Over the past 5 years the business landscape has changed and grown extensively. Technology has played a vital role in provoking many of these changes. Today I look at the top 5 moments and movements I think have shaped the business environment we operate in.

 1.The widespread adoption of social media

Once thought to be the domain of angst ridden teens, social media has evolved past the MySpace selfie into a valid business tool. The beauty of social media is that it opens up a dialogue between businesses and customers. What was once a transactional relationship has now transformed into an ongoing conversation.Customers can share their experiences with thousands of other potential customers with just a click, they can ask questions and demand answers much more effectively than ever before. Businesses also now have the power to reach more customers through good referrals on social media, establish themselves as knowledge sources and determine what their customers are after simply by using a hashtag or entering a forum.

2. The introduction of smart phones and the reinvention of tablets

Tablets and smart phones have made doing business on the go easier than ever. When coupled with apps these devices have undeniably changed the business landscape. The launch of the iPhone in Australia in 2008 gave businesses a new platform to engage customers with services previously unheard of.  Tablets have become a business essential that combine the skills of a laptop with the practicality of a compendium. Upon its release in 2010 the Apple iPad was largely considered an entertainment product without much business appeal. The laptop had long held the position of mobile computer device of choice for business, while iPhones bridged the communications gap. However, the customisation options offered by the iPad along with its seamless transitioning between recreational device to business tool made it a winner with the professional world.

3. The exponential growth and popularity of apps

Apps have transformed our relationship with tablets, smart phones and now computers. The ability to customise a device with the programs we’re after has fundamentally changed our relationship with them. The (now) clichéd response, “there’s an app for that!” truly encompasses the breadth of solutions available on the market from apps to help you decide where to take your client for lunch to providing a virtual copy of the contract to sign afterwards, all bases are truly covered. Advances in app software have also given contractors the freedom to take their invoicing on the road, making it easier than ever to run a small business on the run.

4. The online-shopping boom

The internet has made shopping a unique user experience, one that small businesses have benefited from significantly since the advent of online retail sites like Etsy and Ebay. Visiting these online market places gives customers access to a range of niche products from around the world that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. With the number of small and micro businesses growing every day, having an online store is vital to engaging with local and international customers without the overheads and traditional costs associated with running a business. When combined with a strong social media strategy, these businesses can now compete with larger businesses on a scale never experienced before.

 5. The introduction of Cloud software

Cloud software is fast becoming the hottest ticket in town, by offering cost-effective, storage and data solutions. Companies such as AdobeAmazonRackspace and Google are currently leading the charge with cloud software solutions that are available anywhere and at any time in a secure and accessible medium. For small businesses especially cloud technology offers cheaper adoption rates due to economies of scale and pay-as-you-use functionality. Cloud software is also designed to be downloaded straight to your computer, so no more costly maintenance downtime or management overheads. Many cloud solutions offer customisation option that are easily accessible yet highly secure solutions for businesses looking to stay one step ahead of the industry.

Have I missed a crucial development? Let me know in the comments which technological advancement from the past 5 years has made the biggest difference for you.