Top 10 Technology Disruptors for SMBs – 2017

by:
on May 16, 2017

by Brian Westfall, Craig Borowski & Justin Guinn

NOTE: We’ve updated this piece! You can find the 2018 version here.

Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have faced a slew of unparalleled digital disruptions over the past 15 to 20 years, from high-speed internet to smartphones and social media. But what are the next technology disruptions on the horizon—and more importantly, how can and should SMBs prepare for them?

To answer this question, we analyzed advances in technology set to change how SMBs handle daily operations, and came up with a list of the top 10 technology disruptors you should know about.

For each disruptor, we’ll answer the following three questions:

  • What is the disruptor and why should SMBs care?
  • When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?
  • How can SMBs prepare now for the disruption?

First, let’s explain how we’re defining a “disruptor”:

Technology disruptor: Any industry trend or new technology that is already changing or will fundamentally change how business success is achieved.

10 2017 technology disruptor infographic

 
Here are the top 10 SMB disruptions for 2017:

1. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
2. Machine Learning
3. Chatbots
4. Geospatial and Location Intelligence
5. Predictive Analytics
6. User Experience Personification
7. Wearables
8. Augmented and Virtual Reality
9. Computer Vision
10. Autonomous Vehicles

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

What is the disruptor and why should SMBs care?

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a cloud-deployed delivery model for application infrastructure services. Unlike the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, which delivers a fully functional application (or set of applications), PaaS delivers “middleware” services that clients can use to build their own applications.

Today, when an SMB needs a software solution, they usually choose the SaaS product that best meets their requirements. But with the increasing availability of PaaS, SMBs can develop their own application according to their specific needs—an attractive alternative to SaaS.

SMBs should expect PaaS deployments to increase as competitors use them to create apps that make their own internal workflows more efficient.

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

PaaS is already impacting software developers in the SMB space. We expect the impact to spread to SMBs in other industries over the next three to five years.

PaaS deployments are already quite common in the enterprise space. The PaaS use cases with the most traction are those that use a PaaS service to create apps that speed up internal workflows or other business processes. In fact, Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for PaaS (content available to Gartner clients) shows that business process management is the leading use case for PaaS implementations.

Some of the big name PaaS vendors already offer SMB-friendly services, like Salesforce’s Force.com, Microsoft’s Azure and Google’s App Engine. As for when the disruption will hit, that depends entirely on when you (or your competitors) develop your first game-changing app!

Since PaaS is all about efficient software development, this disruption will be most impactful among software developers and IT solutions providers. But PaaS is also about making software development easier and accessible to companies that don’t specialize in IT—and for this reason its impact could become widespread.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

Any business that uses software should, at the very least, be generally aware of PaaS solutions and how they work. For many SMBs, however, shopping for new software ends up being a process of elimination, and there’s little time to consider PaaS solutions when there are so many SaaS solutions that will work off the shelf.

So how do you know if PaaS is a better choice than SaaS for your SMB? Ask yourself the following questions. Answering yes to any of them means that PaaS might be your best option—or at the very least, is at least worth a closer look.

  • Does my SMB have unique application requirements?
  • Does my SMB have an atypical or disruptive business model, or one that requires the implementation of bleeding-edge technologies?
  • Will the best SaaS solution on the market still require extensive customization in order for it work best for us?

Finally, it’s important to remember that the PaaS market is still evolving and vendors that exist today may not be here tomorrow (as was the case with SaaS vendors when SaaS was still an up-and-coming technology.) Buyers should be wary of long-term commitments with any one PaaS vendor and contracts should be examined carefully to avoid potential vendor lock-in.

Machine Learning

What is the disruptor and why should SMBs care?

Machine learning (ML) is a subfield within artificial intelligence (AI). ML will be disruptive for several reasons. First, it will greatly expand the ability of computerized systems to analyze and extract meaning from large and unstructured datasets.

Building upon that, ML will also improve a company’s ability to make those analyses actionable and, to varying degrees, automate their implementation.

While there are many potential and theorized uses for machine learning, most current ML use cases take a “supervised learning” approach. As Gartner’s report “Machine Learning Drives Digital Business” (available to Gartner clients) explains:

“Supervised learning requires ‘training data,’ which is used to ‘teach’ a machine learning model by describing a desired mapping between observations and outcomes that the machine learning system should produce.”

Based on those mappings, ML programs could help companies answer questions such as:

  • Are customers who purchased product A more or less likely to also purchase product B?
  • How does bundling products and services affect the lifetime value of certain customer subsets?
  • Will raising the cost of a certain product or service increase customer churn?

With supervised learning, ML can help a business turn its collection of data into actionable insight, without requiring the effort or expense of traditional data analysis. Since SMBs traditionally lack the budgets and staff for extensive analysis, they should pay particular attention to to ML developments and the opportunities they create.

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

Machine learning is already a behind-the-scenes disruptor. We predict the degree and scope of its disruption will grow quickly over the next decade, as companies discover new applications for it.

Machine learning has seen great success in fields that involve the processing of language, such as:

  • Foreign language translation
  • Text and speech sentiment analysis<l/i>
  • Handwriting and speech recognition

Google, for example, uses machine learning to continually improve the results it returns for search queries.

ML is also great at pattern recognition, and is used for online fraud detection, customer behavior analysis and recommender systems. Chatbots are another great example of ML in action, and are discussed further down in this report.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

While ML is used primarily in the enterprise space right now, the tools and platforms are increasingly available to SMBs. The biggest obstacle for SMBs is the lack of the large datasets on which ML tools can be applied.

But large datasets don’t just appear overnight; they need to be grown over time. By implementing the right software into your business, you can begin accumulating data—and make workflows more efficient.

Here are some simple examples of changes a company can make to begin collecting their own data to prepare for their own ML implementation:

  • Instead of tracking applicants and new hires by hand (or on a generic spreadsheet), use an applicant tracking system in your HR department.
  • Stop using a spreadsheet to manage your customer service requests and switch to a dedicated customer service platform that will keep all your data organized.

SMBs that do have large sets of data can already begin laying the groundwork for ML initiatives. There are many reasonably priced cloud-hosted ML platforms from vendors like Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. Take a look at our guide here to see how your SMB can begin taking the first steps towards using ML in your customer service department.

Chatbots

What is the disruptor and why should SMBs care?

Chatbots are one of ML’s more precocious offspring, with many examples of them already scampering about online. So what are they? Put simply, chatbots are digital interfaces (usually found online) that use machine learning to automatically answer inquiries and guide interactions.

slackbot chatbot assistant

Slackbot is Slack’s chatbot, a fully automatic chat-based assistant for answering common questions

 

Chatbot interfaces seem very similar to live chat interfaces. In fact, from a customer or end-user’s point of view, it’s not always clear which is which. With live chat, however, there’s an actual person on the other end responding to questions, whereas chatbots use ML algorithms to interact and respond automatically and without needing help from an agent.

SMBs should pay close attention to chatbot technology. It’s highly leverageable and can help SMBs unlock the power of machine learning without needing an enterprise-class budget. Chatbots can come as part of a larger software platform, purchased directly from custom chatbot developers or developed in-house slowly over time.

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

We predict chatbot implementations will continue to increase over the next five years, reaching widespread adoption as early as 2020.

While chatbot technology is maturing quickly, chatbots aren’t the best conversationalists. Instead, they’re great at understanding simple questions and choosing the best answer from a finite group of pre-written ones. This particular skill has made chatbots especially helpful for customer service departments—which are obviously no stranger to answering repetitive questions.

Chatbots will be most impactful in service departments that handle a high volume of service requests; especially those that handle a high volume of relatively simple, non-technical service requests. This impact will affect customer service departments in all industries, in both B2B and B2C contexts.

Chatbots are already employed by companies in the SMB space, though sparingly.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

  • Most SMBs are already preparing for chatbots, even if not intentionally. As with all ML projects, chatbots are built upon a collection of data—something many SMBs already have thanks to their use of a CRM system, HR platform or other business management software.
  • Chatbots will disrupt customer service departments in ways similar to the disruption caused by self-service. They’ll lead to an overall reduction in service request volume.
  • However, as is the case with self-service implementations, the remaining service requests will often be more challenging to resolve. Companies should thus plan to reevaluate their service department metrics and KPIs to account for the effects of a chatbot implementation.

Geospatial and Location Intelligence

What is the disruptor and why should SMB businesses care?

Geospatial and location-based sensor technologies designed to track the location of subjects and/or objects within an assigned space are disrupting multiple industries.

The sensor-based technology gathers and analyzes data from any connected devices, such as smartphones or smart watches . The sensors are able to send and receive data to and from these devices using primarily Bluetooth, WiFi and RFID (radio-frequency identification) digital channels.

Put simply, these technologies quantify the physical spaces in which any business inhabits. Not to mention, the actual sensor technology that drives geospatial intelligence has been around for some time and is relatively inexpensive.

According to Gartner’s report “Hype Cycle for Business Intelligence and Analytics, 2016” (available to Gartner clients):

“Analyzing business data in the context of location can uncover spatial trends, dependencies and patterns that are otherwise undetectable. Greater adoption, broader utilization, and new technologies and services will be driven by the Internet of Things (IoT).

Recording human movements and interactions using this type of technology yields a huge amount of data that businesses can analyze and use to optimize their processes and experiences.

For example, a construction businesses could look at how their on-site staff moves around throughout the day and position tools and building materials strategically to make them more easily accessible.

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

We predict geospatial and location-based technology will disrupt retail, manufacturing and warehousing, and SMBs that rely on mobile employees, by 2020.

Geolocation sensor technology has existed for sometime, as with Apple’s 2013 release of their iBeacon. And insurance companies use geospatial data and location technology to more accurately assess risk for policies.

The difficulty facing SMBs is how to apply the technology in a way that makes sense for their business. And if that can be achieved, an even bigger hurdle is overcoming the challenges of taking the data collected and turning it into actionable takeaways.

These challenges will likely require additional resources, such as software that can perform the type of complex data analysis needed, as well as employees who can make sense of the data and help make decisions based off of it.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

There are already many location-based sensor and analytics technologies in the marketplace. Along with adopting and installing the physical sensors, SMBs must be prepared to house and analyze the data gathered from these sensors into meaningful recommendations.

Steps SMBs can take to stay in front of this disruption include:

  • Set aside the resources (money, expertise) necessary to properly install the physical sensor hardware.
  • Prepare to spend money on support and training packages to increase the speed of onboarding so actionable decisions can be made more quickly.
  • Optimize or adopt a new customer relationship management (CRM) system that will help tie personalized location data to specific customers so their experiences can be positively changed.

Predictive Analytics

What is the disruptor and why should SMBs care?

Thanks to modern computing power, SMBs are able to amass and archive more historical data related to their operations than ever before.

If you have more spreadsheets on your desktop than you can count on two hands, you know what I’m talking about. But without the resources or expertise to make sense of all this data, SMBs are often in the dark on what past trends may indicate for the future.

Predictive analytics capabilities in software will soon help SMBs shed light on all of this. Using statistical techniques such as regression analysis, forecasting, multivariate statistics and pattern matching, predictive analytics can parse historical data to answer the all-important question: “What is likely to happen next?”

Gartner explains the benefits of this evolution in the report “Combine Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics to Drive High-Impact Decisions” (available to Gartner clients):

“To make sound decisions, organizations need to assess, quickly and accurately, complicated and time-sensitive matters…They must make decisions based on likelihoods, such as what is likely to be the optimal price, the right marketing mix, the best route or the most suitable time to schedule maintenance. [Predictive analytics] offers a way for organizations to shape a future that looks uncertain.”

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

We expect predictive analytics will disrupt SMB decision-making in all industries and work functions by 2021.

There are currently enterprise-focused systems with predictive analytics capabilities available today. They offer a glimpse of what areas will be most disrupted for small businesses in the near future:

  • Platforms like Workday can use performance and attrition data to tell HR departments which employees are most likely to leave soon, thrive in senior positions or abuse company policies.
  • Platforms like Halo can use maintenance history to tell operations managers the likelihood that a piece of machinery will fail and recommend a course of action based on possible outcomes.
  • Platforms like Canopy Labs can use past sales trends and behaviors to tell retail store owners things like purchase likelihood, churn risk and a number of other metrics for individual customers.

To be clear, this technology is already available and widely used by enterprise businesses. It’s just a matter of when predictive analytics will become more widespread in the systems that SMBs already own.

But with the market for big data and business analytics offerings forecasted to reach more than 187 billion by 2019, this time will come relatively soon.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

The accuracy of predictive analytics lies entirely in the integrity of your SMB’s historical data. That’s not a future concern, that’s a now concern.

Here are some steps that SMBs can take to prepare for predictive analytics:

  • Adopt a system to securely house historical data and implement processes to clean that data regularly. (We offer tips on how to do this with Microsoft Excel here).
  • Eliminate noise by separating valuable data sources worthy of predictive analysis from those proven to have no bearing on business outcomes.
  • Talk to software vendors to discuss their roadmap for implementing predictive analytics capabilities in their core platforms.

User Experience Personification

What is the disruptor and why should SMB businesses care?

In the age of big data, every interaction a consumer has with a business offers multiple data points than can be gathered and analyzed. Over time, with more and more personalized data and with greater analytic capabilities, SMBs can use this information in real-time to enhance user satisfaction with a product, service, or general experience.

Similar to chatbots, user experience personification (UX personification) will result from improved machine learning capabilities. The increase in automated interactions between businesses and consumers will provide UX personification with the opportunity to disrupt how customer experiences and interactions are curated and executed.

Make no mistake, SMBs will have to fight to keep up with larger enterprises that have larger data sets and greater resources for analyzing and designing personalized experiences. But it’s a fight that’s necessary in order to meet the evolving expectations of customers.

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

We predict UX personification will disrupt SMB-designed personal experiences in all industries by 2021.

We’re already seeing the practical application of user data to create more personalized experiences. Take Google’s curated ad campaigns as a basic example. This service tracks personal browsing histories and enables other businesses to leverage this personal data by buying and filling ad space with relevant ads. While this is more of an unsolicited example, it paints the picture of where business experiences are heading.

SMB sales associates, chatbots, support and other call centers, and many other businesses will be able to offer optimally personalized interactions. SMBs can leverage such personalized experiences internally to increase their talent acquisition rates.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

Leveraging such data-inferred information will require SMBs to adopt advanced data analytics tools. These tools will become more readily available for SMBs in years to come, but for now, steps SMBs can take to stay in front of this disruption include:

  • Optimize current data collection, management and application practices now to gain experience and build core competencies for using data to make business decisions.
  • Work with clients/customers to determine pain points in your journey that a more personalized experience could help alleviate.

Wearables

What is the disruptor and why should SMBs care?

When they exploded onto the scene back in 2014, some declared it the “Year of the Wearable.” Cut to today and the sheen on fitness trackers like the Fitbit and smartwatches from companies like Apple and Samsung has decidedly dulled. Outside of exercise fanatics and gearheads, wearables haven’t caught on with mainstream audiences as quickly as anticipated.

The latest numbers from March 2016 show that just 12 percent of U.S. consumers own a wearable. More alarming news comes from a consumer survey by Gartner (available to Gartner clients) that says nearly a third of adopters last year stopped using their wearable because they “did not find them useful, they get bored of them or they broke.”

Despite this, we’re not ready to write the obituary for wearables just yet. Should providers continue to improve their devices, the potential from recording data and deriving actionable insights using a piece of tech that customers, employees, patients and more wear on their actual person is too great to ignore.

Wearables will usher in a new era of personalization that has the potential to streamline operations, improve quality of service and surface new revenue opportunities.

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

We predict wearables will disrupt SMBs in areas like human resources, healthcare, marketing and retail by 2022.

As consumers continue to adopt fitness trackers for personal use, SMB HR departments will increasingly ask employees to bring them into the workplace to implement employee wellness programs. These inexpensive initiatives involve organizing group exercise activities that pool fitness tracker data with leaderboards and rewards to promote employee happiness and engagement (with the side benefit of potentially lowering health insurance costs).

Consumer wearables will continue to improve beyond tracking a user’s heart rate and footsteps (and evolve from wrist accessories into actual clothing), and so will medical-grade wearables like Zephyr Anywhere’s BioPatch. As these wearables become more affordable, small practice doctors and ER nurses will increasingly rely on them to monitor important vitals and get updates sent straight to their smartphone as needed to improve diagnosis accuracy and response times.

But perhaps the most disruptive application of wearables will be to the retail customer experience in concurrence with the internet of things (IoT). Amazon’s new brick-and-mortar prototype, Amazon Go, offers a glimpse of the possibilities: customers being served personalized deals in-store based on purchase history that are sent straight to their smartwatch, and automatically paying for their purchases as they leave the store.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

Besides waiting for consumer interest to grow and the tech to evolve, another major challenge with wearables will be privacy concerns. How comfortable are people going to be sharing their wearable information with businesses? Here are some next actions that SMBs can take now to see how wearables will fit into their future:

  • Survey different groups (e.g., customers, employees) to see how many already have wearables and how using wearable data would affect relationships with them.
  • Evaluate the efficacy of wearables to improve safety for employees in dangerous work conditions (e.g., detecting falls, monitoring the drowsiness of truck drivers).

Augmented and Virtual Reality

What is the disruptor and why should SMBs care?

After decades of being relegated to bulky headsets in arcades, augmented reality (technology that superimposes computer-generated imagery over a view of the physical world) and virtual reality (technology that replaces the view of the physical world entirely with a computer-generated environment) are finally having a legitimate moment.

Sleek headsets from the likes of Oculus, Sony and HTC are now competing for shelf space from hardcore gamers craving a more immersive experience, and even regular consumers can now explore virtual worlds with their smartphone for as little as $15.

A Gartner report (available to Gartner clients) estimates that 4 million of these AR and VR devices were in homes by mid-2016. Theme parks are also betting hard on virtual reality to provide excitement to guests at a fraction of the cost of a titanic coaster.

But the applications of AR and VR for small businesses will go far beyond cheap thrills, should adoption continue to rise. Organizations can use AR and VR to provide all types of users (e.g., employees, customers, patients) with the means to interpret real-time information, experience virtual environments and socially collaborate beyond the confines of a smartphone or computer screen.

Soon, you can shake your boss’ hand in a virtual meeting, run a simulation on how to perform complicated surgery and walk through a hotel room you’d like to view before booking—all without leaving the comfort of your couch. That’s a disruptor.

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

Barring any setbacks (which we touch on below), we predict AR and VR will disrupt SMBs in industries like construction, field service, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing and retail by 2024.

In the report “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality“ (available to Gartner clients), Gartner outlines four key areas where AR and VR will play a significant role:

 

AREA EXAMPLE
Training and education Immersive situational training for doctors and police; simulated use of heavy machinery for manufacturers.
Design, collaboration and development The ability to visualize schematics during construction for home builders; real-time space planning for facilities managers.
Repair and maintenance “See-what-I see” cameras for remote workers seeking guidance from HQ; augmented displays for microsurgeons.
Engagement and customer experience Virtual travel experiences for resorts; product visualization and “try-on” scenarios for customers at various retailers.

 

In order for AR and VR to disrupt SMBs by 2024, they’ll need to overcome a few significant hurdles with early adopters. The hardware is still too expensive (high-quality headsets can cost up to $2,000), virtual reality sickness is still a largely unresolved issue and businesses have yet to ideate exciting uses of this tech beyond 360 degree mapping and limited simulations.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

While the tech for AR and VR takes time to catch up to expectations, here are a few steps that SMBs can take to prepare for adoption:

  • Brainstorm ways that AR and VR can enhance experiences or work functions within your business, thinking beyond preconceived applications.
  • Tie AR and VR use cases to desired organizational objectives and goals related to revenue, proficiency or customer service.
  • Get in touch with AR and VR app developers to learn about possibilities, costs and potential pitfalls.

Computer Vision

What is the disruptor and why should SMBs care?

Computer vision is the ability to interpret and analyze images and other visual events in real time so that they can help inform strategic recommendations.

For example, facial recognition technology (computer vision) could be employed to identify a rundown pair of shoes that you’re wearing in an Instagram post and then market new shoes to you. The successful application of this type of visual analytics ecosystem will provide SMBs with unparalleled insights and a clear advantage over their competition.

Even more, the detailed analytics that this technology will provide can fundamentally change how business success is achieved, to a degree, for almost all industries.

A simple example (trust me, it’s simple) of the benefits of computer vision is with emotional analysis and analytics. You could come up with the inferred physical and mental well being of customers and/or employees based on emotional data collected by computer vision technology. This would enable your business to augment strategies for communicating with customers/employees based on daily emotional statuses.

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

We predict computer vision technologies will disrupt all SMB industries by 2024.

The mechanisms that drive computer vision technology are mostly in their infancy today, but they’re developing quickly and are finding new ways to work together. It will be the symbiotic relationship between multiple sensor and visual analysis systems that leads to an overall computer vision ecosystem.

This actionable visual analysis can provide SMBs with strategic advantages across all facets of business. For example:

  • Marketing teams can leverage the technology to spot all social images featuring their brand and products.
  • Completely new businesses concepts and consumer experiences can surface, such as the Amazon Go Store and it’s “just walk out” shopping experience.
  • SMB retailers can leverage facial recognition technology and behavioral analysis to determine buying intent of consumers on a product by product basis.

How can SMB retailers prepare for the disruption?

SMBs can start preparing for the strategic application of computer vision by:

  • Familiarizing themselves with computer vision components that are currently available on the market.
  • Determining which pain points the practical application of computer vision analytics could help overcome.
  • Investing in formal customer management and data analytics now so there’s valuable information that can be tied into the computer vision system when the time comes.

Autonomous Vehicles

What is the disruptor and why SMBs retailers care?

The widespread adoption of autonomous, driverless cars, trucks, drones, and other vehicles will disrupt resource planning for SMBs and fundamentally change how business successes are achieved across many industries.

According to Gartner’s report “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017: Intelligent Things ” (available to Gartner clients):

“The most developed use of autonomous vehicles is in controlled, industrial settings like warehouse management, farming, and mining. The vehicles can be used with full autonomousness in these settings. But for use in public, on roads and such, autonomous automobiles still have a ways to go before full autonomousness. In fact, some states have laws requiring a capable driver be in the driver’s seat of an autonomous vehicle in case the technology fails.”

Once fully able to operate on their own (and once they clear any legal hurdles preventing them from operating on roads and highways), autonomous vehicles will bring unparallelled disruption businesses and perhaps the human experience as we know it.

Automated vehicles will inevitably lead to:

  • No need for human drivers, routing and dispatchers
  • Fewer vehicles on the roads
  • Continuous, 24/7 transportation of goods (through advances in electric cars and the ability to refuel/recharge a car en route)
  • The ability to conduct business while traveling
  • Sturdier, more dependable vehicles built to undertake a literal constant strain of use
  • Leaps and bounds forward for predictive and preventative maintenance technology

When and where will the disruptor have the greatest impact?

We predict the fully realized disruption of autonomous vehicles won’t occur until at least 2027.

While companies (specifically, automotive and technology companies) rush to lead the autonomous vehicle race, we’ll likely only see semi-autonomous vehicles in widespread use over at least the next five years. Once legal, some time will pass before the autonomous vehicle market is fully realized.

Once autonomous vehicles are safely and legally added to the road, they have the potential to have a drastic effect that will inevitably affect almost all SMBs.

These vehicles will obviously bring huge disruption to the fleet management/delivery/supply chain industry, effectively eliminating the role of the classic trucker as we know it. Insurance companies will likely suffer once the vehicles gain widespread adoption, as consumers will no longer have a need for auto insurance as we know it.

Municipalities and landowners will have to imagine how to effectively repurpose all the unnecessary parking lot space since there will be significantly fewer vehicles on the road, and even fewer that will utilize parking spaces in the traditional manner we think of them.

The ability to move materials and products on a near 24/7 basis will also do much to sway consumer expectations. For example, more and more business will need to turn their focus to online and app-based means of conducting business as consumers will begin to expect to order products and have them delivered that same day through autonomous fleets.

Once the autonomous vehicle disruption is realized, there will likely also be new economies built to support it. Picture, for example, a convenience store stocked into an autonomous van so that consumers could call it to their destination and browse the goods as essentially a pop-up shop.

How can SMBs prepare for the disruption?

Autonomous vehicles have an enormous potential to fundamentally change the human experience. This reshaped future is difficult to fully grasp, so rather than make incredibly speculative recommendations for SMBs to take now, here are some foundational recommendations that SMBs can build off of as the disruption evolves:

  • Optimize the online experience across every selling point and channel tied to their business in order to create definitive, positive and lasting interactions with their brand.
  • Monitor the moves larger enterprises make to leverage the capabilities of autonomous vehicles to come up with potential future applications and benefits.

Next Steps

We’ve covered a lot of different technologies that will disrupt a wide variety of business functions for SMBs, but one underlying fact ties them all together:

SMBs that don’t have the proper software in place now will be left behind when these disruptors arrive.

To that note, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these disruptors require SMBs to already actively collect data on their customers and employees. LIkewise, SMBs need to have best practices and endowed experiences to articulate this data into meaningful recommendations for all areas of their operation. To do this, software with the features and functionality that are up to the task need to already be in place.

With that in mind, here are some next steps you should take to ensure you’re ready to take full advantage of them:

  • Head to softwareadvice.com. There, you can learn more about different types of business software for various industries and needs before comparing top-rated
    products.
  • Talk to a software advisor. Call (855) 998-8505 and we’ll connect you with a helpful associate who can recommend the best products for you based on your unique needs—in just 15 minutes, and for free.

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