10 Amazing Ways How Technology is Being Used in Business
One of the biggest revolutions to happen to business was the emergence of currency. As early as the dawn of modern humans tens of thousands of years ago, barter trade was the norm. In this type of trade, people exchanged goods or services with other goods or services. Around 1200 B.C cowrie shells emerged as the first currency. In modern times, technology has been the greatest revolution to influence how humans trade products and services. Industrialization brought with it many new products to sell and buy. Technology has greatly enhanced how we sell and buy these products. Today, the adoption of technology has become a necessity for the survival of most businesses. In a market with heated competition, businesses rely on technology to improve productivity, reach more customers and cut costs. How is technology used in business? Here are the 10 most important ways technology is shaping modern businesses.
1. Understanding customer habits
Any entrepreneur worth his salt knows the sacred mantra of business; know your customers. Whether it is a brick and mortar business or an online store, this principle has always held true. Now, companies are putting technology to work getting a better grasp of customers and their buying habits.
Online-based businesses have the easiest time tracking buyers. Using cookies and data analytics, site owners can tell where on the page customers clicked, how long they stayed around and where they went after leaving. This information can prove really useful at optimizing the customer experience.
By tracking site visitors, online businesses are also able to display targeted adverts to them even when they visit other sites. This is known as retargeting.
For physical stores, the process is a bit more involving. Tracking customers involves a variety of digital tools and techniques. Technologies such as infrared beams, thermal imaging and video can be used to count the amount of foot traffic and track customers around the floor.
Tracking technologies have also led to the rise of contextual marketing. Using various technologies, businesses can push specific adverts to a customer’s smartphone based on which part of the store they are browsing. For instance, a diapers ad when you are in the baby section.
This is all in an effort to better understand customer habits to provide better targeting and marketing. Granted, it has raised a whole lot of issues related to privacy.
2. Mobile payments
We have come a long way from the days of cowrie shells. The first modern coin money appeared in Turkey around 500 B.C and the innovation quickly spread among the Macedonians, Greeks and Persians. Paper money came much later in the year 806 in China.
Today, electronic payments have overtaken the use of physical currency. We pay by credit cards, transfer money electronically and pay our bills online. In fact, given just how much electronic payment methods have risen in use, it is a bit of a surprise that coins and notes still exist.
But they may not be around for much longer. Mobile payment is the next phase of electronic money technology. In just the last year or two, major technology companies have launched mobile payment platforms. They include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and others. These mobile-based platforms are competing to make it ridiculously easy for customers to pay for products and services.
Most mobile payment methods are based on NFC (Near-Field Communication) sensors installed in smartphones and a payment terminal. They are fast, efficient and often more secure than other forms of payment, especially credit cards.
In the coming years, mobile payments will get even more popular, perhaps finally pushing physical currency into extinction.
3. Integrated communication and productivity platforms
The old fashioned desk phone is still present in many offices but is facing threats from newer communication tools. Email is by far the most popular communication platform in business. It is easy, efficient and low cost.
But even the revered email is slowly getting kicked out of business. Integrated communication and productivity platforms have become the new trend. These all-in-one platforms combine various features such as;
- Chats or instant messaging
- Social forums
- Video calls
- Audio calls
- Desktop sharing
- File sharing
- Task management
Essentially, a single platform allows workers in a business to work, collaborate and communicate without having to resort to other tools like phones and email. Because of their efficiency and positive effect on productivity, more and more businesses are adopting these platforms.
4. Cloud computing
Salesforce.com and Amazon Web Services helped launch the idea of delivering computational resources via a network. In the last few years, cloud computing has grown into a $38 billion dollar juggernaut and makes up sizable revenues for companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon.
More than any other industry, businesses have benefited immensely from the rise of cloud computing. They no longer have to invest in expensive hardware resources such as servers.
Everything from accounting to collaboration to storage can be done on the cloud. A business with a single office can scale up its operation to triple its original size without having to physically expand.
Cloud computing has been a boon for data management, big data analytics and accounting among other business aspects. The days of desktop software programs are gone, with cloud software becoming a huge favorite for the enterprise market.
Businesses investing in cloud computing benefit from lower costs, better connectivity, improved integration with other systems and a reduced technical burden.
5. Internet of things
From smart lights to intelligent thermostats, a lot of the innovation arising from IoT has been directed towards consumers. This is not to mean that there is nothing for businesses; they stand to benefit immensely from the interconnectedness of systems and devices. In fact with time, the enterprise will prove to be the biggest driver of innovation in this field.
One application of IoT in business today involves using cameras and sensors to track employee movement and monitor productivity. In a store, interconnected devices can help monitor customer behavior, thus promoting better customer targeting.
With IoT, various aspects of the business could run automatically without requiring human intervention. Imagine a system that automatically knows when certain stock is running out and prompts the manager to make an order; it can even make an order automatically.
The same system connects with the payment terminal to know which products are selling fastest and which ones need a bit more pushing to sell. This system can then reach out to the marketing department, letting them know which products to market more and which customers to target.
Away from business-centric applications, IoT could help businesses in the same way it benefits consumers. With things like smart lighting and heating, business can save energy. Smart cameras and locks can help improve security.
6. Augmented/Virtual/Mixed reality
There are a lot of realities nowadays. Microsoft has its augmented reality headset, the HoloLens. Facebook, Sony and others have their immersive virtual reality headsets. After years of bated anticipation, Magic Leap is about to reveal their revolutionary mixed reality device that many say will forever change the face of computing.
While these technologies have been billed for use primarily in entertainment, and especially gaming, their uses extend far beyond this arena. Architects, industrial designers and various other types of creatives are already using augmented and virtual reality devices to design and visualize their creations in a very realistic 3D form.
In the case of Magic Leap, reports suggest that their creation could bring drastic changes to enterprise sector. It could replace smartphones and computers, instead relying on projected virtual screens and images.
On the consumer side of things, virtual and augmented reality could change the way customers interact with businesses. A good example is how some customers are already using virtual reality headsets to shop from home. A VR headset puts the customer inside a virtual store, allowing them to add products to a cart as if they were actually there.
Central banks have for decades been central pillars of the modern economy. They regulate currency and generally control the direction of a country’s economy. This is why the rise of digital currencies, also called cryptocurrencies, has rattled them so much.
Digital currencies like Bitcoin do not relay on the traditional central bank system. They employ a separate system that emphasizes greatly on individual privacy, something governments are not so comfortable with. Currently, top digital currencies include Bitcoin, Dogecoin and Dash among others.
For businesses, the rise of digital currencies means that they must take notice and keep up with the times. While they are still relatively unpopular, especially among governments, digital currencies could have a big impact on businesses. This is why a number of major businesses including utility companies, online gambling platforms and stores now accept Bitcoin as a form of payment.
The validity of cryptocurrencies is still relatively volatile and the caution being exercised by governments and businesses is justified. For now, the best businesses can do is conduct their own research and find out whether accepting digital currency would be beneficial to their bottom-line.
8. Artificial intelligence
There is an unprecedented focus on artificial intelligence unlike any other time in history. Technology companies are attempting to infuse a dose of AI into their platforms from social media to chat apps. But it is in the business sector where we are likely to witness the biggest developments in artificial intelligence.
Just how much will AI change how business is done? The answer: a lot.
Consider that manufacturing in the US remain high but with far lesser human workers than ever before. Artificial intelligence systems are being created to drive the manufacturing process. AI is being housed in robots that now stand where humans used to along the conveyor belt.
Go to the office and we are already seeing menial, repetitive tasks being outsourced to AI programs instead of entry level employees. IBM has an intelligent program that is being hired as a lawyer in law firms to specialize in research.
With data becoming ever more important in conducting business, AI will prove crucial in data analysis. From reams of data, it can extract important information such as customer behavior and future trends in a specific industry. In some industries, AI will be put to work interacting with customers and offering them assistance in a variety of ways. We can already see this in the rise of customer care chatbots that interact with customers via messages or calls.
9. 3D Printing
Experts say that 3D printing could have an impact on the level of the first and second industrial revolutions. In fact, they call it the third industrial revolution. For businesses, the implications are huge.
One area where they could benefit greatly is in design and prototyping. Instead of having to go to a factory to get a product prototype, you can create one right there in your office. With rapid prototyping comes greater innovation and the potential for higher sales. This could allow even smaller companies to leverage the relatively low cost of 3D printing to compete against bigger brands.
The emergence of 3D printing also opens up a whole new range of business opportunities. With a good 3D printer, an entrepreneur could design and sell toys, figurines, smartphone cases, decorative objects and a gazillion other things.
At first thought, wearables seem to have no place in the enterprise sector. But consider the main benefit of most wearables being produced today; health and fitness monitoring. Even smartwatches that can do a host of other things are focusing more on keeping their wearers healthy and fit.
Having healthy employees keeps productivity up and ensures a business continues growing. Sick days and low productivity due to unwell employees can cost a business a lot of money. This is why companies are taking a more proactive role in keeping their employees in top form. Wearables play a big role in such initiatives.
In 2015, Target gave its more than 300,000 employees a free Fitbit band in an effort to encourage a healthier lifestyle. Several other companies are also going down that road, issuing wearables to help workers monitor their own health and fitness.
Aside from fitness monitoring, wearables can also be used for communication, remote collaboration and improved connectivity.
How is Technology used in Business – The Bottom Line
While all these technologies can do a ton of amazing things, businesses care about one thing in the end; boosting the bottom line. Emerging and future business tech promises increased efficiency, improved productivity, lower costs and fatter profits.
Which emerging business technology have we left out? Leave your comments below.
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