Stay on trend with the right type of tech

The 1950s saw the birth of “plastic payments”, and while cards have remained a popular payment method, the technology associated with them has vastly developed. Do you remember the manual sliding credit card reader? They are long gone, replaced by a “tap and go” expectation, whether via contactless card, or mobile device. 

As payment options continue to diversify and evolve, it can be difficult for businesses to predict the payment acceptance methods that are worth the investment, and which will simply be collecting dust in the attic in a few years’ time. As we stand in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology is changing the way we live, work, communicate and pay for goods. Businesses, now more than ever, need to not only know “what” customers like to spend their money on but “how” they like to spend it. 

In fear of falling behind, many small businesses may fall into the trap of purchasing tech “for tech’s sake”. In our latest research at First Data Merchant Solutions (FDMS) we found that 31 per cent of decision makers have purchased technology that have not been used, with 26 per cent admitting they wasted anywhere from £200 to £10,000.

New technologies have the ability to transform how we live our lives, and also how we do business. However choosing the wrong type of tech can be a costly mistake. It can be a big decision but investing in the right tech is crucial in helping your business become more efficient and can provide valuable insights for owners to understand customers better. 

Think: Customers first, technology second

Knowing your customers’ needs and purchasing habits is the key to always being one step ahead of the competition. This may sound an intimidating mountain to climb for already time-poor SME owners, but it doesn’t need to be difficult. Technology has taken away the guess work in business by being able to gather valuable data insights. FDMS’s research found 44 per cent of SME owners said they did not use the tech they purchased because it didn’t work as well as intended. It’s figures like this that suggest “impulse buying” and highlight that decision makers may not be doing their homework.

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Think about what would entice you to use an offer or be interested in a promotion? Most of the time, if there is no purchase intent we would unlikely be swayed by a deal. For example, if a women’s boutique wanted to send offers on beachwear to customers it would see heightened success if it knew the months in which beachwear was most commonly purchased from the store. By looking into its trading history the decision makers at the boutique store would be able to tailor promotions and offers around these months. 

Be the virtual boss

It’s all very well having the hottest and most talked about technology but if there is no time to use it then it’s worthless. A massive 41 per cent of SME owners describe running their business as “time consuming” with 32 per cent admitting it to be “exhausting” – but this doesn’t need to be the case. With an integrated EPOS system (electronic point of sale) business owners can have an oversight, remotely through the cloud-based solution. This is more than just a ‘cash register’ – it brings the ability to centralise tasks such as tracking revenue, managing employees, and checking stock levels, all from one piece of technology. 

Considering many business owners are tight for time we were surprised to learn that 60 per cent aren’t connected to the cloud. By taking advantage of cloud-based solutions, business owners can work remotely enabling them to reach a better work/life balance and refocus available time on strategic business growth opportunities, rather than finding themselves dragged down by routine admin tasks.  

The American business magnate and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, once said, “Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”

While it is important for frims to stay on trend with technology, they must try to avoid making costly errors by thinking about their business objectives first and technology second. Whatever the business, customers should be at the core of all objectives. The technology is there to support these customer-focused objectives. Tech is increasingly making our personal lives easier – why shouldn’t it ease the pressure of our working lives in the same way?

There’s no doubting SMEs are vital for boosting the UK’s economy, driving growth and ensuring employment. However, to continue this success, SMEs need to keep up with the technology available, truly embracing IT. As such, here are some tips for SMEs to make IT relevant to business.

Raj Sond is general manager at First Data Merchant Solutions (FDMS).

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