Don’t look now, but mobile technology is leveling the playing field for American firms. Technologies and capabilities that were once reserved for the upper echelon of the Fortune 500 can now fit comfortably in the palm of almost anyone’s hand.
Mobile technology, whether you believe it or not, has — and will undoubtedly continue to — revolutionize the way business is done.
A look at the numbers
Each year, AT&T and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council conduct a poll that focuses small-business technology. The most recent study revealed some pretty interesting statistics and trends relating to mobile technology.
Here are a few of the main takeaways:
- Collectively, smartphones and tablets save business owners around 2 billion hours each year.
- Mobile technology saves American small-business owners more than $65 billion a year.
- The number of small businesses that use smartphone technology to conduct business is now up to 94% (85% last year).
- The majority of small businesses that use smartphone apps to increase productivity feel they are saving an average of $6,000 a year.
- Two-thirds of small businesses using mobile apps report saving at least 150 hours each year.
A study dating from last year revealed that small businesses use mobile technology to assist with a variety of different functions. When asked how they use smartphones, tablets, and other forms of mobile technology, 73% said they use it for social media marketing, 71% for email marketing, 44% for advertising, 34% for mobile websites, 18% for mobile/tablet based POS systems, and 18% to manage operations.
The value of mobile technology for conducting business
Why are so many American businesses gravitating toward mobile technology? It’s certainly the sexy, sleek, cool thing to do, but the true reasons extend far beyond making a statement.
Mobile technology gives business owners the ability to accomplish things they otherwise couldn’t. The apps are either free or cost very little when compared to much more expensive software and technology.
Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a program with superfluous bells and whistles, business owners can now shell out a few bucks for an app that gets the job done simply. Though mobile apps are commonly discussed when mobile technology comes up, don’t confuse the two tools.
Mobile apps are a sub-segment of mobile technology; there’s much more to it. Take a look at some of the technologies — both hardware and software — that are currently being used to improve business capabilities.
- Smartphones. When cell phones first went mainstream, people thought they couldn’t get any better. Businessmen and women were no longer tied to their offices and could conduct business on the go without having to be disconnected for extended periods of time.
The smartphone, however, blew things out of the water. Now the staple of mobile technology, smartphones give people access to capabilities that were once limited to desktop computers and large machinery.
Apps, navigation, voice commands, phone calls, sophisticated search functions, and more make smartphones the preferred choice for mobile technology.
- Tablets. A relatively new addition to the mobile technology field, tablets have also provided us with something we never knew we needed. When Apple introduced the first modern tablet, people assumed it was merely a larger version of the iPhone.However, a lot of those same people can’t live without their tablet now. The large touch-screen interface makes it ideal for accessing apps and having a computer that truly operates on the go.
- Cloud technology. Cloud technology is one of the modern tools that hasn’t yet achieved its full potential. Many small business owners still don’t understand its potential. But for those who are currently using it, it’s easy to see how valuable it can be. With so many different uses — data backup, mobile computing, file sharing, and more — the decision to move from physical servers to the cloud can be transformative for any firm.
- POS/mobile credit card processing. For small businesses that operate out of physical retail locations or spend time selling goods and services at trade shows and other mobile events, it’s often difficult to decide on the best way to process payments. Fully integrated systems are expensive and bulky, and often unnecessary.
That’s where mobile point-of-sale (POS) and mobile card readers come into play. These technologies enable businesses to process credit cards and sales straight from a smartphone or tablet. It’s a technology that has grown substantially in the past few years and it’s expected to explode in the coming months.
- GPS technology. Built in to most smartphones and tablets, GPS technology is incredibly sophisticated and useful. It enables companies to plan better routes, track shipments, and save time, money, and resources.While it can be used in any industry, firms in the shipping and logistics industries have found GPS technology especially effective.
The best is yet to come
While it’s evident that mobile technology has significantly altered the way business is conducted in the U.S., it would be foolish to sit back and relax. If history is any indicator of the future, we have only touched the surface.
The coming months will unveil new technologies that will no doubt change the way we do business even further.