Canadian micro-businesses lean on mobile technology to grow

Whether a food truck owner or a microbrewer, a car mechanic or a craftsperson, companies with 5 or less employees, or “microbusinesses,” need to rely on the benefits of mobile tech like apps, smartphones and cloud services in order to compete.

Microbusinesses, which now comprise 55 per cent of all Canadian small businesses, face all the usual small business challenge challenges, from marketing to customer relations management to shipping and logistics, with the additional task of overcoming such challenges with minimal manpower and budgets on their side. Though studies show that microbusinesses tend to shy away from utilizing new technology, the country’s smallest businesses stand to gain the most by staying on the cutting edge. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of digital solutions that can help them compete with the big guys without putting a strain on their bottom lines.

Take it to the Cloud

According to a recent study by Environics Research Group on behalf of Rogers, only 20 per cent of microbusinesses utilize cloud-based applications like Drop Box, Rogers Mobile Work Folder and Office 365, though they often stand to gain the most from such applications. With time and resources sorely lacking, it is vital for microbusinesses to have a fast, safe, cheap and effective means of storing and sharing information. Such applications can help microbusinesses stay competitive by reducing the time and effort required by traditional file sharing and storing methods.

Sell Online

One of the biggest challenges for microbusinesses is reaching their customer base, a challenge that could be easily overcome by selling through the World Wide Web. Only 22 per cent of Canadian microbusinesses, however, are using the Internet as their primary means of selling. Ecommerce sites like Shopify, Yahoo and NextTree can help merchants set up a digital store in minutes for a low monthly fee, while Canada Post, Prestashop and AgoraCart host online stores free of charge.

Market on Social Media

It’s no secret that social media has become a vital method for launching a brand and building awareness, yet only 16 per cent of respondents in the Environics study use social media as a primary means of promoting their microbusiness. Though it may be tempting to keep marketing strategies traditional and minimal, there is simply no easier, faster or cheaper way to reach an audience than though social media marketing on sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Mobile Payment Solutions

Whether your microbusiness is selling handcrafted jewelry or tacos, the more simple and fast payment options you can provide your customers, the more money you can collect. Old-fashioned cash registered might give your microbusiness a retro feel, but nothing says successful startup like a card reader fastened to mobile device. While there are a wide variety of readily available mobile payment solutions on the market, such as Square and Shopify, only 4 per cent of microbusinesses are currently utilizing such services.

Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist and public speaker based in Toronto. Lindzon's reporting focuses on the future of work, technology, entrepreneurship and innovation. Beyond his regular columns in Fast Company's WorkLife section and The Globe & Mail's Careers section, Lindzon has also been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, The BBC, TIME Magazine, Rolling Stone, Fortune Magazine and many more. As a public speaker, interviewer and moderator Lindzon frequently shares the insights he's gathered through his reporting at conferences and events around the world. Lindzon received an MA in Journalism and an Honours BA in Media Studies from Western University.

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