New technology trends for small businesses emerge each passing year. With 2021 just around the corner, shipping businesses should make sure they stay ahead of the curve by considering five possible technology moves to implement.

1. Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) for routine tasks.

Many companies are still unaware of how to go about exploiting AI. Switching to AI doesn’t have to wait, though. Artificial intelligence already powers chatbots for countless small businesses. For shipping, it’s a great time to join the party. These software applications are able to answer the routine questions that customers have about things like business hours, service availability, where to find vessel schedules, and more. AI is also widely used to do things like making sure that everyone in an organization has time on their schedule to take a meeting.

2. Use analytics to drive decisions and know what to do.

Shipping businesses gather a great deal of data each time they deal with a supplier or customer. Often, the data collected merely sits unused. Analytics tools, however, can help businesses analyze the data that they have for actionable insights. Tools like Kissmetrics, for example, enable businesses to analyze marketing data to support decision-making by management.

3. Help your team work from home as the world continues to change.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some studies indicated that one in two office workers would work remotely at least some of the time in 2020. As we all know, pretty much the entire corporate world was introduced to remote work in 2020. Working from home is the new normal for many businesses and will only rise as more and more businesses get on the cloud or go digital in other ways. Adopting the technology needed to offer workers the flexibility to work remotely long after COVID-19 is no longer a threat will likely be important for all shipping businesses.

4. Pay greater attention to cybersecurity as threats rise.

No longer are smaller shipping companies able to seek comfort in the idea that they are too small for hackers to care about. One in two small businesses deal with some form of data breach each year. Going forward, more and more shipping businesses will invest in cybersecurity, with tough password rules for all employees, regular data backups and the creation of comprehensive recovery plans in the event of a breach.

5. Outsource IT to reduce outages, downtime, and more.

As managing IT becomes more demanding with each passing year, shipping businesses will look to outsource such work to specialized managed IT services. Not only are these services likely to be cost-effective, they are likely to offer technical expertise to smaller shipping companies that they would not otherwise be able to afford. From year-round network monitoring to effective security, the outsourcing of IT responsibilities to managed IT services is likely to become common.

Smaller shipping businesses – and indeed small businesses in general – often adopt the position that it isn’t wise to fix something that isn’t broken. As sensible as it might be to keep from meddling with systems that work well, there’s a lot to be said for being proactive and moving with the times. Adopting the new technology trends above can help shipping businesses save a great deal on costs.