Year-end is a great time to think about business technology. After all, you might be reflecting on the past 12 months and thinking about how to improve your business’ operations or customer experience in the year ahead.


Not only has the cost of many business tech tools come down considerably in recent years—making them affordable to smaller businesses—but they also provide big opportunities for businesses to enhance their operations in many ways and compete.


Here are four technologies worth checking out for your business in the year ahead:


1. Chatbot

Today, customers expect to be able to reach and interact with businesses 24/7. One easy way to give them that experience is by offering a chatbot—which allows people to ask questions or do basic tasks on your website and usually get immediate answers. Unlike traditional frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages, chatbots can offer the more interactive, human-like experience that consumers crave in the digital world. “Chabots can help small businesses gain clients, better meet potential client needs, and save time and money,” says technology expert Shawn DuBravac, president of Avrio Institute.


Large businesses were the main users of chatbots initially, but today they are available to small businesses, for a small monthly fee, or even for free.


Here’s just one example: Let’s say someone is looking online for a specific type of attorney and comes across a law firm’s website. A small box (the chatbot) pops up on the site and asks how it can help. The visitor types in what they’re looking for, and the chatbot recommends a specific attorney at the firm. Moreover, the visitor can schedule an appointment with that attorney directly through the chatbot, and that visitor’s contact information can automatically be added to the company’s customer relationship management software (CRM). The CRM system can then send an email to the potential client confirming the appointment, as well as provide more information about the firm.


2. Presentation creation

There are a growing number of sites that can help you easily and affordably access images and templates for various business needs. You or one of your team members can create social media posts and presentations by using free or low-cost software and stock photos,” says Scott Steinberg, futurist and trends expert. One example is Canva, which offers both a free and a paid version and provides pre-sized templates for Instagram and Facebook posts, presentations, videos, menus, newsletters and more. You can insert your own photos and images, or buy them in Canva for a small fee. “Unsplash and Pexels are two sites that offer free stock photos,” he says.


3. Contactless payments

Some businesses, such as restaurants, adopted contactless payments during the pandemic out of necessity. But even when the pandemic is over, customers will want many of the same conveniences, such as faster checkouts using their smartphone. There are a range of options for contactless payments, depending on your business needs, from in-store contactless card readers to mobile readers like those offered by Square or PayPal.


In fact, a late 2020 survey found that 51% of Americans were using some form of contactless payment.


Another option: Letting customers pay via QR code. A customer can just scan the code with their smartphone to pay their bill directly through their phone. Square also offers payment options through QR codes.


4. Automated workflows

Companies can save their employees time and create a more seamless experience by connecting their software programs so they share information, reducing manual re-entry of information. For example, every time you add a to-do in your project management software, it can automatically put an event on your electronic calendar. These types of integrations can be easily set up using programs like Zapier and Notion, which can connect hundreds of different apps.


Companies can save their employees time and create a more seamless experience by connecting their software programs so they share information, reducing manual re-entry of information.


As you think ahead about what new tools could help your business most in 2022, make sure to do some research to find those that will offer the features and functionality that your business needs.

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