Mobile devices enable small businesses to work flexibly, when and where they want. Using the phone as the office opens the door to remote working, which gives small business owners flexibility in where they work, improves productivity and saves money on physical office space. By 2016, 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will be working remotely, according to Telnames. For the U.K., within a decade this will reach 60 percent. And, 20 percent of iPads are purchased for business use. To attract new customers, businesses—particularly SMBs—must have an online presence that is mobile-friendly. The best way to do this is to own their own place online with a domain name under the business’ control, which search engines see as more authoritative than a listing on a third-party service.
Accepting payments via a mobile phone means small businesses can securely accept card payments while saving money on payment infrastructure. Using smartphones and tablets at the point of sale is cheaper to install and simpler to use than traditional cash registers. Also, smartphones and tablets cost a fifth of what cash registers go for. Numbers support the growing movement towards mobile payments: PayPal said it will process $10 billion in mobile payments globally in 2012. Worldwide, mobile payments are expected to reach $617 billion, with 448 million users by 2016, according to Gartner.
Making More Money Online
E-commerce is vital to any small business as consumers increasingly spend more money online. The number of Internet users will increase to about 3.5 billion by the end of 2013, up from around 2.2 billion at the end of 2011. Global e-commerce will approach $1.25 trillion by 2013. In the United States, by 2016, 192 million customers will each be spending $1,738 a year, according to Forrester.
Being Found Online
Having an online presence makes it easier for potential customers to find out information about any small business, such as location, products and services. All small businesses need a Website for that people can find via their desktop computer or mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Searches on mobile devices currently stand at 10 to 15 percent of global search volume and are growing, according to Telnames, adding that 40 percent of all Google searches have local intent, while 53 percent of Bing searches have local intent. Still, only 2 percent of U.S. small businesses have a mobile-ready Website, and 58 percent don’t have a Website of any kind. Why? Current offerings for online services available to SMB professionals are either expensive, complex or too time-consuming for most, making many hesitant to dive in even when they realize that an online presence is critical to their...
Getting New Customers
Marketing is key for any business hoping to acquire new customers and reach current ones. One of the most efficient ways to do this is via social media. There are a billion global Facebook users, and half a billion are on Twitter. In fact, 82 percent of people online use social networking sites, and 43 percent of businesses have noticed an improvement in sales due to social campaigns, Telnames officials said. Still, less than 20 percent of SMBs’ Websites in the United States have a link to a Facebook page, and fewer have links to Twitter and LinkedIn.
Keeping Customers Happy
High-quality customer service is vital for driving customer loyalty and satisfaction. Delivering this through social media brings significant cost savings, increased ease of use and improved efficiency by enabling businesses to respond in real time to customer queries. For example, 17 percent of smartphone users have used social media for customer service purposes in the last year, according to Telnames. Eighty-three percent of social media users have not completed an intended purchase because of poor customer service, and on average will inform 53 other people. But done right, there are rewards for good customer server: social media users are willing to pay a 21 percent premium for brands and retailers that deliver great service through social media.
Improving Business Performance
Understanding customers and their behavior helps businesses maximize their marketing budgets. Mobile analytics help small businesses understand their performance and plan more effectively for the future. However, only 40 percent of companies measure how well their businesses perform using indicators such as leads generated, conversation rates, sales and purchases. Only 10 percent of businesses are actively monitoring return-on-investment (ROI). Two-thirds of businesses that use Facebook admit to not using any form of analytics either because they don’t have time, it’s too complicated, or it’s too hard to understand, Telnames officials said.
Creating and storing spreadsheets and documents, ordering the correct amounts of stock, and effectively accounting and budgeting are vital for any small business. The cheapest and most effective way to do this is through cloud-based applications such as Google Docs and Xero. Cloud-based applications offer small businesses flexibility and save money, compared to traditional desktop-based applications. Seventy-six percent of small businesses have saved money using cloud services and 64 percent of small businesses already use at least one cloud-based service.
Getting More Done
Productivity apps help to reduce the time spent on day-to-day tasks, enabling SMB owners and staff to focus on improving business performance. Fifty-one percent of small businesses cite improving productivity as one of the top three challenges they face, and 53 percent of U.S. businesses that use smartphones and tablets report a 10 percent rise in productivity, Telnames officials said. Businesses in the United States are seeing productivity gains of up to 36 percent from employees using both personal and business mobile devices.