2024 Tech Trends for Small Businesses in RI and MA

I asked a generative AI platform to give me the key 2024 tech trends for small businesses. Below in italics are the answers it gave me, and under each, my take on the accuracy of the respective prediction. Let me know what you think. Are these real trends you’re considering for your small business this year?

The 2024 tech trends for small businesses in Rhode Island and Massachusetts are:

Increased Adoption of AI: Small businesses are integrating AI into various operational areas like marketing, human resources, customer service, and logistics. This helps in reducing manual errors, saving time, and enhancing overall productivity​​.

While I have a lot of clients very curious about AI, few small businesses (for the purposes of this blog post let’s say companies under 750 employees) understand the true value of AI for their business.

One exciting trend we will see is small businesses adopting Microsoft Copilot. This adaptive AI tool has the potential to transform the efficiency within a small business. It’s now available and 2024 will be the year we see more businesses adopt the various features of this tool.

As more small businesses use AI, they will begin to adopt AI usage policies within their organizations. Even if your business isn’t formally adopting AI, chances are some of your employees are using it, and you better set up some guardrails to make it clear how, when and why they should be using it at work.

Utilization of AR/VR for Enhanced Customer Experiences: Retail, real estate, and hospitality industries are increasingly using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create immersive experiences for customers, such as virtual product trials or property tours​​.

Small businesses are trying to slice up their budgets in 2024. Unless they’re dealing with a luxury market, I don’t see a small business in those industries mentioned above allocating budget in 2024 to something that is not yet expected by consumers.

Focus on Digital Marketing and Analytics: There’s a growing emphasis on upskilling in digital marketing and analytics. This involves building a robust online presence and understanding customer interactions through data analytics​​.

Now digital marketing and analytics is an area where small businesses are looking to level up their game. Given the competitive market, they’re willing to invest in technologies that are going to help them increase sales. Disparate systems will play a part in their decision making. If it’s too expensive and time consuming to manage, they’re not going to do it. Easy and cost-effective are the key here. There are many cloud-forward solutions opening up to small businesses, like CRMs and digital payment solutions, and they will continue to adopt them in 2024.

Embracing Remote and Hybrid Work Models: The shift towards remote and hybrid work models continues, enabling small businesses to access a broader talent pool and reduce overhead costs associated with physical office spaces​​.

Most of the small businesses I work with who needed to embrace remote work did so back in 2020. I wouldn’t necessarily consider this one of the 2024 tech trends, as it is more of an expectation at this point. Some companies shifted back into an onsite model. However, unlike pre-2020, many are now better prepared to work remotely at a moment’s notice.

Sustainability and Green Practices: Eco-friendly and sustainable practices are becoming increasingly important, driven by consumer demand for environmentally responsible businesses.

How I wish this was a trend for small businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Remi IT Solutions is currently working toward its GPCC Sustainability Certification, graciously presented by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. A chamber as influential as the Greater Providence Chamber introducing an ESG program to its members is a signal that sustainability is beginning to trickle down to small businesses. Small businesses are thinking greener but there is a long way to go where the actions and investments meet the threshold to consider it a real trend. Here’s to hoping this makes it into the 2025 technology trend list.

Personalization and Customer-Centric Approaches: Businesses are leveraging data to tailor their products, services, and marketing to individual customer preferences, fostering stronger loyalty and engagement​​.

Marketing technology is increasingly available in the cloud while also becoming easier to use, making it more accessible to a smaller business. With the growing popularity of customer data platforms and real-time engagements in the enterprise, it was only a matter of time until we saw smaller businesses harnessing data to gain valuable insights. This means that your small business is making greater technology investments with marketing in mind. This complicates the tech stack, so we will continue to see small businesses turning to IT for help.

Generative AI: Small businesses are exploring the potential of generative AI for content creation, customer service, and other applications, while also being mindful of privacy and policy risks​​.

Notice how AI generated two AI-related responses to my prompt about 2024 tech trends? The algorithm is showing us an example of inherent biases of AI. There is still a long way to go before AI is truly permeating small business operations.

However, anyone denying generative AI will make waves in 2024 is sleeping under a rock. Generative AI is quickly becoming a necessary tool for small businesses, particularly with marketing and customer service functions. Everyone wants to work smarter, and generative AI is supercharging the small business workforce.

Cybersecurity and Data Protection: With increased digitization, cybersecurity is a critical concern. Small businesses need robust security measures to protect sensitive data from cyber threats​​.

As cyber criminals become increasingly sophisticated, and frankly more successful, it will become apparent to small business owners that they need to seriously invest in cybersecurity measures. Small businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, particularly those who have compliance obligations like HIPAA and GDPR, will get more serious about investing in cybersecurity measures. However, I think a majority of small businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are still trying to keep their heads above water in this economy. Any line item in the 2024 budget they can cut, they will. Unfortunately for them, cybersecurity and data protection are line items that should never be cut.

One related trend we will see is in the MSP and IT services space. More IT services teams will require that their clients use a certain level of cybersecurity technology, and if they don’t, they will be dropped as a client. No IT services provider wants to have a long list of clients who have been hacked, even if it wasn’t the IT provider’s fault. Sometimes tough love is necessary and more small businesses, particularly those under 30 employees, will feel the result of this cybersecurity trend.

Innovative Payment Solutions: Offering diverse payment options, including mobile wallets and cryptocurrencies, is key to attracting a broader customer base​.

To stay competitive, small businesses are broadening the payment options they offer their customers. This is a trend that we will continue to see throughout the year. Everyone wants to get paid, and meeting their customers where they’re at will help ensure they do so in a timely manner.

Agility in Business Models: The ability to adapt quickly to market changes and capitalize on emerging opportunities is increasingly important for small businesses​.

Agility in business is evergreen, so I don’t necessarily see this as one of the 2024 tech trends. However, what I am seeing a lot of are small businesses being acquired or merging with other small businesses. This trend will continue into 2024. Dental offices and medical offices in particular are gobbling each other at breakneck speed.

Simplification and Consolidation in Tech Stacks: There’s a trend towards reducing complexity in tech stacks by using fewer, more integrated software solutions that address multiple business challenges​.

As an IT services expert, this is a 2024 tech trend I can get behind. Complex tech stacks are inefficient and costly – a recipe for disaster for a small business. If you are a small business owner reading this, please hop on this trend. You will save money, gain efficiency, and probably grow as a result. I’ve been coaching a number of small businesses this year to help streamline their stacks. I haven’t seen one case yet where a small business simplified their tech stack and regretted it. As small businesses continue to feel the impact of the economic downturn, they will need to look at ways to increase their profit margins. Streamlining their technology stacks will be one way to do it.

What 2024 tech trends for small business did generative AI miss?

This coming year we will see small businesses get (slightly) more serious about creating a culture of security at their organizations. We will see a greater overall adoption of security awareness training solutions, albeit a reluctant adoption. Small business owners know they need IT security but many don’t want to invest their company’s time in making it successful. There are various reasons for why this is happening. For example, more small businesses will buy security awareness training but not all will achieve an acceptable level of participation from their employees. Culture of security must come from the top down, and without buy-in these businesses are still at a much higher risk of a cyber incident.

Some small businesses are one successful malware attempt away from shuttering their doors. This looming danger will keep pushing small business owners toward cultivating a stronger culture of security at their organizations. The good news is that IT services companies are on standby to help their clients succeed. For example, we offer ways for our clients to gamify their security awareness training programs to help encourage participation. We want to make it fun to learn how to stay safe online. This training benefits the business, and also the employee, as it is knowledge that they can take home with them.

These 2024 tech trends underscore the importance of technological adaptability, customer-centric strategies, and sustainability for small businesses. By embracing these trends, businesses can stay competitive and responsive to market demands.

Overall, I think this generative AI tool did a fairly good job at selecting 2024 tech trends for small businesses. How do you think it did?