Technology is clearly changing the way we do just about everything, including business. Massive numbers of businesses are experiencing changes in how they operate based…
Today’s consumers have a wealth of information literally at their fingertips. Just a few years ago, traditional marketing for a small business consisted of ads in local newspapers and magazines, billboards and signs, and maybe even purchasing commercial time on a local radio or television station. The rapid advent of technology has profoundly impacted the way small businesses market their products and services. In order to keep up with the times, small businesses have to reassess their marketing strategies to incorporate and function in the rapidly changing digital world. As the tools change, the small business has to shift its initiatives to accommodate technology and social media.
As we examine some technology considerations for small businesses in the modern world, we’ll look at some examples from Austin-based businesses. This tech-friendly city is home to enough techie start-ups that it’s been dubbed the Silicon Valley of Texas. Thanks to the influence of technology companies, many of Austin’s small businesses are early adopters when it comes to integrating new technologies:
A website is absolutely critical to your small business. According to Austin lead SEO consultants, Moonraker SEO, the majority of internet users will research goods or services online before buying, even in the local market place. Customers need the ability to find you and communicate with you digitally. In addition to providing a communication platform, a website provides you with the means to share details about your products and services, customer feedback, and photos or videos to attract customers. Not only does your site have to exist, it also needs to be easy to navigate, educational, engaging, and discoverable. To be discoverable, your site must be search engine optimized to have the best chances of ranking in users’ search results. Today, having a digital marketing strategy is a must.
The explosion of social media provides endless opportunities for the small business owner to communicate with current and prospective customers. Whether through a Facebook page or a Twitter account, or by participating in an organized application, such as Groupon, social media is a valuable tool. Social media technology enhances the age-old marketing technique of word of mouth and allows you to interact with customers and encourage them to share your product information with others. Austin’s beloved pizza place, Homeslice, has over 14,000 Twitter followers and uses the platform to keep its loyal fan base up-to-date on everything from special events to daily specials. Their prolific use of social media is likely one of the top reasons this place is always crowded!
Just as social media can be used to promote your business, negative comments or reviews can spread like wildfire. You have to stay on top of social media to address and resolve negativity as it occurs.
One of the most cost effective ways to reach a large number of customer to market a product or service is through email marketing. Email marketing provides an ideal means to share information, promote new products, offer discounts or share information. Digital newsletters add interesting content to entice customers. No longer do you have to spend money on mailers – with email, reaching customers is FREE. Austin-born lifestyle brand, Kendra Scott, does a fabulous job of keeping customers wanting more with its glossy weekly emails touting new products and flash sales. A solid marketing campaign is no doubt one of the reasons Ms. Scott now has dozens of stores across the country.
Use of In-House Technology
For businesses with brick and mortar locations, in-store technology is another rapidly changing arena. Technology such digital signage allows businesses to capture the customer’s attention and market specific products. Innovative point of sale systems provide employees with real-time information about a customer’s preferences as well as inventory tracking. Portable point of sale systems, using cellphones and tablets, provide easy transactions and eliminate the concept of standing in line to check out. These new technologies have enabled small-time businesses to provide their customers with a less cumbersome way of collecting money than insisting on cash or check. Take, for instance, vendors at Austin’s City Wide Garage Sale, Austin’s monthly vintage market featuring wares from antique dealers and fine junk aficionados from all over the state. In previous decades, vendors had to keep lots of cash on hand to make change or hope that customers had their checkbook. These days, you’ll see many vendors swiping credit cards with a simple device attached to their phones.
Cellphone marketing allows the small business to send text messages to alert customers to specials and promotions. Many businesses have cellphone applications to provide information about products, provide coupons and offer discounts to customers. Customer loyalty cards are rapidly being replaced with cellphone apps. Some businesses, like Rick’s Dry Cleaners, make practical use of cellphones by sending text reminders that their order is ready for pick up.
A small business has to embrace technology to survive in today’s digital world. Like it or not, businesses need to have strategies in place and budgets to allow for digital marketing to provide service to today’s technologically savvy consumer. Businesses have to keep up with current digital trends in order to compete in today’s marketplace.
Find out more about the Austin businesses featured in this article:
2401 Winsted Ln
Austin, TX 78703
1415 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78745
3800 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78756
900 Barton Springs Rd
Austin, TX 78704
3411 N Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78705
From pioneers who moved all of their possessions via wagon on the rough Oregon Trail to the modern day family who hauls their stuff from one suburb to another, moving has long been the bane of the American existence. Census bureau data indicates that nearly 12% of Americans will move this year, but thankfully, technology is continually evolving to simplify the moving process.
Back in 1945, Sam and Anna Mary Shoen created a company that one might argue was the first disruptive innovation in the moving industry. Looking for a way to economically relocate from their home from L.A. to Portland, they were shocked to discover there were no DIY truck rental options available. Seeing the need for this, they went on to found U-Haul, which today, still helps millions of Americans move for less than hiring a professional moving company. Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard, first recognized the term disruptive innovation in 1995. U-Haul would meet his criteria for a disruptive innovation because it disrupted the traditional model for moving, displacing the standard professional mover and allowing individuals an alternative means of getting their household goods from one location to the next.
As we move further into the 21st century, there are a number of technologies that have continued to disrupt the moving industry, while improving the overall experience of those moving. Here we look at three ways the moving process has been improved by contemporary technologies:
Finding a New Place
There are many reasons that people move – a new job, to be closer to family, change in climate, or just for fun. If one can help it, it’s ideal to find a new abode before packing up your old one. In the olden days, one had to call a realtor and sift through print outs of MLS listings. Having MLS access cost thousands of dollars, a year, so it wasn’t a service attainable to the average Joe looking for a house. Realtors were the gods of real estate; they held the keys to Oz in their hands. Then came Zillow.
An article recently published by LinkedIn makes the assertion that Zillow is like the Uber of the moving industry. Uber came in and flipped the taxi industry upside down. Now, with Uber, practically anyone with a car and valid driver’s license can offer transportation services like a taxi would. Gone are the days of needing to obtain a pricey taxi license and overpriced fares. This revolutionary technology makes hitching a ride cheaper and easier for riders as it better matches market demand and supply.
In a similar vein, when Zillow was introduced almost a decade ago, it greatly reduced people’s reliance on a realtor to help them with the home search. With Zillow, anyone can see what any house on the market is going for, and even go on a virtual tour through pictures or videos. No longer is access to the MLS the golden ticket to a real estate agent’s success. This isn’t to say that realtors are necessarily the ones facing “displacement” by this technology. As Brad Inman points out, agents are still “grinders”; they are absolutely essential to negotiations, closing, home inspections, titles, appraisals, and more. Some would argue that Zillow’s technology merely just disrupts the real estate advertising industry. Fewer real estate agents place ads in newspapers, in phone books (do those even exist anymore?), flyers, etc. Now the industry is all about having an online presence, which Zillow enables with its Zillow Premier Agents, a title anyone can by for the right price.
But what Zillow may most disrupt is the National Association of Realtors. This age-old professional organization gave birth the idea of online, publicly-available listings when it launched realtor.com back in 1996. In the last 2 decades, this site has been outranked and outdated by the highflying Zillow platform, which some argue threatens to eradicate the Association’s importance. Over the past year, Realtor.com and Zillow have gone head to head in legal battles. It’s yet to be seen who will emerge on top.
Getting Rid of Stuff
After locating a new home and signing on the dotted line, the next natural step is starting to pack up. Most moving experts, like Great Guys Shipping, which specializes in long distance moving and car transport, suggest that you start packing at least a month in advance of moving day. This includes not only packing boxes, but arranging for things like auto shipping. But before you bust out the boxes and tape, you will want to start purging unwanted items prior to the moving truck’s arrival. Hanging onto worn-out, unwearable, and unusable things just costs more to move and is a headache to unpack. Enter Craigslist.
Craigslist has long been a household name. Since its inception in 1996, the online classified has allowed millions of people to arrange everything from selling their sofa to buying a used car. Originally a pretty rudimentary desktop application, Craiglist now comes as a sleek mobile app, under the name cPro or cPlus. Craigslist challenges traditional newspaper classifieds, another dagger in the heart of the dying printed newspaper industry. Now it’s easier than ever to snap a picture of your old stuff, post it to Craigslist, and see who’s interested. There’s no need to haul your entire living room set outside so curious neighbors can pick through your things at a Saturday morning yard sale. Craigslist makes purging before your move pretty convenient and pain-free.
The Actual Move
Finally, when it comes to the logistics of the actual move, there are several new movers and shakers rattling the professional moving industry. Leading the charge is Dolly, a pioneer in the moving app niche, which has already raised $8 million in funding. Instead of hiring a professional mover or renting a U-Haul, now people moving can use a convenient peer-to-peer app for those hard to move items like couches, tables, etc. The app looks to eradicate having to bribe a buddy to borrow his truck for an upcoming move. Instead of hassling friends, one can arrange a pick up with a local truck owner who will come pick up the load either on-demand or at a scheduled time. Dolly helpers, much like Uber drivers, have been vetted and background-checked by Dolly. Additionally, all payment occurs seamlessly through the app, so there’s no messy exchange of cash or checks.
Not only is Dolly convenient for moving an apartment, but according to the Dolly site, the service is also useful for making charity donations, picking up Craigslist finds, or getting your new washer and dryer set home from the store. Dolly found initial success in the Chicago market, and has since expanded to Denver, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Seattle. And Dolly isn’t alone – there is a plethora of other similar apps including BuddyTruk, Wagon, and Lugg, among others. Yet, most moving companies aren’t quaking in their boots. These new apps take little business away from most moving companies. None of these apps is ideal for long distance moving, as they primarily target small, local moves. Dolly seems to best cater to Millennials who would otherwise borrow a friend’s truck. It may take away a small chunk of business from local movers who specialize in apartment moves in major metropolitan areas like Chicago or New York City.
Even with all of the advancements in technology for the moving experience, it can still be a real drag. Now we just need someone to master teleporting…
These days, it seems families are busier than ever. Between work, school, activities, volunteering, and socializing, finding the time to cook nutritious, unique meals is difficult. For so long, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and other fast-food drive-thru joints have been the only solution for grabbing a fast dinner on the go. In 2004, the documentary Super Size Me, starring Morgan Spurlock, shed light on the dangers of eating the highly processed and unhealthy foods these fast food restaurants serve up. More recently, documentaries like Fed Up and Food, Inc. have pointed out both the questionable practices of the American food industry and the importance of a well-rounded, balanced diet for one’s overall physical and mental well-being.
In the last couple of years, meal delivery services have been popping up left and right, offering an alternative to the traditional idea of fast food. They provide pre-measured ingredients and recipes so you can make amazing and healthy homemade dinners without the hassle of meal planning and grocery shopping. Read the descriptions below for more information about some of the most popular meal delivery services and how they can help you save time and your sanity!
Blue Apron’s focus is helping everyone and anyone learn how to cook with step-by-step instructions and pre-measured ingredients. They deliver high-quality, sustainable ingredients to make dinners in a range of cuisines. Their how-to videos and interactive recipe pages make this the perfect service for someone who wants to expand their palate and skill set in the kitchen. Blue Apron’s website even offers a shop with pantry items, gadgets, and cookware you’ll need to stock your kitchen like a true chef. Meals are just $9.99 each for the couple’s plan and $8.74 each for the family package. You can choose your 2-4 meals from the weekly options for your plan; the couple’s recipes focus on seasonal produce while the family recipes are healthy but more kid-friendly. To see how this meal delivery service stacks up against the competition, get the full Blue Apron comparison.
With all so many other weekday commitments, making a healthy meal sometimes isn’t in the cards. It is often easier to pick up fast food or microwave frozen TV dinners. Green Chef provides organic, GMO-free, sustainably-sourced produce and meats to your door in a refrigerated box. You get the ingredients for 3 meals per week on the delivery day of your choosing, plus you can skip weeks if you want. This Colorado-based start-up also caters to more dietary needs than other services, including vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and gluten-free package options. Meals range from $10.49 to $14.99 each and take just 30 minutes to prepare!
Plated offers simpler, yet still healthy, meals in comparison with the other two services. That’s why it is great for people who aren’t looking for anything fancy, just some help with their weeknight cooking. You can choose from 9 new recipes each week, making this the most customizable service. They send just the right amounts of the ingredients you need, along with easy to follow recipe cards so you can try new foods and hone your skills with minimal effort. Plated also offers dessert recipes as an option for those who have a sweet tooth. Meals are $12 each and come in plans of 2-4 meals a week for 2 people.
Meal delivery services are the new answer to convenience foods. Rather than depending on frozen or processed junk, American families can order healthy, hearty dinners right to their doorsteps. This way, you can save time and stress by not shopping or planning, reduce food waste, eat healthier, and still spend less time in the kitchen than it takes to make a frozen pizza.
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There is no doubt that technology is changing our world and how we live in it. Some industries that have been critical parts of our…