Written by HT editorial board

Five technologies that help SMEs to face with large competitors

In a current more and more dynamic market where performance makes the difference even before the company’s size, some technologies allow small and medium enterprises to face with large competitors, brands, and sector leaders, that once where perceived as unreachable.

Technological evolution represents nowadays one of the most important strategic levers to revolutionize SMEs' business, to better face the Digital Transformation and, consequently, to gain a prominent position in markets dominated by large companies. In fact, the giants of the sector have traditionally always had economic resources to invest in the newest technologies; innovation times are now faster, and costs are definitely lower. This means that small and medium enterprises can exploit their intrinsic agility and flexibility to identify, test, and implement technological solutions able to guarantee competitive advantages. According to experts, in the next five years there will be technologies that, if correctly used, will help SMEs to "surpass" their competitors, even the largest ones. Let's find them out together.

Internet of Things and Machine Learning

Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning are already known technologies, but their development and implementation remain constant in time. In particular, the focus on customer satisfaction - and therefore on better user experience - will allow companies to guarantee more customized offers, based on IoT data collection and on their analysis through Machine Learning.

The retail sector is heavily focused on these kinds of technologies, especially in terms of predictive analysis of products and solutions to offer to the public. Predictive data allow also a better targeting of advertising campaigns and offers directed to different customer segments, with the ultimate goal of increasing purchases and conversions. Of course, everything is always oriented towards improving the user experience and, ultimately, the degree of customer loyalty. Again, it is the inherent rapidity of these technologies that makes the difference, because it allows companies to work almost in real-time, satisfying specific needs of the target audience. Not surprisingly, the IoT market is expected to grow from $ 5 billion in 2019 to over $ 16 billion in the next four years.

BOT and Artificial Intelligence

Bots and Artificial Intelligence are additional technologies that may help SMEs to compete with large organizations.

Bots are already an integral part of our daily life: they confirm our restaurant reservations or the shopping home delivery, they interact with us in chats, answer when we contact customer service lines or send an email to technical support, and so on. Today, bots are more advanced and interactive than some years ago: they better understand our language and therefore can interpret our requests more precisely, making the interaction experiences more satisfying. SMEs can take advantage of artificial intelligence to better compete on the market. Currently, AI platforms are growing at an unprecedented speed, which will increase of almost 30% by 2023. The reason is simple: bots know how to be agile and therefore can learn their job faster and more accurately. For SMEs, artificial intelligence will provide the advantage of reducing overhead costs maintaining high productivity at the same time.

Augmented reality

The augmented reality sector is expected to reach $ 85 billion by 2025. The reason? Devices specially designed for "virtual" implementation in the most different contexts, from meetings to workplaces, conferences and operativity of medical emergencies, are becoming more and more popular. With the direct consequence of accumulating huge amounts of data that allow to constantly implement the user experience. It is easy to understand how the introduction of augmented reality in workplaces can improve productivity: thanks to the ability to create a virtual space where people can be grouped together, it also facilitates the decision making process at any time and from any location. This is a significant opportunity for SMEs: the virtual connection between employees and between customers and working teams allows significant saves of time and costs, leading to greater productivity and profit.

Optical Character Recognition

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology is relatively new for most of the companies, anyway, the industry is expected to exceed $ 13 billion by 2025. OCR applications will certainly revolutionize the way documents are processed: companies will no longer receive PDF files or images to be electronically archived. In fact, OCR applications are able to extract data from any document or image they acquire, storing then the information in a format suitable for the online review and for being immediately elaborated into accounting systems.

Robots and voice assistants

The current economic accessibility to robots makes this technology attractive also for SMEs. More and more traders and SMEs are using robotic tools to perform their business more efficiently, like for instance in machine maintenance or circuit testing sectors. The World Robotics Report outlines that robot sales doubled in the last five years and are expected to increase more in the next future, thanks to the intrinsic ability of this technology to improve the workforce. Regarding voice assistants, they are already part of our daily lives, and they are expected to improve even more in the next five years. In forecasting terms, this sector is expected to triple its numbers, with 8 billion units worldwide by 2023. Giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, or Apple are already working with voice-enabled business applications for meetings, conferences, the order of products, and control devices. Especially for SMEs, technologies like these one can potentially improve fundamental areas such as productivity, collaboration and communication. The companies that, shortly, will adopt technologies such as those just mentioned, will undoubtedly be favoured in terms of competitiveness. They will also demonstrate a unique ability to make their business improve, together with the requests of an increasingly dynamic and challenging market.

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