Mobile apps fuel small businesses
Last Modified: February 18. 2013 3:42AM
The mobile app revolution makes it easy and inexpensive ‚?? or even free ‚?? for entrepreneurs to manage their entire operation with or without an office. All they need is a smartphone or tablet.
Entrepreneurs are increasingly turning to the more than 1 million mobile apps available to meet their business needs. Forrester Research estimates that revenue from customers downloading mobile apps will reach $38 billion by 2015.
An app can help you start a company, share spreadsheets and process credit card payments. There‚??s even an app that acts as a virtual customer assistant to help small businesses seem bigger than they are.
Apps can save time and money, boost sales and productivity, and help small business owners improve efficiency. They can also give consumers new ways to interact and communicate with companies.
More than one-third of U.S. small business owners surveyed by Intuit said annual business growth was the biggest worry keeping them up at night. Nearly half said it‚??s important to be able to run their business on a mobile device.
Here are some examples of how entrepreneurs are using mobile apps.
This popular e-pinboard discourages self-promotion, but some savvy small business owners use it to showcase their products or services.
McKinney, Texas, event and party planner Shelley O‚??Donnell has used Pinterest to help promote and grow her business in the last six months.
O‚??Donnell pins images of themed parties she planned so people can see her work. She also creates ‚??vision boards‚?Ě of ideas on Pinterest and shows them to clients on her iPad.
If people like what they see, they‚??ll re-pin it.
Pinterest is also driving traffic to her website, divinepartyconcepts.com, as people see images sourced to her company.
Pinterest is best for businesses with a visual side. For example, an interior designer could use it to pin photos of redecorated rooms or a landscaper can share pruning advice.
It‚??s an invitation-only site, but people can follow each other as they do on Twitter. Business owners can make it easy for Pinterest users to pin their images by adding a ‚??Pin It‚?Ě button to product pages.
Dallas entrepreneur George Mavromaras works out of a virtual office, so being able to access his documents from his iPhone is important.
The 24-year-old founder of Mavro Inc, a Dallas developer of Spanish-language mobile-based translation services, has used the free Dropbox app for more than a year to do that.
Dropbox lets Mavromaras take documents, photos and videos anywhere and share them with 12 groups of people.
‚??It prevents having to email documents back and forth,‚?Ě he said. ‚??That‚??s huge. My inbox gets flooded. Dropbox lets me send someone a short link to a document.‚?Ě
Remote document access apps are the third most popular (used by 41 percent) among small businesses, according to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council survey.
Mobile payment apps are designed for anyone who sells products and services on the go. They can also cut payment costs. Food vendors, photographers, hairstylists and even the Dave Matthews Band use these apps.
A variety of apps are available with small card swipers (mostly free) that fit into the audio jack of a mobile device. Authorization of a credit or debit card is done as the payment is processed. Customers sign with a finger.