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Mobile tech

Saving time, money for businesses

Martin Desmarais

Much has been written about the growth of the mobile technologies industry and the importance of small businesses making sure their products and services can reach consumers through the growing spectrum of handheld devices. However, for small business owners it is equally important to note that using mobile technology as a business tool for employees also is a critical factor in improving the bottom line.

The most recent AT&T and Small Business Council survey on mobile technology, released last year, found that mobile technologies are saving businesses in the United States massive of money — an estimated $67.5 billion a year.

Using mobile apps, tables and smartphones in day-to-day business activities reduces employee hours spent on many of the crucial tasks that keep companies running. The survey found that employee use of mobile apps save almost 600 million hours annually, while smartphones and tablets save businesses about 2 billion hours annually.

“Clearly, we are at a point where entrepreneurs now look first to communications technologies and innovations for solutions to improve productivity, cut costs and better manage and engage with customers,” said Small Business Council President and CEO Karen Kerrigan. “That is time and money that can go back into driving sales and innovating in the marketplace.”

But it is not as if business owners and employees are just kicking up their feet with all the time saved — they are using the time to focus on tasks that grow businesses, including increasing sales, improving engagement with customers and researching their industry to learn about new trends or competitors.

“In the current economy, mobile technologies are critical to enabling small businesses to save tremendous amounts of time and money by helping them do more with less,” said Cathy Martine, AT&T President of Enterprise Business Solutions. “As a result, we’re seeing more and more small business owners and employees turning to mobile technologies to not only keep them connected but to put them ahead of the curve, as well as their competition.”

Smartphones are the most common mobile technology used by employees for day-to-day business tasks now. The survey also found that the average number of days small business employees use smartphones to conduct business exceeds the average number of days they are open for business. While small businesses are open on average 5.7 days a week, they are using smartphones to conduct business seven days a week.

The survey found that companies reported 94 percent of their employees use smartphones to conduct business. More than half of small business report that they use mobile apps, with most of them saying that it helps save time. Two-thirds of the small businesses surveyed say mobile technologies save them money — an estimate of up to $500 a month ($6,000 a year).

Other findings from the AT&T and Small Business Council survey include:

  • As businesses become more mobile, owners report an increase in use and device dependency.
  • Approximately three-quarters of small businesses report their use of mobile devices has increased because it allows them to operate remotely.
  • Small businesses also attribute the rise in device use to an improvement in operational efficiencies, time savings and an increase in employee productivity.
  • Nearly one-third of small businesses have seen their use of mobile data at least double over the past two years due to such common activities as downloading and uploading files on their mobile devices.
  • Over the last two years, the use of mobile apps by small businesses has increased by 65 percent. Of the small businesses that use mobile applications, the majority (92 percent) are using smartphones to tap into apps.
  • Also, more than three-fourths (77 percent) are consistently relying on three or more mobile apps. The most commonly used app types were remote document access, travel planning and banking/finance management.

So what exactly are some of the key mobile technologies that small business employees are using, aside from smartphones and apps that are becoming pretty much a requirement for modern business practice?

An increasingly commonplace mobile technology for small business employees is the tablet. Though a tablet cannot replace a laptop it can do some of the same functions and offers more ease of use than smartphones with a large touch-screen interface. A recent study by technology solutions company CDW found that over 80 percent of working professionals surveyed say tablets improved their multitasking capabilities and that most spend about two hours a day using them.

Cloud technology, though still in its infancy with its full potential yet to be realized, is another mobile technology that is changing the way employees do business on the go. Utilizing the data backup, mobile computing and file sharing that cloud technology provides can be a game changer for a small business moving from more traditional physical servers.

Mobile point-of-sale and mobile credit card readers are enabling more and more businesses to make sales straight from a smartphone or tablet outside of physical retail locations and unburdened by expensive and static payment systems. It allows for business that wasn’t possible before and it reduces overhead, while increasing sales.

Lastly, GPS technology, common on most mobile devices, is more and more technologically advanced and useful to small business employees on the go beyond just find directions. GPS can also be used to track employee travel and make it more efficient, as well as track inventory and shipments.