by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 9 July 2012
We live in an impatient post PC world populated by tablets and smartphones. And, it is fast catching on.
According to research firm CompTIA's Small and Medium Business Technology Adoptions Trends study, seven out of ten small and medium-sized businesses in the US expect to increase their technology spending over the next twelve months.
The desire to become mobile - for both customer interactions and employee productivity - is a clear trend. Forty two percent of businesses surveyed already have technologies such as tablets and smartphones to enable interaction with customers and provide access to applications, data and networks to customers.
The growth of mobile technologies is a paradigm shift that changes the way we do business.
That shift works in several ways. For example, small business owners can shorten manufacturing lead times and further refine just-in-time inventory practice by adopting mobile technologies. Similarly, consumer-focused small businesses can use mobile as a sales and service channel to reach out to their customers. Finally, they can also use mobile technologies such as the Square payment system to pare costs and accept cash anywhere.
Given the myriad options available, how can you, as a small business become mobile?
Here are five ways in which you can use mobile technology for your small business:
As I mentioned earlier, mobile technologies are another channel for small businesses to connect with customers. Mobile applications such as Cinco Squared or Mapyourtag enable small businesses to implement marketing offers or special promotions using innovative technologies such as QR codes. The cost to your small business is minimal; however, returns are maximized as it helps you connect in a fun way to a larger population segment. Similarly, you can use also customer support applications to enable agents to support your customers on-the-go.
There are two benefits to this.
First, mobile technology offers you an easy and effective way to connect with your customers using the same resources deployed earlier. In effect, they make your processes efficient.
Second, mobile technology enables your employees to remain productive even while they are out and about. They can access important product and project artifacts even as they travel to sales conferences or work from home. Needless to add, this reduces the time to take several critical decisions and enables excellent knowledge management. Less time for decision-making reduces detours in decision-making and enables you to react faster to customer demands. soclutions like Synchroteam are built to efficiently manage mobile workers.
According to a 2011 study conducted by PowerReviews, almost one-third of U.S. consumers used their smartphones to find better deals while shopping. If you thought their use was limited to using applications, think again. Approximately one-third of respondents used QR codes to scan and compare prices and deals. For a small business owner, this means two things. First, your retail website should be optimized for mobile use across Android and iOS - the two major mobile platforms - today. Second, your mobile site should have deals and QR codes listed for easy use of customers.
Research firm Gartner estimates that the number of mobile-payment users worldwide topped 141 million in 2011. That number holds much more significance for small businesses than large corporations. This is because mobile payment services enable small businesses benefit more from the cost-benefit ratio of mobile payments than large corporations. What's more, mobile payment systems such as Square or PaySimple enable you to dismantle expensive till point of service systems in favor of a payment anywhere approach that enables you to accept payment anywhere and using any preferred payment system.
According to research consultancy research2guidance, the smartphone applications market is expected to surpass $15 billion, up from $0.94 billion in 2009. The global installed base of smartphones increased by 274 million users last year. This number is in addition to the 58 million tablet users added to the service. Clearly, the world is increasingly communicating and doing business through mobile applications.
You can put this technology to innovative uses for your small business. You can design a mobile app that publicizes your small business while providing valuable information to customers. Similarly, you can use applications to promote and tie-up with interesting services for your business. Solutions such as Proto.io provide easy way to develop great interactive mobile apps.
Much like PCs over the last decade, mobility is an important trend that you cannot ignore. Make sure that your small business is prepared for the future by adopting it now.