Technology has advanced so much that online tools and software can now assist small businesses with internal communications, customer relationship management, project management, email marketing, password management, customer service, and payroll.
By the end of 2024, over 20% of all retail sales will happen online. As more business leaders move into a digital domain, helpful AI aids and online store management tools are essential for ecommerce success.
Are More Businesses Using Online Tools In 2024?
More than 80% of small businesses have invested in AI in the last five years. Some are using AI-powered tools to improve workflow and onboarding, while some have utilised digital aids to boost their customer service and online performance. The list of possibilities is endless.
Before we dive into our list of must-have tools in 2024, let’s explore some of the many benefits they carry for small businesses:
- Saves money – Technology tools have made it cost-effective and efficient for small businesses to automate parts of their operations, meaning they can hire less staff. In addition, automated operations also reduce the likelihood of costly human errors.
- Boosts growth – Technology tools can help small businesses grow by improving workflow, marketing, and customer relationships.
- Improves customer service satisfaction – Technology tools such as live chats allow customers to connect with your business 24/7. Better customer satisfaction means more repeat customers and more sales.
- Enables remote work – Technology tools such as project management software have made remote work possible for small businesses. Remote work reduces the cost of traditional office-based operations whilst improving productivity and work-life balance.
What Online Tools Should You Invest In This Year?
With the benefits in mind, let’s have a closer look at the best rated online tools for small businesses to adopt in 2024.
Using customer relationship management (CRM) tools is important and indispensable for small businesses, as it allows you to track, manage, and measure your customer relationships in one place.
HubSpot’s free CRM tool gives you a real-time view of employee conversations and relationships with customers and suppliers. It can track leads and ongoing conversations, whether they’re via email, social media, or phone calls. Every interaction with a lead is stored in a neat timeline, including calls, emails, meetings, and notes.
In addition, HubSpot is a great all-rounder that can also assist small businesses with sales, marketing, customer service, content management, and other operations.
(Image Source: HubSpot)
Project management software can help teams manage and complete projects by providing them with the tools to collaborate and communicate throughout a project.
Trello allows your team to share files, set deadlines, assign tasks, and track progress in one place. The software’s boards, lists, and cards give you a clear view of what needs to get done, who’s scheduled to do it, and when it is completed.
Axel DeAngelis, founder of NameBounce, said: “My most indispensable small business technology tool is Trello. I work with several freelancers to run my business, and Trello makes it 10x easier to communicate with them. Once I started using it, I never looked back – it saved me significant time compared to emailing back and forth.”
Most marketers send 2-3 emails daily, so adopting an email marketing tool is like having an extra member in the team. It lets small businesses keep their email subscribers updated on the latest happenings and special offers or promotions.
MailChimp is an automated email marketing platform with great benefits for small businesses. Here are some:
- It sends the right emails to the right people at the right time. This converts more customers and boosts customer loyalty by knowing who to target.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) allows marketers to launch email campaigns quickly with on-brand, pre-designed templates that fit any message.
- It supplies you with analytics regarding your emailing campaigns so you can make data-driven changes to help make your content more engaging.
(Image Source: Agency Analytics)
In addition, MailChimp can also assist small businesses with social media marketing, content creation, and audience segmentation.
From instant messaging to video conferencing, collaboration tools have made communicating and connecting with employees and clients more manageable and more affordable than ever.
Slack is a small business go-to for all things internal communication. It allows you to create channels for different teams who can then instant message each other, share files and images, and start video or voice calls. It is also available as a smartphone app, making it easy to connect with colleagues and clients on the go.
Dmytro Spilka, director at Solvid, said: “At Solvid, we use Slack to communicate within the team as well as with our clients. As we normally work with internal marketing teams, the vast majority of them are already using Slack. This way, Slack is a convenient way for us to integrate multiple channels without having them overlap with each other.
“In addition, Slack’s document upload, shortcodes and video upload features make it possible for us to streamline our workflow even further. Essentially, Slack does the job of 3-4 standalone apps.”
Password management tools are excellent for securely storing and managing multiple passwords, eliminating the need to remember complex and lengthy passwords for various accounts.
In addition, password management tools are also secure as they use encryption to protect the data they are storing, which can reduce the risk of data breaches. The average data breach cost was $4.45 million in 2023, the highest average on record, so this is super important for 2024.
LastPass Business gives every employee a personalised vault of passwords, which they can access via a master password (yes, you only need to remember one!). Here are some benefits:
- You can replace the master password with the LastPass Authenticator app or FIDO2 authenticators.
- The LastPass admin console allows your IT team to manage employee passwords, update security policies, provision and de-provision users, deploy authentication methods, federate user logins, and produce admin security reports.
- Your master password and the stored passwords in your vault are kept secret, even from LastPass.
- LastPass offers a free and premium plan, allowing businesses to choose a plan that suits their budget.
(Image Source: LastPass)
Payroll software helps small businesses pay their employees, automate taxes, and calculate pay and pension.
Many small business owners favour QuickBooks payroll software. Here are some benefits:
- It is HMRC-recognised and includes direct submissions to HMRC and automatic tax code updates.
- It helps small business owners comply with holiday pay, sick pay, and maternity, paternity, adoption, and parental bereavement leave.
- It automatically calculates contractor or subcontractor deductions and files your Construction Industry Scheme taxes directly to HMRC.
- It creates payslips that can be shared with employees through a self-serve employee portal, by email or by printing them.
- It calculates pension contributions and submits details to Nest, Smart Pension, The People’s Pension, NOW, or Aviva.
- Quickbooks’ payroll software automatically integrates with QuickBooks accounting, which small businesses can use to keep track of their income and expenses, create and send invoices, and make expense claims.
Sarah Griffin, managing director at Flyte Creative Media, said: “I don’t have any expertise in this area, but I’m very confident using QuickBooks Payroll and I know the right information is going to HMRC.”
52% of customers prefer a company that has live chat assistance. For this reason, live chat tools are a game changer for small businesses that want to attract more customers.
Zendesk can provide customers with 24/7 support from live chats on your website, app, or social media pages. Powered by machine learning (ML), Zendesk can assist your customer service agents by automating some answers so they can focus on complex queries.
In addition, the conversation is ongoing no matter what platform the customer uses, so they never have to repeat themselves, enhancing their experience.
Ruben Naour, member engagement specialist team lead at Photobucket, said: “We have the Zendesk integration for both Facebook and Twitter. So if any of our members send us DMs on either of those platforms, those are converted into tickets, and then our agents are able to reply to those straight from the ticket queue.”
For your small business to succeed in 2024, you must embrace the many online tools and platforms available to help you automate tasks, keep track of employees and customers, and grow past your competitors.
As the popularity of remote and hybrid work continues to increase, these tools will also benefit your small team’s workflow, productivity, and communication – no matter where your employees are based.