“There’s an App for That!”
I recently had an infamous Greek salad at Zorbas Restaurant on Bonita Beach Road in Bonita Springs, FL. The place must hold about 200 people at full capacity—a decent sized restaurant that could be classified as a small business—that is continuously well occupied. Upon leaving this time, I noticed the cash register being nothing more than an iPad on a stand over a money drawer. I handed the hostess my credit card. She scanned it alongside the electronic device and I was quickly on my way. Before leaving I asked about the contemporary looking software running on her iPad. She was quick to show me the program, rather the “app,” that ran on the iPad and even individual iPhones. The app not only helps manage cash/credit intake but also supports traffic flow of patrons, alerting management which tables are, or soon-to-become, vacant including other valuable data. She went on to say how management can check in on restaurant flow remotely making staffing decisions and better control operations and processes so much more efficiently than before. Very cool! (If you go to check it out in person, be sure to also order the Greek salad with grilled chicken. Zorba’s use of tech and the food they serve are both amazing!)
Proud of my new MacBook Pro laptop I headed to the Apple store at Waterside Ships to buy a few accessories. For anyone who has visited this location, or pretty much any Apple store for that matter, entering is like jumping into a sea of interested consumers, gadget hounds and intelligent-salespeople elbowing into and about the latest, greatest Apple product info, features, bennies and lessons. I was helped by an Apple Genius and was able to pick out the keyboard and mouse I needed in a flash. Rather than wait in a line to cash out (expected at virtually every retail store with this kind of traffic), the sales person scanned my credit card on his iPhone—equipped with a credit-card-swiper casing—in the store where the product was handed to me (mind you, far from the checkout area). He then walked two feet to a tiny mobile printer and conveniently collected my receipt and handed it off to me. In this example, Apple optimized the point of sale and turned over a customer quickly. Think of how many times you decide to purchase a product due to impulse; impulse that is painfully reversed while waiting in line as buyer’s remorse, financial reality or screaming kids who have to exit at that very moment, detour purchase completion? Apple allowed no time for that to happen here. I arrived and received immediate attention. I quickly found what I needed. They instantly took my money. And, I was out. Bam! As simple as that! Convenience for me, the customer, and a fast turnover for the store. Now that genius can service twice as many customers and productivity and margins of the store are poised to increase. Awesome! (I love my new Macbook, keyboard and mouse, btw!)
Example 3 (this one will blow you away):
So, where is this tech stuff really heading? Tesco is the #2 grocery store in Korea mostly because their main competitor (the #1 company) has more brick & mortar locations. Instead of buying up more stores to compete more aggressively, they decided to bring the store to the customer. They did this by recreating isles with lighted displays in subway stations; essentially creating a virtual store. Busy commuting customers can shop while they wait for the train. Once they’ve located what they want, like a carton of milk and a dozen eggs, for example, they simply scan the QR code next to that product. The items go into a shopping cart on their phone and the groceries are delivered to their door around the time that they get home that day. Now they can spend more time with family and doing things they want on their own time. Online sales have increased 130% and registered users are up 76%. Perhaps a sign of things to come in how and where we’ll be shopping. Check out the case study and video here: http://www.adverblog.com/2011/06/23/tescos-subway-virtual-store/
Technology is Changing Business of All Sizes
Businesses of all sizes are using mobile technologies to improve productivity, provide greater benefits for their customers and better support sales. Specifically, the market for small business apps is set to double by 2014. This is mostly due to the access, costs and availability of productivity apps to help support this segment. So Is a smart phone or Tablet with business supporting apps right for you and/or your small business? Maybe. Here are some really cool apps that might sway you to get in the game if you haven’t already or use your technology more effectively.
Freshbooks: an online invoicing software as a service for freelancers, small businesses, agencies, and professionals. The product includes a myriad of other related features, such as time tracking, expense tracking, recurring billing, online payment collection, the ability to mail invoices through the U.S. Post, and support tickets. Works on iPhone, Blackberry and/or Droid devices.
Expensify: A free app that helps you keep track of expenses (and receipts) while traveling. Log mileage, file expense reports, and upload a limited number of receipts using your phone’s camera. Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, WebOS, and BlackBerry devices.
ProntoForms: automates time sheets for Blackberries
Square: Accept credit cards anywhere with your iPhone or iPad! You can get a free reader in the mail (or enter the numbers in manually) and take payments like a real business. The app is also free (Square makes it money by taking a cut of every transaction).
Time Master + Billing: Stay on task with your small business which also helps with billing via an optional module. Invoice your time on the go. It sells for $9.99.
TripIt: an easy way to keep up with multiple flights, car rentals, and hotel reservations. Just forward all travel confirmation e-mails to planstripitcom and Tripit delivers a master itinerary to your phone. The basic app is free, but added features (like tracking frequent-flier miles) cost $49 a year. Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, and BlackBerry devices.
(if you have any cool apps that help improve business, email me at abiasismartmarkeitngllccom)
Using apps and/or mobile devices/tech for your business may not be right for you or your small to medium sized business—right now. Nonetheless, it’s evolving quickly and can help improve productivity, margins and even market share, if used appropriately.
• Kwan, Micheal, “Top iPad Apps For Small Business Owners,” Smartlife, April 6, 2011.
• Lev-Ram, Michal, “Five Best Business Apps” CNNMoney, June 7, 2011
• Adverblog, “Tesco’s Subway Virtual Store,” June 23, 2011
• Cheng, Roger, “Making Business Better-One App at a Time,” Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2011.
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and has taught Marketing at New York University for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasismartmarketingllccom, visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396.