Will the software applications you develop remain relevant as the digital workplace evolves? Here are several significant trends you should be aware of along with advice for how you can make your ISV business stand out from the competition:
1. Capitalize on the IoT trend
According to research from Gartner, the number of IoT devices will reach 14.2 billion this year and will grow to 25 billion by 2021. At the same time, IDC says global spending on IoT will reach $745 billion in 2019, and it will surpass the $1 trillion mark in 2022.
ISVs have the potential to tap into this lucrative opportunity by leveraging the decision-making capabilities of IoT to make indispensable solutions. For example:
- Adding IoT-enabled weight sensors on shelves or pegs can be used to detect when stock levels diminish to a specific threshold and automatically place an order with the distributor to refill it. An employee won’t have to use a scanner to take inventory and decide whether it’s time to order—the entire process can be automated.
- To enhance the customer experience of a shopper who walks by a freezer case, an ISV’s solution could predict complementary items the shopper would want to see, turning lights on at a particular display or triggering a video.
- Temperature sensors can be used to detect outside and indoor temperatures to predict the precise moment to turn on an AC unit, so shoppers stay comfortable while minimizing energy costs.
IoT solutions that free managers and staff to focus their time on other areas of the business can have tremendous value to your customers. If ISVs can figure out how to automate more of their customers’ operations and decision-making, that’s a vital differentiator.
2. Provide chatbot and virtual assistant offerings
According to Business Insider, “More than 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2020,” which means chatbots and virtual assistants are becoming an expected — and acceptable — form of customer service. ISVs that empower companies to provide their customers with full-time support without the expense of maintaining a full-time staff will be in high demand.
Customers interact with chatbots to clarify their queries regarding a product, gain product-related information, or even book an appointment with the product manager. Virtual assistants (think Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa) help users perform daily activities like setting alarm clocks, scheduling appointments, making calls and typing messages.
Like other forms of automation, chatbots and virtual assistants work best when seen as human-augmenting technologies that enable humans to focus on less repetitive, higher-value tasks.
3. Incorporate blockchain technology
What started as the backbone for bitcoin transactions, blockchain technology is expanding into other areas of business. In the medical industry, for instance, tech experts predict networks of hospitals will use blockchain to update, verify, and share patient records and diagnoses Experts also expect to see blockchain tech in insurance companies, education, and retail. Just imagine the business implications of no longer having to print, sign, and scan contracts.
Many software companies that have entered the BaaS (blockchain as a service) space are sizable players, but it’s worth noting that smaller ISVs are also launching BaaS offerings. Whether you aspire to join those ranks or plan to align with a BaaS provider as an ISV partner, there is an opportunity for you to play a role in your clients’ blockchain application development.
4. Provide real-time data analytics
Small to midsize companies would like to do many of the same things their larger counterparts do, such as identifying sales trends more quickly and providing customized marketing offers. The problem is that they often use heterogenous POS and other business systems throughout their store locations, which creates data silos and makes real-time data analyses impossible. That’s where the cloud and savvy software developers come in.
Consider all the data a receipt printer “sees” every day: detailed information about the products and services customers are buying as well as key data points about each customer such as day and time of purchase, the purchase amount, the last four digits of their credit/debit card and much more.
By using cloud-enabled printers (and your software), even small retailers can capture those valuable data streams and turn them into actionable information (with AI assistance) that leads to better loyalty programs; customized surveys, coupons and bundled sales offerings; and a variety of new services that increase customer engagement.
5. Partner with other ISVs
One of the biggest challenges your SMB customers face is that they don’t have the IT resources to build comprehensive best-of-breed IT solutions and they don’t have the financial resources to purchase enterprise-level suites. Your ISV company is uniquely positioned to solve this challenge, but it may require you to partner with other ISVs that offer complementary software solutions to your offering.
Earlier this year at the NRF Big Show, Epson displayed a solution that integrated point of sale (POS), video surveillance, digital signage, facial recognition, and data analytics from multiple ISVs to create a unique experience where the system could detect a store customer’s gender, approximate age and their mood (happy, sad, in between). The system quickly processed the data points and presented the customer with a customized marketing message via a digital display. What was especially interesting was that a dedicated server or computer didn’t power the entire system—it was connected to a cloud-based printer, making the whole solution affordable even for a small retailer.
To create comprehensive solutions like the one described above, ISVs need to partner with other ISVs. One of the easiest ways is to work with a hardware vendor that understands the mutual benefit of working with ISVs and has established software vendor certification processes and facilitates collaboration with a network of ISVs that work on one platform.
Small companies don’t have the internal IT resources or budgets to purchase, implement and manage enterprise suites that can give them the automation and customer experience benefits they need. That’s where VARs and ISVs can fill a much-needed niche (and demand) by bundling hardware, software and services that deliver enterprise-level benefits at a price small to midsize businesses can afford.