Small businesses are increasingly turning to apps to improve business performance, generate sales leads, win new business, keep existing customers and promote their brand.
Rob Hodges, digital executive at Mobiles.co.uk, believes small businesses should rethink their strategy with mobile devices in mind. He believes with the rollout of 4G, small businesses can place greater reliance on smartphone and tablet applications to make decisions and streamline processes.
Hodges recommends Pocket, a productivity app which allows users to save media for later. He says: “One key benefit is the ability to store files offline, making it ideal for catching up on the work commute. As business leaders communicate across multiple devices during the day, the cloud-based nature of Pocket ensures content can be viewed at a more convenient time.”
Other small businesses are using social media apps to connect with customers and enhance sales. Mike Tomlinson, small business director at UK mobile network EE shares the example of street food seller Mark Gevaux using Twitter to share videos of his ribs being made in order to entice new customers to buy his product.
William Agush, founder and chief executive officer of app Shuttersong has been working with a number of small businesses to improve their social media campaigns. His app allows users to add 15 seconds of voice and sound or music to any digital photo. He recently worked with a fashion house, Leota Dresses in New York, to improve their publicity campaign. Agush says: “Leota used Shuttersong to promote their dresses – since using the app they have had several hundred plays for the images.”
Another example of a small business using an app to help their performance is Sailing Logic. The company was set up in 2003 by Allie Smith with the purpose of offering individuals without connections to the elite yachting industry the chance to experience yacht racing. After receiving feedback from its customers in 2012, Sailing Logic decided to look for an easier way for customers to book tickets for its events. The company has now teamed up with online ticketing platform web app Bookitbee. Currently, 25% of their Royal Yachting Association (RYA) course bookings are now received via Bookitbee, which has saved the company a huge amount of office administration and processing time – so by the end of 2014 they expect to roll this feature out to include their yacht racing events.
Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder of virtual workforce platform Time etc, uses a web app called SameWave – a tool that collects and reports data, like sales figures. He says: “Staff don’t have to sit through endless boring meetings [because of this app]. Instead everyone simply reports their performance via SameWave once a week.”
Lashbrooke also uses video conferencing: “We use it for everything: keeping in touch with clients, coordinating our remote workforce and staying in touch with each other in the office too. Its greatest appeal is that almost everyone knows it already and there is no training or learning required to use it.”
He adds: “We’ve also developed a Time etc mobile app, which helps business owners set tasks for their virtual workforce when they’re on the go. It means they can delegate all the jobs they don’t want to or can’t do to a team of trusted freelancers, who’ll get on the case straight away.”
These small business owners all use various apps to make their businesses more productive: from helping with administrative tasks, communicating quicker and more efficiently with staff globally and promoting themselves more directly via Twitter and Facebook.
Peter Chadha, founder of DrPete Inc, a strategic business and technology consultancy, says: “For a small business owner, apps also generally provide a richer and easier functionality than using web-based clients on a mobile handset or tablet. For instance, they can interact with mobile device functions such as the mic or camera, and they can control the user experience by touching and swiping, send data to and from the app provider, and they often work as well offline – as opposed to web-based solutions which are totally reliant on a reliable internet connection.”
Chadha adds: “There are a plethora of apps in the market to assist business owners and their staff. VOIP apps, for instance, can be used to dial in from local or even free phone numbers, which gives the perception to clients and prospects that the business is larger than it actually is. They can also use video conferencing and instant messaging to communicate remotely, use location apps to locate staff, and there are even apps for time recording or billing and project management.”
Although a lot of small businesses are using apps daily, only 22% of small businesses provide apps for their employees to use at work. Recent research (which questioned 1,083 small businesses) found that 37% of small business employees – equivalent to 5 million UK workers – believed they would be more productive if provided with apps tailored to their job role.
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