From the coffee shop down the street to the local grocery store, a growing number of America's small businesses are using cloud technology in some way, shape or form. Even if they don't realize it.
Small businesses are the country's largest job generators and collectively make the biggest contribution to GDP. It's a highly fragmented market but one that is increasingly being connected by technology. That connection is opening up a world of opportunity not just for technology companies like mine, but also for the entrepreneurs who can work from anywhere, at any time, and access powerful, affordable solutions which were once only in the toy boxes of big businesses.
In a recent survey commissioned by Xero, more than 1,200 small business in the United States were polled on their attitudes and opinions around business priorities, challenges related to where and how they run their operations, as well as the use of technology to support the business.
We found that 71 percent of respondents run one-quarter of their business in the cloud. This number has jumped dramatically from a survey conducted by Xero just 18 months ago, where 23.5 percent of those surveyed gave the same answer. Small businesses are increasingly going all-in on cloud technology to help them run their operations from anywhere, at any time.
Making investments for growth is something that is becoming an increasing priority for small business owners. Our survey found that two-thirds still plan to invest in new technology this year, with 32 percent planning to invest that money in devices like mobile phones, tablets and new laptops.
As we see an uptick in the amount of small business owners running their business in the cloud from mobile devices, the way they work, and expect to work with partners, clients and advisors is also shifting.
Communicating in the cloud
How businesses communicate with their customers is now inherently cloud-based. More than 83 percent of small business owners are using modern forms of communication to talk one-to-one with their customers. These channels include social media, text, mobile messaging or online chat. More than 80 percent use these means of communications weekly, while more than 45 percent use them daily.
With the majority of small business owners using modern communication to interact with their customers, this will give way to the next generation of customer service. Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular across a wide range of industries. Domino's lets you order a pizza through its Facebook Messenger chatbot named "Dom". Even the President of the United States has a chatbot.
Through this innovation in technology, small business will find new ways to find and interact with customers. Cloud technology has taken what was once fragmented - the connection between small businesses, big businesses and government - and connected it.
Priorities and Optimism
The growth of a small business' customer base continues to remain their owner's number one priority. Out of the small businesses surveyed, 68 percent echoed this sentiment; increasing from 62 percent compared to survey results 18 months ago. Managing money more efficiently was the second priority.
Optimism about growth in the year ahead among small business owners is quite promising. A large number of respondents are optimistic about growth, with 88 percent advising they are optimistic about growth. This was followed by 52 percent who were cautiously optimistic and 36 percent who were very optimistic.
Small business owners repeatedly list customers as a key factor to the success of their business, with 60 percent stating they are optimistic about growth because of their loyal customer base.
It seems that once a small business gains momentum, that's when they start to have more confidence about the growth of their business. Larger companies with between six and 20 employees are the most optimistic about growth.
While there is rarely any certainty in business, results seem to show that customers will continue to be a key priority for small business owners. If these survey results are any indication, so too will the adoption of cloud technology to run their businesses.