2020 was an interesting year for small businesses everywhere. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to go virtual, re-think their marketing strategies, or generally try to get ahead of the curve. The existing trends toward immersive digital marketing and advanced automation have continued upward. Now, many small businesses are looking for ways to maximize their use of technology in a post-COVID world. If this sounds like you, read on to discover what’s in store for 2021.

Voice Search on the Rise

Voice search is nothing new, but now that most consumers have voice-activated supercomputers in their pockets, expect it to become a major way your customers find you. There are two main contexts for voice inquiries: search and purchase. The first one is much more common, with 50% of ALL web searches done via voice. Making purchases through voice search is much rarer, with only 20 percent of U.S. adults doing it.

Still, that number is rising as more people get smart speakers. These devices are making it easier than ever to use digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa. Experts predict that 8 billion people will be using them by the year 2023! So, now is the perfect time to make sure your content is optimized for voice search. It will help more customers find you, especially if they’re on-the-go.

Digitally-Enhanced Reality

Remember QR codes? They’re back, and they’re much better than before. Small businesses are using them for everything from contactless pay to enhanced product marketing. The return of QR codes proves that people enjoy connecting the physical world with the digital one. They want to see something in reality, then get information about it on their phone. 

It doesn’t stop there. Many businesses are now using augmented reality (AR) to provide immersive experiences. Customers can virtually “try on” products, see how products would look in their home, etc. About 3/4 of all consumers are looking for AR experiences, so if AR suits your brand, 2021 is the year to start offering it!

Chatbot Marketing

Your team may not be available 24/7, but your customers are always looking. Don’t miss out on potential leads: a chatbot is the perfect way to engage with a website visitor at any time of the day. Plus, chatbots save your team time by answering common questions or allowing customers to manage their accounts and purchases. 

Chatbots are a simple form of AI, yet powerful enough to carry on conversations with your customers. In fact, you’ll likely get more inquiries than you would without a chatbot: 63% of consumers say they prefer a chatbot over traditional calls or emails. And now that chatbots are dropping in price, there’s little risk in adopting one for your business’s website. 

Big Data and Deep Analytics

If you want to scale up your small business, you must know exactly how your website, e-commerce site, and customer-facing platforms are performing. Now, with AI-powered tools, small businesses can perform the kind of large-scale analysis that big corporations do. It’s more affordable than ever — and can often be done in mere minutes by SaaS solutions.

Small businesses are often sensitive to high cost-per-customer, but now, deep data analysis lets them optimize their strategies. This means smaller marketing budgets and bigger profits. The key is to configure all your customer contact points to generate the right data. 

Flexible and Remote Work

Remote work was already on the rise before the pandemic, and it seems it’s here to stay. Many employees now expect flexible work options, including the opportunity to telecommute. Despite concerns about supervision and security, many business owners are finding that remote work does reduce their costs — up to $11,000 per employee per year!

Businesses are also outsourcing and diversifying their teams. It’s now much more common to hire virtual assistants, freelancers, and CIOs to get things done without the cost of hiring a bunch of permanent staff. Thankfully, online collaboration tools are now sophisticated enough to make these distributed teams very effective. 

In addition to remote work, small businesses are increasingly adopting the “anywhere operations” model. Using cloud-based programs and distributed infrastructure, they’re empowering their teams to work from anywhere. This model comes with a higher risk of cyberattacks, so it’s important to do it right — and a managed IT services provider is one key way you can keep your business safe. 

Wrapping Up

2021 will be a year of stronger collaboration, better data, and a highly digitized existence. Small businesses can benefit by refining their web presence and connecting with customers virtually. The future is here, and it’s digital. It’s time to automate, analyze, and augment your way to business success!

Are you eager to embrace 2021’s technology trends for your small business? Bluheeler is here for you. Our virtual CIOs can help your business manage your tech needs, install cybersecurity measures, find your best SaaS vendors, and more. Plus, we’ll show you how to set up your unique ecosystem of chatbots, AI, analytics, and more! Don’t let the future get ahead of you. Contact Bluheeler and let’s gear up for 2021.

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