4 Smart Technologies Changing the Face of Small Businesses

  •    Jennifer Pollock is the editor in chief of Square’s blog and business resource center, Town Square. She regularly writes on new payment technologies.

To be a successful small business, you need to leverage all the tools at your disposal to make sure you're running things as efficiently as possible. This is particularly important as you scale and your needs become more robust and involved.

There's a lot to sift through when it comes to identifying the best technologies to help you run your small business. But here are a few that are becoming crucial in managing, growing, and modernizing your operations. ​

Mobile management apps

Whether you sell online or in a brick-and-mortar shop (or both), mobile apps that help you take care of business on the go are extremely helpful. It's a no-brainer that you should be able to process payments (especially EMV chip cards) when you're selling outside of your store at an event. But you should also employ mobile apps that allow you to stay on top of business when you're not in front of your computer.

A POS app like Square can help you track both online and in-store sales, manage employee schedules, and send invoices for things like wholesale orders. These types of tools help give you more flexibility over your time and schedule, without losing visibility into how things are going with your business from day to day.

Modern, secure POS systems

The payments landscape is changing — quickly. And you need to keep up by accepting the latest and most secure types of payment. This includes both EMV chip cards and mobile payments like Apple Pay.

If you aren't accepting EMV chip cards for in-person payments, it's time to make the switch ASAP. The liability shift has been in effect since October 2015, which means that if you aren't set up to accept chip cards, you could now be on the hook for certain types of fraudulent transactions. And probably due to the fact that EMV chip cards can be so sluggish to process, mobile NFC payments like Apple Pay are starting to pick up steam (especially among millennials. Forward-thinking and security-minded businesses are starting to adopt EMV chip card and NFC payments; already more than 500,000 sellers have ordered the Square contactless and chip reader.

Technologies for remote workers

Freelancing and contracting are becoming attractive ways to make a living. Likely driven by the on-demand economy, America's freelance workforce has risen to about 53.7 million people, a third of the U.S. full-time labor force. So to cast a wider net to recruit top talent for your business, it's a smart idea to set yourself up with technologies that allow you to work with people remotely. Management and collaboration tools like Asana can organize projects, to-do lists, conversations, meeting notes, and email in a dashboard that keeps your team up to speed on projects. Real-time messaging apps like Slack can cut down on email back-and-forth and organize team conversations. And scheduling apps like When I Work (which integrates with Square) can help with timesheets, scheduling, and payroll.

Big data

It used to be that only big business had access to big data. But increasingly, small businesses can employ affordable solutions that give them invaluable data-driven insights about their business. If you have integrated POS software like Square, that's the best place to start. There, you can pull robust, consolidated sales reports from both your online and offline channels. These reports can help you make crucial business decisions like when to stay open and what items to keep selling or discontinue. You can also see how many new versus returning customers you have, which can help you identify where to spend your marketing dollars.

Your email marketing software can provide a deeper understanding of what's working and what's not in terms of engaging your customer base. By looking at data like your open rate and clickthrough rate, you can figure out what types of messages resonate most with your customer base and when those campaigns are the most effective. Then you can alter your strategy appropriately. You may find that blast campaigns about sales at your business are less effective than automated birthday email containing a special offer, for example. These insights will help you figure out where to spend your time and energy.