Can your business use augmented reality?

augmented-reality-small-businessRemember the Pokemon Go craze? It seemed like the whole world was obsessed with it, downloading the app and “catching” Pokemon that were overlaid over real-world views. While it may seem like a great idea for a game, augmented reality like this can have applications in business, too.

Check out our list of five ways that AR can improve your small business:

  • Training. Whether it’s a download onto their smartphone or through special AR glasses, employees can receive animated instructions that are overlaid on the equipment in question.
  • Product visualization. AR apps allow customers to see your furniture, artwork, or decor in their homes before they buy. Real estate agents can give virtual tours of their properties.
  • Improving efficiency and troubleshooting. Those working with specialized equipment and processes, such as in manufacturing and farms, will be able to troubleshoot without having to leave their work stations to double-check things or consult with a colleague.
  • Better patient experience. There are many problems that AR can solve in the healthcare industry. For example, AccuVein‘s augmented reality scanner allows healthcare workers to see where veins are in patients’ bodies, improving accuracy, and most likely reducing the fear of needles as well.
  • More engaging education. Students young and not-so-young can enjoy a more immersive educational experience with augmented reality. Whether it’s guiding children through a library scavenger hunt, helping students visualize math problems, or giving people an immersive experience in another language, AR can change the way lessons are taught.

Do you have any ideas for an augmented reality-related business?

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Small business blog posts we liked this week

Happy weekend, everyone! Enjoy these small business blog posts that we enjoyed this week. We hope you like them too, and share any suggestions you think we might like!

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Businesses inspired by Back to the Future Part II technology

tech-small-business It’s been 30 years since Back to the Future Part II, and we are now living in that movie’s future. And nothing today is like that future, right? Not quite!

Microsoft for Work recently published a great rundown of some of the technology seen in that movie, and how we’re seeing some of that tech today. Here’s a taste:

Wearable devices. The bulky, high-tech glasses used by both young McFlys of the future look a bit awkward and silly, but the idea is spot on. Wearables are generally regarded as the next big tech trend, with more consumers wanting access to their data. Devices allow you to monitor health and activity levels, as a means to track and achieve fitness goals, or keep you in touch with email previews and calendar reminders (or a device that happens to do both).

While devices that fit on the wrist are the most common form of wearable tech, shoes, necklaces, rings, glasses, and clothing are all areas getting a high-tech makeover.

The tech and products linked to in the article are Microsoft’s own, but there are great examples out there of small businesses that are making some of these ideas come to life – for example, Calgary-based Vivametrica. They analyze data from wearable devices to help measure corporate health and wellness programs. Or American company Nest, who makes “smart home” self-learnable, programmable thermostats and smoke detectors.

The future’s not so bad!

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How to do a STEPC analysis

small_business_industry_analysisA STEPC analysis is one of the many skills needed to grow a successful small business. It helps you to understand the environment in which your company operates, which is just as important as understanding its daily operations. Let’s take a look at what’s involved.

What is a STEPC analysis?

STEPC stands for:

Social;
Technological;
Economic;
Political; and
Competitive analysis.

All of these components together will help you to get a broad view of the industry your small business operates in.

The components of a STEPC analysis

Social

Business is about relationships, so it’s important to understand the society in which your business operates. Society means family, friends, influencers which have a bearing on how we behave, and ultimately on what we buy.

Different groups or people have different needs, likes and dislikes, which are influenced by their demographic characteristics — age, sex, income, social status — as well as by their psychographic characteristics — lifestyle, attitudes, opinions, beliefs. These characteristics change over time, so successful small businesses keep tabs on society and changing trends.

Technological

Technology contributes to the success and growth of small businesses. A focus on technology, and technological changes, helps organizations cater to customers’ needs and wants more efficiently and effectively.

Conduct a review of hardware, software, social media strategies and tools, peripheral devices (printers, cash registers, debit card machines), personal productivity tools. What changes are coming? Which ones may impact your business? What can you do to take advantage of changes in technology before your competitors do?

Economic

All organizations are affected by existing economic factors, both here at home and on the other side of the world. The economy shapes behavioural patterns of consumers, buyers, suppliers, creditors and investors. An economy in a recession will likely see consumers with lower purchasing power, higher unemployment, lower interest rates and decreasing numbers of risk-takers and creditors.

A growing economy will likely produce lower unemployment, higher purchasing power, higher interest rates and more risk-takers. It’s important to anticipate how changes in the economy will affect your small business in both the short- and long-term.

Political

Knowledge of political factors is important. Small businesses don’t operate in a vacuum — they are affected by what goes on around them. Changes in the political scene, nationally and globally, may impact your business. You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to be aware. Anticipate how changes in any political factors may impact your business, and think about how you would respond.

There are quite a few political factors you’ll need to get acquainted with, including:

  • Elections
  • Employment law
  • Consumer protection
  • Environmental regulations
  • Industry-specific regulations
  • Competitive regulations
  • Inter-country relationships/attitudes
  • War
  • Terrorism
  • Political trends
  • Governmental leadership
  • Taxes
  • Government structures

Competitive

A review of the business environment wouldn’t be complete with a look at what your competitors are up to. Consider a systematic review of your main competition around the following factors:

  • Background
  • Financials
  • Products
  • Marketing
  • Facilities
  • Personnel
  • Corporate or marketing strategies

Wherever possible, become a customer of your competitors’ businesses. Experience what their customers experience — the good, the bad and the  ugly. Check out your competitors’ websites, advertisements, and posts on social media outlets. You can learn a lot by being a passive observer of your competitors’ behaviours. Compared to your competitors, how is your business performing? Are there ways in which you could improve your business? How?

We know – that’s a lot! But understanding all the components of a STEPC analysis will help you answer important questions. What’s happening to interest rates, currency, inflation, social trends, regulatory changes, income tax rates, technology? How will these changes affect your business? How can you capitalize on these trends before your competitors do? What are your competitors up to? Getting a handle on these factors will help you prepare for changes in the business environment – whether you have control over them or not – so you’re not  caught unaware.

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Small business blog posts we liked this week

Want to know some great tips for working from home? Need advice about how to follow up on a pitch? Check out some great small business advice and education news we liked from the blog world this week.

Did you read anything interesting this week?

 

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