Global e-commerce sales are expected to hit $5 trillion globally in 2022. With such a huge volume of business being done online, being able to compete in the digital marketplace is a critical survival skill for every entrepreneur. Here are five innovations that business owners should consider investing in to stay competitive online.
1. Zero Trust Security Architecture
Last year set the all-time record for cybercrime, with estimates of the global cost at around $6 trillion. Businesses and governments alike are rapidly adopting a new security methodology called zero trust. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a framework that requires all users to validate their identities through processes like passwordless authentication, rigorous endpoint security protocols and third-party authenticator apps. It also means limiting network access to the bare minimum needed to accomplish a task. With networks no longer constrained by geography, assuming the worst of strangers on the internet before letting them in isn’t paranoia, it’s just good sense.
2. Task Management Systems
The most important part of staying efficient is keeping organized. Thankfully, an abundance of new digital tools exists to streamline that process. Task management tools like Basecamp allow a dispersed workforce to share files, engage in a group chat and schedule events all within the same digital space. Time tracking software and digital timesheets allow owners and managers to keep track of employee hours and the status of projects in process. Many if not most of these programs are available as smartphone apps as well, making them expedient for managers on the go.
3. Sales Force Automation Tools
The challenge of keeping a sales campaign on track has always been great, but as marketing goes digital, coordination becomes even more difficult. Enter sales force automation. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is probably the most common form of this technology. CRM systems allow you to store prospect and customer information, find new sales opportunities and manage marketing campaigns by largely automating digital outreach.
The use of conversational chatbots in customer service is another time-saving innovation based on artificial intelligence and machine learning. One caveat: Although chatbots have been shown to increase overall sales by about 67%, the same research revealed that 87% of customers still prefer to talk to a human operator, especially via live chat. Consider mixing the two channels, allowing chatbots to field a high volume of simple interactions but keeping the option of an operator for more nuanced conversations. In the midst of digital migration, it’s vital to remember the power of the human element.
4. Multichannel and Omnichannel Marketing
These days, customers expect to experience a company in a variety of ways. The goal of multichannel marketing is to engage with customers in their preferred spaces. This can mean email marketing, sending offers via SMS, and partnering with media influencers that are trusted by consumers. Omnichannel marketing is an evolution of the multichannel approach.
The aim here is to craft an experience that encompasses the whole array of user endpoints and devices available to consumers. In other words, it integrates the digital and physical experiences that a customer has with a brand. Learning to do this seamlessly and in an organic way is key to reaching modern consumers effectively.
5. Analytical Software
We live in an era of big data, and while it may feel disorienting sometimes, all of those data points present an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to know themselves and their markets. Creating focus groups, sending out feedback surveys, and compiling demographic statistics are all traditional and effective methods of market research, but they’re all massively labor-intensive. A full report can cost upwards of $35,000.
Analytical algorithms can cut this cost massively by collating millions of data points in minutes. This has the added upshot of making predictions more accurate as algorithm sophistication increases. It’s all but impossible for humans to crunch numbers as quickly as machines, so it might be time to invest in some robotic assistance.
In the online world, having the right tools and the right training can make all the difference in your success. Keep these tips in mind when building your digital infrastructure.