as being akin to something like Amazon - the pioneer of creating these more personal user experiences. According to Daniel Newman of Forbes, greater personalisation from AI can only be a good thing: “The more customers feel like people, rather than wallets, the more connected they will feel to companies who serve them”. Wise words indeed.

3D printing to become the norm

The age of paper is coming to an end. Now we can replicate 3D objects - fantastic. Much like the previously mentioned AI and augmented reality, this technology is not brand new. But its popularity is growing and disrupting existing industries - particularly manufacturing. Anything can be replicated by a 3D printer: plastic, metal and even concrete can all be used to replicate an object. It can even be used to make pizza (we aren’t joking, watch here). There is no limit to what this type of technology can achieve, and who knows, 2018 could be the year where 3D printing becomes the new industry standard.

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