Cross-channel buying is becoming increasingly common. eMarketer estimates that 25% of purchases started online are completed in-store, and 25% of purchases started in-store are completed online. Small and Medium-size Businesses (SMBs) such as retail bakeries and bakery cafes make up 99.9% of all companies in the United States and employ 58 million people, or 48% of America’s workers, according to the US Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy. According to a 2018 Maru/Matchbox survey, 46% of SMBs now sell their products and services online, and among those that do, 15% of their sales come from the online channels.

Visa partnered with a consortium of trade associations, technology providers, banks, and researchers to answer the question: Do SMBs need to transform digitally to prosper in this environment and, if so, how can they start? The survey uncovered the following key takeaways:

  • 52% of consumers surveyed search online and/or check the business website before visiting a new business.
  • Over 60% prefer to be contacted through a digital channel, such as e-mail, website banners or a business’s website.

Yet less than half of SMBs conduct business online. The gap suggests that there are opportunities for SMBs to utilize consumer-sought, digital ways to capture revenue, stay in front of customers, and save time and expenses on the daily tasks necessary to run businesses.

Technology that improves the experience remains at the forefront of the foodservice industry. Since 2015, the National Restaurant Association Show has showcased the best restaurant technology startups in Startup Alley, recognizing the critical role played by innovative players in the arena. This year’s National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show will showcase 14 Startup Alley exhibitors during the May 18-21 event at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

The startups include the following:

Genio is a productivity app that makes employee scheduling, communication, attendance, location and task management a breeze. Their app is geared toward companies where employees typically work in shifts.

Jetson solves the inherent design problems of current voice assistants when it comes to conversational commerce. They offer a more intelligent “multi-step” voice AI that can search and transact complex menus through full conversation. With their platform, customers can order anything by simply speaking to a mobile device, kiosk or smart speaker.

Locl was built so businesses get the most from maps platforms, especially those who rely on foot traffic, such as bakery cafes. Maps performance metrics closely correlate to actual revenue. Locl’s hospitality clients get aggregated data and insights on their customers in an easy-to-understand way.

Synk Delivery is a highly efficient software tool that networks local consumers for inexpensive and predictable delivery. It is highly automated and uses Stripe for payments, automated phone call reminders to restaurants, automatic text and e-mail status messages throughout the delivery process.