In part one of this post, we established the majority of UK small businesses are already struggling to keep up with digital technology; 82% of these firms still do not have a mobile-friendly site, even though the majority of web searches have been conducted on mobile devices since 2015.
In other words, nearly all of the country’s businesses are already three years behind their customers.
That’s a far, far bigger problem than businesses seem to understand; every year, more and more browsing is done on mobile, and more money is spent using mobile devices. That’s not standing still – that’s going backwards.
But it’s nothing compared to what’s in store. Because the next explosion of technological innovation is already underway and it’s frankly terrifying. Bear in mind that every type of technology mentioned in this video is already in use or at least in development:
Ultimately, markets will decide which of these innovations will take off and which die. And markets are people. Markets are customers. Markets are your customers.
What’s certain is technology has proven to be instrumental in shaping consumer habits – so at least some of these innovations will change the way your business operates forever:
Your customers may not want to speak to you
National Australia Bank’s “virtual banker” can already recognise 13,000 variations of 200 common questions from its business banking customers. And in terms of artificial intelligence (AI), that’s nowhere close to its full potential. In fact, many renowned futurists, like Ray Kurzweil, believe AI may become indistinguishable from human intelligence within the next 30 years.
Despite AI’s infancy, a recent Salesforce study found 69% of customers already prefer AI chatbots to human interaction for simple queries. And who wouldn’t? Nobody likes long call queues. And when you do get through, you often end up speaking to a robot-like operator with no knowledge of how to answer the simplest questions.
Even a small technological improvement in AI – fuelled by customers wanting a richer experience – will see an even greater number of people preferring to interact with a robot, which will further fuel innovation, and the cycle of development will repeat. It’s why companies like Google have invested heavily in organisations such as DeepMind (who they acquired for $500m in 2014), which teaches computers to think and learn like humans – including teaching new skills to themselves and then to other computers.
In short, the ability of machines to understand human language and behaviour may change the way businesses interact with customers forever.
There will be no such thing as “using a computer”
This is what a quantum computer looks like:
Well, kind of. That’s just what houses it. You can’t really see a quantum computer, because it works by shining lasers at atoms. Yep, a quantum computer is just a bunch of invisible atoms.
While the technology is too young to be particularly useful, the method it uses to solve equations means these computers could soon be almost infinitely faster than existing computers – while being so tiny, they’ll occupy virtually no physical space.
Now, are you ready for your head to really hurt? This is what a carbon nanotube looks like.
They’re made from a material called graphene; with a width of just one atom, graphene is technically two-dimensional. It’s so light, even the mildest air current will make it float. It conducts light, electricity, and heat extremely efficiently, and it’s 200 times stronger than steel.
Now, imagine the potential of quantum computers combined with graphene. It would mean everything and anything could be a supercomputer. Your shoelaces. Powerlines. False eyelashes. Literally anything.
So, as much as the computer and the smartphone changed consumer habits, that technology looks seriously antiquated by comparison. You won’t have to make a conscious decision to use a computer, you’ll constantly be using a whole network of computers for everything all the time.
It’s likely that the combination and mass adoption of quantum computers and graphene could completely reshape the physical world as we know it – opening up mind-boggling new business opportunities and challenges.
No more middlemen
Have you heard of Bitcoin? No, we’re not going to try and explain how it works – that’s not important.
What is important is the technology that powers it – the blockchain. No, we’re not going to explain how that works, either. All that matters is to understand which parts of your business it could affect – which is absolutely every part of it.
Put simply, blockchain technology’s strength is that it removes the middlemen from virtually everything that involves data. It’s an unhackable system that anyone can use to directly send any type of data anywhere. Document storage, the transfer of money, and sending contracts could soon be facilitated by blockchain on a mass scale – all of this data could be securely exchanged from person-to-person (or business-to-business) without the need for anyone to manage that process.
Blockchain has the potential to do to the internet what Napster did to the music industry. And early adopters like American Express, BHP Billiton, and Apple are already capitalising on blockchain’s power.
In just a few years, your customers may expect to book, pay for, and receive your goods or services via some kind of blockchain-powered solution. Why? Because it will be quick, secure, and cheap for them – three of the key reasons that drive huge numbers of people to adopt a new technology.
Your competitors will be literally everyone – including the big players
Even if quantum computing hits some kind of wall, the internet will still become far more powerful and far-reaching than its current iteration. Companies who’ve been quick to capitalise on its potential have an enormous head start, and now have the potential to control the space completely.
Take Amazon, for example. Within the next 10-20 years, the idea of the “local business” could be dead – all thanks to Amazon.
Amazon already demonstrated its ability to transform consumer habits (contributing to the demise of the traditional high street) while it was merely an online bookstore. That’s a problem for two reasons:
- Amazon is now way, way bigger than you could possibly know
- By their own admission, Amazon wants to compete with every business in the world. Yes, even yours:
Think of literally any product or service. If Amazon were to take its strategy of aggressively acquiring businesses, and combine it with automation, people-less delivery systems (like drones and self-driving vans), and home 3D printing, there would be literally nothing Amazon couldn’t supply to a customer anywhere at any time.
Again, Amazon’s plan is already in full swing, and all of this technology already exists. When they combine, the impact on small businesses around the globe could be profound.
Should you just give up?
Never give up! Don’t be scared of technology, and don’t be intimidated by the big boys like Amazon. Every challenge is also an opportunity, so arm yourself with a future-proof strategy:
- Embrace and adopt the technology your customers would benefit from (start by asking them what that is!)
- Declare guerilla warfare on big players like Amazon by exploiting their weaknesses (there will always be something you can give your customers that they can’t). Find out what that is, and get in first.
- Prioritise the “human” element. Even the smartest machines will never have emotional intelligence – so make sure that’s central to your operations and marketing.
Ready to explore chatbots, future-proof strategy, and emotionally-intelligent marketing? We’re already there! Call 0161 660 6735 to speak to a human being.