It’s exciting to see small businesses jumping on the mobile revolution. I think it’s more noticeable with small businesses, because we’ve been conditioned to expect “old style” low tech ways of conducting business from smaller vendors. But today that’s simply no longer true.
Small businesses have the advantage of being nimble. We’re able to jump on opportunities and technology solutions that it would take larger businesses more time to implement. In some ways, smaller businesses are leading the way with mobile activity. And so we are seeing some innovative and inexpensive ways of using mobile devices out of the office.
If you’re looking for ways to develop or extend a competitive advantage, consider using smartphones (and their bigger cousins, tablets) to gain an edge. To get your creative juices flowing, here are 7 ways that small businesses are using smartphones while out of the office:
1. Accepting mobile payments
A consultant who has just published a book; a landscaper who gives an estimate for spring cleanup and mulching; and a crafter attending an outdoor crafts fair – what do they have in common? All are using a mobile payment swipe device attached to their smartphones to process credit card payments. Your funds get automatically swept into your bank account. Add the ability to print a receipt right there, and you’ll really save time.
2. More responsive service calls
It’s the classic small business dilemma: your business is growing, and your field service crew is small. If you have to schedule a crew while in the field, do they have access to work orders and other details? Will they have access to driving directions? A good navigation system integrated with your back office systems to make sure crews have the right information, can save money. There’s less wasted time, and less phone time verbally explaining job details.
3. Tracking deliveries in the field
A local distributor of specialty foods needs to track exactly where shipments stand – verifying they were made, what was delivered, when and where. And have a record of it for the company and for customers. A software solution tied to barcoding that tracks variances and issues an accurate invoice on delivery avoids follow-up calls – all enabled from smartphones — can make sure you get paid faster.
4. Demonstrating before and after pictures
Providers of homeowner services have gotten smart about using before and after photographs of home improvement projects. The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds new meaning when you are meeting with a provider for an estimate , and you see before and after pictures right there on a smartphone or better yet, a tablet. In the past, service providers had to rely on printing out expensive brochures. It is much easier to make a sale when your prospect can see the quality of your work.
5. Tracking timecards and distance/time
How exactly do you track the hours worked by your remote workers, such as construction crews? Construction companies and contractors have adopted wireless apps that track time and attendance, verified by GPS, to make the process efficient. You get better recordkeeping, payroll can be more accurate, and your compliance is easier. Oh, and you save money, too, through eliminating manual work and wasteful errors.
6. Traveling light: have smartphone and tablet, will travel
For knowledge workers who fly on business, lugging around pounds of gear such as a large laptop, a variety of cords and charging devices, a briefcase and more, is literally a pain. The whole package can approach 10 pounds. That 10 pounds of gear may not sound like a lot, but it can feel like a hundred by the time you get to your destination. And for security purposes you don’t want to check items like that.
Savvy business people have learned to travel light, with a smartphone alone or combined with a lightweight tablet for short trips. It takes mobility to a whole new level, and it keeps employees happy and productive.
7. Using smartphones for processing orders and work flow
Some of the most savvy small businesses have integrated smartphones into their work flow. For instance, one painting contractor told me he closes 20% more business by generating professional looking estimates and invoices on the spot at the customer’s home, after taking measurements and showing paint samples. It’s all because he has forms available on a tablet that can be configured, finalized and printed on a mobile printer. In other words, he increased his business by being innovative with technology.
These are just some examples of small businesses using technology for an edge. How do you use smartphones and tablets?
Smartphone Photo via Shutterstock
I use my mobile phone (iPhone 4 S) for checking emails, check-in services like Foursquare, taking pictures with Instagram, having telephone conference calls with several people at the same time via regular phone operator and Skype. In the future I see a picture of scanning stuff, using QR-codes, sign documents, financial transactions, etc.
Hi Martin, The ability to complete and sign documents electronically is HUGE. It takes a lot of time to print out documents, fill them out, sign them, scan them, etc. If you can complete that whole process without paper being involved, it save a lot of time — not to mention trees. 🙂
Accepting mobile payments has changed my life. It is so easy to collect money with the PayAnywhere mobile credit card reader
Technologies like NFC ( Near Field Communication) can let mobile users purchase products using their cell phones. Signing and ownership claiming can be easier, tracking products and delivery would become more convenient. The possibility is huge and we are adopting to it.
I can not agree more! It is so nice to hear someone saying it too. Every business owner I speak with literally shrinks when I get to the mobility aspect of the how to build their regular customer base. To me they almost sound like, “What? Indoor toilets? That will never work!”
Thank you for this. It Wednesday. (I have been saying the same thing about our phones. It frustrates me that I can’t change the channel with mine yet … as well as open the garage door and inventory my refrigerator! Why is everything so slow!!)
Thank you again!
A huge chunk of the online market are now using mobile devices to browse the Internet, visit social media accounts or do some online shopping. For business owners like me, it’s important to have a mobile-friendly site that can cater to the needs of my mobile-users audience.
Hi Michelle, that’s so true. We’ve seen a huge surge in our mobile (especially tablet) traffic and are currently working on a responsive design theme for Small Business Trends.
Not only is it about sizing of the screen, but you also have to pay attention to whether your navigation is easily clickable using touchscreens and smaller screens, versus a mouse. Navigation that sticks when people scroll down is also important. We’ve been working on the redesign now for about 45 days and for a site the size of ours, it takes some time to implement. But when we saw how much traffic as going mobile, it was clear we needed to make the move.
Mobile payments are reshaping e-commerce allowing customers the flexibility & convenience to make easy purchases in minutes. Orders can be processed securely with all major credit cards & assigned for pick up or delivery.
Your menu of products/services or virtual shop sits in your prospects smartphones in the form of a Mobile App (iOS & Android). In addition, loyalty programs such as digital punch cards & mobile coupons are powerful in helping retail businesses spur repeat business and driving more sales.
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This article “7 Ways Savvy Businesses Use Mobile” is right-on! Google announced that websites that “look poor on mobile devices will be penalized.”
Small biz owners with “brick-n-mortars” must put an end to procrastination. This is about YOU MAKING MONEY!
Whip out your phone and look at your website. If it requires your customer to zoom and scroll, getting a smart phone friendly website is a no-brainer for your business. You don’t even need a traditional website to get this project done!
Stop procrastinating because the mobile visitors are quickly out numbering the rest.
It all begins with having a responsive website. From there you can accept calls and mobile payments. It is about allowing your customer to buy from you even if they only have a mobile phone on hand.
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