Smart Solutions for Small Businesses
Tech tools being increasingly used by young companies to expand their brand and solve new challenges.
A popular English proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” reminds us that challenging problems often inspire innovative solutions. This is more evident in small businesses, where entrepreneurs must adapt nimbly to market changes and utilize smart technology solutions in order to stay afloat.
From hardware solutions like Square Magstripe Reader to collaborative productivity software like Slack and customer support services like Zendesk, there are many tools that are changing the way small businesses operate. Here are a few examples of tech tools being used by small companies to expand their brand and solve new challenges.
Problem: Processing point-of-sale payments on the go
New Solution: Square Magstripe Reader
For vendors, store owners and entrepreneurs who are constantly on the move, point-of-sale processing of customer payments has evolved past the days of bulky cash registers and archaically slow credit card processors. EMarketer, a market research company providing insights and trends related to the digital world, predicts that by 2020, proximity mobile payment transactions will rise to $314.13 billion (Rs. 21,00,000 crores approximately) from 2016’s $27.67 billion (Rs. 185,000 crores approximately).
California-based Square, Inc., founded in 2009, is leading the way for improving the point-of-sale experience for both sellers and customers. Its most popular payment solution, Square Magstripe Reader, is a small hardware accessory that allows vendors to accept credit card swipe payments on their mobile phone or tablet.
By simply plugging the Square Magstripe Reader into the standard headset jack of a smartphone or tablet, vendors can instantly process sale transactions from all major credit cards.
Square, Inc.’s technology is a valuable new solution for small businesses as more and more people opt to pay with cards or through mobile devices instead of cash.
Problem: Small business productivity and communication
New Solution: Slack
In an era dominated by short text message communications through mobile phones, traditional corporate email correspondences may seem outdated and clunky. Enter Slack, the cloud-based intra-office messaging system that has become one of the fastest-growing workplace softwares in the world. Developed by California-headquartered Slack Technologies, Inc. and launched in 2013, Slack has over two million daily users today, and was named one of the “10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2016” by MIT Technology Review.
Slack provides a centralized hub for workplace teams to communicate through instant messages and voice and video calls, and to upload or share files. Instead of traditional email, more and more people now work on mobile devices—often collaborating with people who aren’t always at the same place at the same time.
Slack’s stylized and casual interface mirrors how many individuals are now communicating in their personal lives. Best of all, the software is compatible with many other prominent productivity apps that dominate today’s workplace, including Google Drive and Dropbox. With prices ranging from $8 (Rs. 540 approximately) to $15 (Rs. 1,000 approximately) a month per user, an increasing number of small businesses are choosing Slack over hosting their own private email servers.
Problem: Customer support and relationship management
New Solution: Zendesk
Maintaining strong relationships is critical to a new business. However, this is also where many young companies fail, especially in earning repeat business when an unexpected issue crops up with a customer. Zendesk, a California-based company, offers a full customer service platform to small companies who want assistance in maintaining strong customer relationships. It helps them track and resolve support incidents, so that their business continues to run smoothly and customers remain satisfied.
Zendesk’s cloud-based software helps manage customer calls, emails and other technical support inquiries without actually having to staff and maintain an on-site help center. Additionally, Zendesk offers data-driven analytics and insights to help proactively solve any recurring operational issues. With typical support packages ranging from $5 (Rs. 335 approximately) to $99 (Rs. 6,700 approximately) per month, it is an invaluable resource for small businesses to retain repeat customers while seeking out prospective ones.
Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.