Think you’re too connected to your mobile device? While some small business owners pulled the plug on their tech to enjoy better rest and relaxation during summer vacation, John Swanciger points out the ways that having your mobile tech on your hip can help your business.
Swanciger, CEO of the online small business community Manta, says mini computers are increasingly bringing convenience and competitive strengths to small business teams. Based on surveys of Manta’s 2.5 million members, he points to three ways small businesses are using mobile tech to be more agile, open, and nimble.
1. Agile. Manta’s polls show that more than 80 percent of small business owners use a mobile phone at least once a day and as often as every hour to track their operation’s progress. While “communications” is inncluded in that bucket, Swanciger says using the phone to talk was low on the list of most popular functions.
Instead, bosses are using the phone to check on customer fulfillment via e-mail, social channels, and the dashboards of apps like Square and PayPal. They’re also using mobile devices to check QuickBooks, manage staff via text message, and tweak their marketing messaging.
2. Open. Smart businesses leverage mobile technology to stay responsive to customers. “Today, people want to access your company on the platform they choose,” Swanciger says. “Sales may improve when you meet customers on their terms in their playing field.”
Swanciger says Manta is seeing more businesses enabling customers to communicate with them in whatever channel is most comfortable for the consumer. For instance, email is still a top method for receiving customer messaging, but it’s coming from and to a mobile device instead of a desktop. And Facebook has made it a lot easier for customers to communicate directly with a business, he says.
While Manta doesn’t have a demographic breakdown to show who’s using Facebook most, Swanciger says that anecdotal evidence shows it’s not just millennials. “It’s the preferred communication method for all customers now. Baby boomers are the largest growing group of Facebook users.” Mobile scheduling service apps, such as Open Table, are also increasingly popular among service businesses, he says.
To be sure, business-to-consumer businesses have readily adopted social media channels. But Swanciger says business-to-business operations are using them too: it’s just going to be more focused on operational issues.
3. Nimble. Small business owners have to wear a lot of hats at once, and Swanciger argues that mobile tech “gives them the instant omnichannel experience and allows them to field calls, manage forms, communicate with team members, and handle logistics immediately.”
Millennials might be more adept at this kind of multitasking, Swanciger says. “They’re used to texting and talking and watching Netflix at the same time and that behavior is moving into the business environment. It’s allowing businesses to be more productive. You can be see the customers who ‘like’ you on social media from your mobile screen while sending messages to them from your PC.”
“We’re seeing apps do what it used to take several different PC-based software platforms to do,” Swanciger says. “Spitting out invoices that you can send with your iPhone; schedule functions or workers’ hours; order inventory; manage timesheets—it’s all being driven through mobile.”
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