Nearly one-third of small businesses use mobile apps, with the top three reasons being to save time, increase productivity and reduce costs, according to a recently released AT&T Small Business Technology Poll.
They're utilizing a variety of different mobile applications, including those for mapping and navigation, location-based services, document management and accepting mobile payments in the field, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,000 small businesses nationwide.
The use of apps will become more prevalent as the office environment becomes increasingly mobile, experts said.
"I think it will continue to grow," said Cathy Martine, executive vice president of small business solutions and alternate channels for AT&T in Bedminster, N.J.
Small-business owners "are very much in need of applications that can help them run their business," she said.
Even more so as they use several mobile devices, including tablets.
In fact, more than two-thirds of small businesses surveyed indicate they use tablet computers, the AT&T poll found.
For many businesses, "a wireless device sort of becomes their office on the go," Martine said.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Choosing from the plethora of apps out there could be overwhelming, but you can try out some of the free programs first and also ask colleagues what they're using, said Craig Yaris, owner of Social Ribbit, a boutique digital marketing agency in Plainview.
He uses several apps, including Dropbox for file storage, Evernote for notes and document management, Square for mobile transactions and Google Drive, formerly Google Docs, for file storage and document processing. While many are free, Yaris spends around $80 a year on mobile app subscriptions, including an upgraded version of Evernote that allows for more storage.
"We're such a mobile society now," said Yaris, who also is an instructor for Hofstra University Continuing Education. "Businesses need to be able to have all their information available to them at any time, and apps help them to do that."
UPDATE YOUR SCHEDULE
An uptick in business prompted Howard Kipnes, president of Cedar Knolls, a Ronkonkoma-based modular home builder, to start using Evernote for the first time about a month ago.
"The need was there," he said.
He uses Evernote to help with production scheduling of homes in the process of being built. The voice recorder feature allows him to leave himself voice messages that he can forward to staff via email.
"It becomes this mobile concise database," Kipnes said.
PROCESS PAYMENTS, SET EVENTS
With these kinds of apps, it makes it incredibly easy to run your business from just about anywhere, said Mark Neuwirt, president of Expos Your Business, a business-event planner and trade-show producer in Jericho.
Among the apps he uses are Square to accept payments at the door of events/trade shows and Eventbrite, which allows people to register for events via the app and for him to check them in at the door. He also uses Dropbox on his personal computer, which allows him to transfer high-resolutions files of any size, but plans to start using the app version as well.
"If I have my phone and iPad with me .?.?. I can operate my business as if I was sitting in the office," Neuwirt said. "These apps are critical to my business."