I bet that 99% of you reading this article either have an iPad, an iPhone, or will have an iPad or iPhone in the next year. I also bet that your customers are like you.
This is what I've noticed happening in the past year: small business owners started appearing at trade shows and in their businesses with iPads. I realized that these were the same people who couldn't be tied to their PC's for more than 15 minutes at a time. They were the first in line to sign up! It's really amazing how a group of people who were arguably the most technically challenged and data phobic became the embracers of innovation.
The Brick by Imagiu - take a picture of a room and place furniture
in that room. Browse inventory items. See the latest promo.
This is what the Internet was like 15 years ago. Everyone at that time was talking about getting a website (and every 3 years they still talk about getting a new website). What is happening now is that apps are becoming similar to websites.
Let's think about this for a moment. What are websites? They are gateways to your business.
They are gateways that run on the Internet platform. My belief is that the Internet platform is metamorphosing. It is changing because of the devices that consumers and business owners are now using: mobile devices, iPads, iPhones, Android devices. People have made it loud and clear that they don't want to be tied down and wired in. They want to be free, wireless, and connected through the cloud. Apple and Google have led the way and it's not stopping. iPad and Android devices are the new platforms. The Internet is just their invisible platform - their cloud.
I'm going to make another prediction. Within 5 years, 99% of you reading this will have your own app. I think that you can see what I'm seeing now, right? If you and your customers are using these new devices and platforms, you will want your customers to be able to reach you on them. You will want their iPad to connect to your business instead of your competitor’s business.
Apps: The New Gateways
But apps aren't web sites. Apps are simpler. They are faster. They are more focused on tasks and results. Amazing. To me that sounds like what a website could only dream of being. You may ask, "People can go to my website now on their iPad just by using a browser; why will I need an app?” That is true; they can. And it is also true that people prefer apps. For news, someone could just go to CNN.com on their iPad, right? Well, they don't. They download the app for CNN and interact with that. When furniture or kitchen shopping, people could go to ikea.com on their iPad but instead they are downloading the Ikea catalogue app and interacting with that. americanleather.com is still on the Internet, however, the app is beautiful and functionally superior on the iPad. Why navigate a site when you could interact with an app?
Now, I'm not asking you all to run out and spend thousands of dollars on creating your own app today (well at least not until you are educated about what you need). What I do suggest is that you invest in an iPad if you don't have one. And then, learn about the various apps that are currently available to you. Think about how you can make your business better for everyone involved - for you, for your customers, and for your employees.
So, to get your creative juices flowing, here is a sampling of business productivity apps that my consulting clients and I are using:
Pages - word processing by apple. MS Word compatible. Cloud storage.
2X Client or Jump Desktop RDP - control your PC on your iPad and access your Macintosh or Windows-based software system from anywhere. There is no longer a need to ever leave your customer.
PDF Reader - easy to read and present PDF based documents. Cloud storage.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter - the leaders in social media.
Yelp - customer reviews. By the way, encourage your customers to post here.
Sketchpad - sketching is proven to increase average sales; iPads are proven to grab consumers’ attention. Combine the two.
Icovia - room planning on the go. Free your salespeople. Empower your customers.
Pandora - if you control the music, you control the mood of the room.
Measures - take a picture of a room, note the measurements, and send an email.
Calculator - when you need this app a sale is just around the corner.
The Brick by Imagiu - take a picture of a room and place furniture in that room. Browse inventory items. See the latest promo.
Maps - don't get lost.
Roambi - this is a business intelligence (BI) app that I use to help clients view their critical metrics from anywhere. This puts your key sales, inventory, and financial figures literally in the palm of your hands.
BSC - balanced score carding is an app that I use to help clients set strategic objectives and smaller goals to help them achieve their objectives.
InFlowchart - ever wonder if there was a more efficient process? This is an app that I use to create and display custom business operation charts for clients.
American Leather - see what innovative manufacturers are doing.
Square - take a credit card payment anywhere any time.
FaceTime - free video and teleconferencing between iPad and iPhone devices.
There are too many others to mention. The speed of app download is like a rocket. Apple sells over 30 million apps per day. Consumers have spoken. The iPad has changed the way business is done. All aboard?
Note: This article was written and submitted on an iPad at 40,000 feet. No wires.
David McMahon is a business consultant for PROFITconsulting, a division of PROFITsystems; writer; and innovator. If you wish his help improving your business, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.