A young woman with long hair sits on the floor at a white coffee table, leaning her head on one hand and looking down at a calculator with a worried look. On the table next to the calculator are a couple of small cardboard boxes, a folded seater, a notebook, and an electronic tablet on a small tripod. In the background are a cream-colored sofa, a rack holding a few pieces of clothing, and a headless mannequin wearing a brown dress.
Not all tech trends are positive. "Software regret" is a form of buyer's remorse, occurring when business owners regret spending money on a costly or hard-to-use piece of software. — Getty Images/Thicha Satapitanon

Technology constantly evolves to present new solutions for working smarter, gaining a competitive advantage, or making it easier to run your business. Staying ahead of the curve can be tricky: with so many new tools out there, where do you start? These four emerging tech trends hold particular promise for small businesses.

The use of AI for creative tasks

The media has paid much attention to the fact that AI can help speed up processes and automate elements of running a business. Now, experts are seeing a rise in the use of AI for more creative endeavors, such as designing logos, writing copy, and brainstorming new ideas. However, the potential for AI to become a partner in innovation is just now being explored.

“Currently, ChatGPT and other AI models are great at generating content from millions of examples of past works. But for creators or engineers looking for innovative solutions, you don’t want content that mimics an existing concept,” wrote Xero. “Next year we could well see a ‘creativity boom’ where AI models go beyond statistical similarity and come up with new designs or products that are far better than the ones that exist today.”

Indeed, AI could both enhance and enable innovation in businesses of all sizes. Forrester sees AI’s role in the creative process slightly differently, predicting that AI will free up to 50% more time for employees to spend problem-solving, developing new products, and thinking outside the box. Ultimately, businesses can start to explore ways to collaborate with or outsource creative tasks to generative AI models.

Customer experience as the major differentiator

The customer experience has always been a factor in why consumers choose small businesses over big-box enterprises. In one survey, more than 50% of respondents preferred shopping at small businesses for better customer service.

As your business gets busier, it can be harder to maintain a great customer experience. Fortunately, customer experience technology can help. “From AI chatbots to ever-more-sophisticated data analytics around the purchase and delivery journey, 2024 will see companies going big on customer experience to ward off competition from peers and capture customer loyalty,” wrote FedEx.

Marketing communications software, AI chatbots, and CRM solutions that help small businesses provide an omnichannel customer experience will continue to grow in popularity over the next few years. This type of technology helps small businesses personalize customer outreach and offer a unique shopping experience.

[Read more: Future Shop: Retail Innovations That Will Change How Consumers Spend in 2024 and Beyond]

The customer experience has always been a factor in why consumers choose small businesses over big-box enterprises.

AI for customer service

Aligned with the uptick in using technology to improve the customer experience comes AI for customer service: the use of automation and AI self-service options to help reduce customer frustration.

“The key to many of 2024’s improvements will be behind-the-scenes genAI that augments customer service agents’ capabilities,” wrote Forrester. “This will help agents contribute to success in common top drivers of CX: answering questions faster and better, resolving problems on first contact, communicating clearly, and leaving the customer feeling respected.”

AI tools are available 24/7 to help customers get answers to their problems or involve a human agent when needed. For small businesses, automated chatbots that can point customers to the right online resource can reduce the volume of service requests your team fields. In turn, your team can focus its energy on resolving the thorniest customer issues.

SMBs seek to avoid software regret

“Software regret” is one of the more unfortunate trends that risks stifling small business growth. Nearly 60% of business owners in the United States say they regret at least one software purchase they made in the last 18 months. For small business owners, buyer’s remorse comes down to the cost and the difficulty in using the software purchased.

“How quickly a business can recover from these setbacks is essentially a coin-flip. While 44% of buyers say the financial impact of their poor purchase decision was minimal and easy to overcome, slightly more (56%) say the impact to their business was ‘significant’ or ‘monumental’—impacting their long-term performance or risking real and immediate harm to their business,” reported Gartner.

To avoid the potentially expensive, definitely time-consuming error of choosing the wrong software, spend time reading user reviews, check comparison sites like Capterra and Trust Radius, and ask for a free trial so you can make sure a tech tool is the right fit.

[Read more: From Freemium to Premium: How to Decide When It's Time to Invest in Paid Tech Plans]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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