Rare are the tech predictions that land full-force and on-time. Charlie Chaplin famously called moving pictures a fad; the stage, he said, is the real “flesh and blood.” In 1932 a renowned physicist totally dismissed the promise of nuclear energy. “It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will,” he said. He didn’t live to see the first U.S. nuclear power plant, but Albert Einstein did witness the dramatic and destructive event he previously could not imagine.
Should we abstain from making bold predictions? No! (Chaplin eventually co-founded the United Artists studio, afterall.)
But let’s call them business trends. We’ll keep them near-term — 2020 business trends — and we’ll base them on projected small business growth and direction. No unrealistic breakthroughs.
And, for our small business tech trends of 2020, we’ll keep to what we know best — internet speeds and communications.
With the 2010s closed, we turn to 2020 business trends. The question for midsize and small businesses is, do we need more — can we get more — bandwidth? For most, it is yes.
Recall Moore’s Law. Computer processing power will basically double every couple of years. That forecast, offered by Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore a half century ago, is now outdated, even “dead,” one tech CEO put it, because it was based on hardware and physical engineering.
Today’s trend is to move small business computing off-site. Our software solutions aren't being performed by our computers so much as displayed by our computers. With the rise of cloud-based platforms, business computing requires high bandwidth internet connections.
As recently as 2014 the Federal Communications Commission defined broadband as 4 megabits per second (Mbps) or greater download speeds. Today, the threshold is 25 Mbps down. Cloud computing, Software as-a-Service (SaaS) and cloud storage, along with artificial intelligence and virtual reality, are driving new bandwidth requirements.
For Moore, it was the size of computer processing chips that determined capability — a physical piece of hardware. Future business trends in 2020 and beyond will arrive by way of remote servers and cloud computing. Small businesses have an opportunity for high-tech solutions, if they invest in big bandwidth.
Gig Internet isn’t table stakes yet, but it will be. And 5G capabilities are just beginning to unfold. Businesses need to snatch an early advantage with such technologies.
Video me your pitch
When it comes to getting your message out, from marketing to internal collaboration to customer meetings, video may be the 2020 tech trend for small business.
“Small businesses that master YouTube marketing see a big impact on their customer engagement,” says the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Video content is one of the most powerful ways to reach customers. According to industry analysts, YouTube is the second largest search engine, processing more than 3 billion searches per month.”
In terms of a small business opportunity, the rise of built-in cameras capable of HD video is powering a delightful anachronism — face-to-face communication.
Communication ‘asynchronicity’ or asymmetry is one-sided discussion: letters, presentations, emails and advertising. (Not to be confused with telecommunications asynchronicity, which has to do with network transmission of data bits.) Workplace collaboration platforms and video conferencing are fueling a 21st Century business trend back to communication synchronicity.
Unified communications solutions such as our own OfficeSuite UC® seamlessly integrate video capabilities into phone calls and conferencing.
For B2B enterprises, “virtual meetings” offer your experts flexibility to engage with customers more often. Internally, video conferencing brings together remote workers, or fleets of traveling sales people. The same holds true for screen sharing. Screen sharing today isn’t just the easiest way to onboard new team members but, often, make presentations for clients and gatekeepers.
Great small business communication involves telling and showing.
Let Mobile Reign
Tech that trends in 2020 will increasingly be mobile, or developed and deployed with a mobile-first mindset. From websites and payment methods to collaboration and employee access to business applications, everything must work seamlessly across devices and enable access from any internet connection.
Our future business trends for 2020 include more adoption of contactless payments: debit cards or, increasingly, personal devices that use near-field communication (“tap”) for in-person sales. In two dozen countries around the world contactless payment makes up the majority of sales transactions (in Australia it’s 90% or higher). Compared with China, India and other parts of the world, the U.S. is way behind in adopting mobile payments.
Communications and collaboration are also going mobile. No more missed opportunities or stalled projects just because business, or life, takes employees away from their computer or deskphone. Here again is the benefit of a unified communications platform such as OfficeSuite UC®. Along with face-to-face meetings and screen sharing from anywhere on any device, OfficeSuite UC® also offers these mobile-friendly features:
- Mobile “twinning” — an incoming call option that rings a desktop or laptop as well as a mobile number.
- Instant messaging for quick queries and directions. (Emails can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Instant messages get noticed.)
- Conferencing you can record. It’s one reason webinars and slide decks are increasingly the stuff of small business YouTube channels.
- Finally, presence or availability so members of work teams know who’s around without anyone having to ask, “Are you available?” Whether the goal is to share a screen or transfer a phone call, just knowing someone is free without having to ask is a problem solved!
The continued rise, and now supremacy, of mobile has given way to another parallel trend — the convenience culture. Competitive small businesses need to be “always on” because customers expect to interact at their convenience. Businesses that successfully and seamlessly provide customer service via multiple channels will prevail.
What do small businesses need to accomplish this? Internally, business leaders and IT specialists must enable employees to provide high-level customer service from multiple devices, locations and channels — text message, chat, phone, social media, email, etc.
While this is certainly a trend that’s been on the rise for some time, business trends are pointing to an even more remote workforce. We venture to say 2020 may be the year it becomes the norm, or at least mainstream enough to head in that direction. Such jobs have grown nearly 160% since 2005. In America today as many as 4.7 million Americans “telecommute” to work. These employees like having a flexible schedule and working from any location.
For employers, the business trend can eventually cut real estate and overhead, but in the short term, it can expand the talent pool to anyone, anywhere, with a sufficient broadband connection. As mentioned in past blogs, a foundational piece of embracing this culture shift takes us back to tech trends for 2020 — a solid unified communications platform that connects far-flung employees via the latest technology while standardizing and simplifying admin management.
Data Analytics for New Sales
Finally, we said that Gig Internet is next-generation speed you can grow into. A guest WiFi network is one of the growing channels that consumes additional bandwidth. You may not be actively using data gleaned from customer WiFi use now, but it’s a future business trend built for 2020 and beyond.
Exploring WiFi usage analytics to optimize relationships and solve for customer needs is a key benefit of offering a guest WiFi connection. A global forecast last year predicted the WiFi analytics market will grow from about $5.3 billion presently to $16.8 in five years. Why? The use of mobile technology that depends on fast internet, the kind deployed by terrestrial Gig Internet and accessed over wireless local area networks (WLANs), will increase. What’s throttling that back isn’t customer adoption but business deployment.
One Kinetic Business trend in 2020 will be offering smart WiFi for just such responsive, customized marketing efforts.
Tech Trends — 2020s
Among the best-bet business trends unfolding at the dawn of the decade is small business adoption of big-bandwidth connections. Why? It enables the adoption of cloud-based applications and new “connected” solutions on the horizon.
Don’t let hindsight get all the clarity. Seize foresight in 2020. Future-proof your business connections with Kinetic Business by Windstream and be prepared to take advantage of the tech trends that will shape the success of midsize and small businesses over the next decade.