Everyday there seems to be a new tool, device or piece of software that hits the market promising to reach your audience wherever they are at any time of day. While these innovations can be useful for businesses and consumers alike, keeping up with the steady flow of innovation can be overwhelming. Time spent chasing after each new trend can be exhausting and is oftentimes unnecessary.

According to Gartner Research, this year's strategic technology trends will cover three themes: the advent of intelligence everywhere, the technology impact of the digital business shift and the merging of real and virtual worlds.

It may seem like these trends and innovations are only set to impact enterprise level businesses, but they can have a significant impact on smaller businesses too. In fact there are several already-existing technologies that fall in line with Gartner's 2015 trends that can help your business get ahead. Here are a some often-overlooked technologies that can help you grow your business this year.

Data Management and Analytics

Data isn't just for the enterprise anymore. Collecting and analyzing data can unlock valuable insight you can use to grow your business, regardless of size. Data can help you identify the marketing strategies that are working and those that are not, increase customer retention, improve targeting, customer experience and a lot more.

In fact, you're probably collecting beneficial customer data right now. Things like customer behavior on your website, cash register transactions, surveys or even casual conversations with your customers are all helpful sources of data. Once you've established your data sources, you'll want to decide what you'd like to pull from that information--which path customers take on your website, how a campaign is performing or what segments are downloading your latest ebook. There are a range of companies offering cloud-based data and analytics solutions that can help you digitize these data points and dip your toe into the Big Data pool.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The smart office is coming, and it may be closer than we think. The ability to connect several devices to the Internet can offer businesses greater intelligence, provide the ability to streamline the efficiency and effectiveness of operations and save money. But it's not just about the connected office or employee; the IoT can also connect devices used to monitor processes. For example, the IoT has the capability to provide businesses with valuable insights like predictive maintenance, inventory tracking or pricing optimization, among other things.

Hosted VoIP

Emerging as an integral part of the IoT, hosted VoIP can offer businesses a competitive advantage by helping connect the dots, providing cost savings and reliability and providing much needed flexibility for today's remote working culture.

Despite these advances, VoIP phone systems remain one of the least understood pieces of technology in offices.

"Because hosted VoIP shifts telephony into the world of IP, all of your business functions such as fax, email and video all flow over the network," said Ben Rife, a leading VoIP expert. "As a result you receive significant cost savings that a legacy landline telephone network cannot offer."

Advanced features like simultaneous ring and softphones allow you and your employees to stay in touch whether you're in your office, on a business trip or working from a coffee shop. Additionally, many VoIP providers regularly roll out new features, so you never have to worry that your technology is becoming outdated.

Unlike other phone systems, a hosted VoIP solution doesn't require an ongoing maintenance agreement--only a monthly fee in most cases--making it easier for you to plan and budget.

Marketing Automation

Many customers today are used to going through an entire purchase process without having to speak to a human. However, despite all the automated processes in place, customers still want to feel like they matter--just take a look at social media for proof of customers communicating both good and bad experiences with brands. If you're not making your customers feel valued, they'll find someone else who will meet their needs.

The right marketing automation software can help you find a balance between automating, improving your processes and providing that human element that customers crave.

You don't need a huge marketing team to benefit from a marketing automation solution; it all comes down to using your customer data. A variety of marketing automation tools like list segmentation and targeting, landing pages and forms can help you grow your customer database. For example, using segmentation tools can help you identify groups of customers who are or are not ready to make a purchase. From there you can provide them with the necessary content or offer to help them make a decision.

Marketing automation is more than just "pushing out" a message. It allows you to improve the lead nurturing process and easily communicate with existing customers by automating things like follow up, purchase emails and more. To make sure you get the most out of this technology, have a solid marketing plan in place that outlines your goals and identifies what triggers and customer actions need automation.

Today's consumers expect brands to be on the cutting edge when it comes to the latest technology, and as a business owner, keeping your finger on the pulse of technology is beneficial. However, it's also important to not overlook how existing technologies like the ones outlined above can have a positive impact on your business.

Published on: Jan 29, 2015