Can mobile tech really free up 2.5 billion hours?

What you may regard as an expense is actually a savvy investment

by Inc. Magazine

A recent poll by AT&T and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council reveals that investing in mobile technology can save small businesses (SMBs) a great deal of time and money. Smartphones, tablets, and mobile apps collectively save $67 billion a year, while also freeing up 2.5 billion hours of precious time. In addition, mobile technology can offer SMBs powerful marketing research tools and improve the customer experience. Here, we’ll explore some techniques and tools to help you leverage mobile technology in your own small business.

Tech that connects

Those billions of hours saved each year are due in large part to the ease of connectivity that workers now enjoy with virtually every constituency they need to interact with, including office colleagues, customers, suppliers, and more. Whether it’s filling out forms, sharing product inventories, tracking expenses, or keeping schedules in synch, countless mobile apps are helping save time, reduce costs, and share information. Mobile platforms like AT&T Mobile FormsTM make data collection a snap by allowing your remote workers to easily collect and submit inspection forms, work orders, sales orders, time sheets, or any custom business form. Tired of juggling emails, invoices, schedules, and payroll? Fleetmatics takes the paperwork off your desk and into the cloud, helping you manage invoices, schedules, and more—keeping remote employees from falling behind on correspondence and administrative tasks.

Short Message Service (SMS) marketing

SMS—or texting, as most of us call it—is a powerful way to reach consumers. Only 20 percent of emails are ever read, compared with 95 percent of text messages. Consider, too, that it takes recipients, on average, more than six hours to open the email you sent, but less than 15 minutes to view your texts. And emailed coupons are redeemed less than 1 percent of the time, while SMS coupon redemption averages around 20 percent. Many service providers are now providing affordable packages that allow SMBs to do much more with this technology. AT&T’s Messaging ToolkitSM, for example, allows users to easily create custom messages across five channels, including texts and social media, from a single platform.

Be safe with BYOD

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) refers to the growing practice of allowing employees to use their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops for job-related tasks. This saves businesses the expense of equipping their workforces with such devices, and since employees are already familiar with the tech gear they use in their personal lives, many say they are more productive when they use the same devices for work, saving, by one estimate, 81 minutes per week. To support the practice, many platforms have emerged to help businesses and IT departments manage workflows and maintain appropriate levels of security across different devices. Providers like MobileIron and AirWatch allow employees secure access to sensitive business data, making sure mobile users stay connected while keeping their personal and professional apps separated from each other.

Upward mobility

Mobile technology is now the new normal. In fact, 94 percent of small businesses currently use smartphones to conduct business—up almost 10 percent in the last year. If you aren’t using mobile technology to connect with coworkers and engage with clients, you’re missing powerful opportunities for savings, functionality, and business growth.