High-tech CX tools are not just for big brands – how SMEs can use bots, AR and IoT right now

Katja Forbes demonstrates how small businesses can use chatbots, augmented reality, the Internet of Things and more to create unique CX offerings.

Small businesses are perfectly positioned to utilise the latest tools and technology to provide a unique experience to their customers. However, many may be afraid to experiment with them for a number of reasons – there is the perception that only larger businesses can benefit or that these tools may remove the personalised look and feel of their business. That is not necessarily true – how one uses these tools can make all the difference.

Here’s a cheat-sheet to some of the tools that can take a small business to the next level and really set it apart from its competition.

 

Chatbots

People are living in chat – social media, chat apps, texting, tweeting, conversing – it has become second nature.

Bots have opened up incredible opportunities for small businesses across all sectors. We are entering an era where people are spending more time in messenger apps than in social media, which confirms bots will become an important marketing and CX tool in the near future.

Bots, being new technology, are the perfect CX tool for small- to medium- sized businesses to adapt right now, while the technology is still developing and new advances in AI are being made. Research on bot CX has demonstrated that users actually have very low expectations of the chatbot experience. This means that users will be easily pleased and surprised even by a very mediocre chatbot experience right now – so you can’t fail too badly.

Creating a bot doesn’t have to be a large complicated project in which to invest a lot of time and energy. Pullstring, for example, provides adaptable templates to give businesses a great start on yours, learning as you go.

When planning and creating a bot, make sure you act out the conversation with two people in ‘real life’ to determine how it should go, before taking it digital with your conversational design. Bot personality is important. Strike the right balance between friendly, helpful and respectful.

Related: How visual search, AR and VR will disrupt retail this year »

Augmented reality (AR)

This exciting technology offers some very compelling opportunities to small businesses who would like to offer unique CX. For example, in the case of a clothing retail store, users could create a hologram of an item of clothing that the customer can then place over an image of themselves, and possibly even share on social media. This also has great applications for architecture, new streetscapes, city planning and engineering. AR allows you to show what things could look like in context of the actual location.

The technology offers businesses a great opportunity to enhance business operations, from showcasing products to hosting meetings. When a company team holds a meeting, remote workers can often be detached from the group or become easily distracted. With AR, however, it’s as if everybody is actually present in the room. The meeting instantly becomes more engaging for the remote team members, and those who are physically present are more likely to include them in the discussion.

 

Internet of Things

According to analyst firm Gartner, by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices.

Small business can make use of this technology to generate more sales from repeat customers. For example, The Dash Button is a wifi-enabled button that automatically reorders the customer’s favourite product at the push of the button. Businesses could also start looking at other ways of being connected online – for example, store maps, product trials, and product information all available with digital features.

 

Rapid prototyping and guerrilla customer testing

A rapid prototype is a ‘guess made tangible’. Say you have an idea for a product. Using the cheapest and easiest method possible, create something your customers can interact with and then test out your idea. A rapid prototype quickly shown to actual customers could save you huge amounts of money in the long run by making sure your guess is right, or telling you what to change to get a better result.

All it takes for small business to use these methods is a simple as a pen and paper prototype of your idea and enough tenacity to walk up to people you don’t know with a bowl of sweets and ask them for their opinion on what you want to show them.

Depending on what you want to try out, you can get a bit more fancy using design tools like Canva. You can even use PowerPoint or Keynote to make simple interactions to test out without knowing one line of code.

 

These are just a few of the innovative technological solutions offered in today’s business landscape to help small businesses create unique CX. While other business may decide it is safer to continue marketing and operating their businesses using the same methods they have for the past 10 years, the businesses that will rise to the top tend to be those that are first to come on board with the latest and greatest scalable technology, moving their business from the brink of ‘making it big’  to the more lucrative market of the early majority.

 

Katja Forbes is founder of Syfte, a specialist business in research and experience design.