To help you better understand the trends affecting companies like yours, we asked 100 small-business leaders throughout Canada about the investments they’re making in new technologies (see our survey methodology at the bottom of page).
In this piece, we’ll tell you all about the top three tech trends business leaders say they’re planning to adopt in 2021.
Artificial intelligence is helping all businesses work smarter
No longer limited to large enterprises with massive budgets, AI and ML technologies are now being deployed by small businesses. Cloud-based AI services and open source platforms such as Google’s TensorFlow have democratized sophisticated AI tools and ML development. At the same time, AI is increasingly embedded in the software that many small businesses use every day, from enhanced lead generation in CRM software to automated customer service tools in chatbot software.
But most critically, the role of AI and ML tech in data analysis is fundamentally changing how business leaders make decisions. The world of big data is now available to small businesses via affordable data mining and predictive analytics tools that quickly turn mountains of raw data into insights that power data-driven decision-making.
How you can get started: Look for tools that use AI and ML to simplify customer service, automate processes, or streamline data analysis efforts. These solutions will help make the most of your limited resources so your business can focus less on tedious tasks and more on strategic goals.
Digital marketing is moving from strategy to necessity
In addition to Canada, we also surveyed small-business leaders in the U.S. and U.K. about technology adoption. Only 49% of Canadian businesses currently use digital marketing compared to 60% in the U.S. and 77% in the U.K. However, 30% of our Canadian respondents say their company plans to begin using digital marketing in 2021, more than any other country surveyed. This means adoption rates among the three countries should soon become more balanced.
Digital marketing comprises all online marketing tactics, from search marketing (e.g., SEO, SEM) to social media advertising. And while it’s never been more important, digital marketing has also never been more complicated.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital business transformation and made digital marketing an essential strategy as more and more transactions have shifted online. At the same time, the industry is in flux as digital marketers adjust to changing data privacy practices while trying to appeal to ever more sophisticated internet users.
In recent years, regulations such as Europe’s GDPR, California’s CCPA, and Canada’s own CPPA (a proposed update to the long-standing PIPEDA) have pushed data privacy issues to the forefront and restricted how internet data may be collected and used for marketing purposes.
Complicating matters, recent changes to most major web browsers have curbed the use of third-party cookies, sometimes by default. Digital marketers have historically leveraged data from third-party cookies (those that track customer’s online activity as they navigate from one site to another) to target them with personalized advertisements based on their behavior and interests. As this source of customer data is gradually shut off, digital marketers must adapt by building trust with existing customers and finding alternate ways to attract new ones.
How you can get started: Being new to digital marketing might actually give you an advantage over companies that are switching gears to adapt to digital marketing’s new normal. Begin by focusing on the collection of first-party data (i.e., sourced directly from your customers) to learn more about who your customers are and what they’re looking for online. Then consider your strategies for social, search, and email marketing.
Mobile business applications are meeting the needs of a remote world
Tying with digital marketing, 30% of our respondents plan to adopt mobile business applications. This makes sense. We’re all spending more time on our mobile devices these days and remote work has become mainstream in the wake of the pandemic.
Organizations use mobile business apps for everything from communication to project management. Mobile authentication apps and password manager apps have also become popular tools as businesses look for ways to better secure a remote workforce.
But many small businesses don’t only use mobile business apps, they also develop their own. Mobile apps make businesses of all sizes more accessible by providing a direct and secure channel for purchases, promotions, and customer service. They also help companies grow brand awareness and improve customer engagement.
Perhaps most importantly, mobile business apps are a rich source of the first-party data that powers analytics and digital marketing strategies. Every interaction a customer makes with an app can potentially be used to determine behaviors and preferences needed to personalize communications and improve services.
How you can get started: Carefully consider the needs of your increasingly mobile workforce when adopting new software. Make sure mobile business apps provide the utility, functionality, and security employees will need when away from their desktop or laptop.
Most Canadian companies are adopting new tech to boost productivity
We asked our respondents to select the top three factors that trigger investment in new technology. By far, the top answer was to improve productivity (62%) with needs outgrowing current tech (53%) and competitive pressures (45%) rounding out the top three responses.
All three of these investment triggers align with Canada’s top tech trends. AI and ML are instrumental in improving productivity, whether through process automation or business analytics solutions. Competitive pressures are pushing businesses to embrace digital marketing while the rising adoption of mobile business apps suggests a world that has officially outgrown the need to be tethered to desktop computers.
GetApp conducted this survey from August 24 to September 27, 2020 of 1,000 small-business leaders from the U.S.(700), Canada (100), U.K. (100), and Australia (100). The goal of the study is to understand what technology investments small businesses are making and the drivers and challenges that influence their decisions.
- Respondents were screened by:
- Number of employees: 2 to 499 employees
- Annual revenue: $5M to $250M
Respondents were required to be involved in purchasing technologies for the organization and hold a manager-level position or above in the company.
Percentages exclude responses of not sure/can’t say.