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Posts Tagged ‘small business technology’


Small Biz Resource Tip: LogMeIn

January 17th, 2012 ::

LogMeIn

Darn! Did you leave something important on your work or home computer, and you need it now (but you’re in the other location)? LogmeIn can help you access your computer directly from your mobile device. The app allows you to access files from both Mac and PC computers and from your Android or iPhone and iPad devices. View important files with LogMeIn or even run computer-based applications such as Saleforce, Microsoft Office and Quickbooks. LogMeIn also recently added integrated Dropbox and Google Docs to make working in the cloud even easier for smartphone users.

Small Biz Resource Tip: Scanner Pro for iPhone

January 16th, 2012 ::

Scanner Pro for iPhone

When business can’t wait until you can get back to the office, having mobile tools ready at your disposal can save you tons of hassle and time. Why wait for someone to send you much-needed paperwork when you can scan important documents with your phone? Scanner Pro for iPhone turns your smartphone into a portable scanner just by downloading the app. It lets you scan multipage documents and email them to yourself, an employee or a waiting client. You can even scan and upload the files to Dropbox, MobileMe or any other WebDAV enabled server.

 

Mobile Shoppers Love to Search for Deals

January 16th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The just-passed holiday shopping season brought home to small retailers and e-tailers the power of mobile shopping. A recent survey from SapientNitro-GfK took a closer look at just how the growing popularity of mobile devices is affecting consumer shopping behavior.

More than one-third (39 percent) of the approximately 1,000 consumers surveyed said that digital devices have “enriched” their shopping experience during the holiday season. Among younger consumers aged 18 to 24, the percentage was even higher, with 47 percent agreeing.

Consumers also used the word “empowered” to describe how shopping with mobile devices made them feel. Overall, 38 percent said the devices made them feel empowered. Among tablet owners, 56 percent felt empowered; among consumers 18 to 24, almost two-thirds (64 percent) felt this way regardless of what type of device they used.

In addition to actually making purchases, 67 percent used mobile devices to browse for or research items (up from 44 percent in 2010); 60 percent used them to compare prices (up from 40 percent in 2010) and 48 percent used them to look for deals (up from 35 percent in 2010).

The study says GPS-enabled mobile computing is an area to watch for mobile shopping in the future. The survey asked about specific mobile applications and features and found:

  • 31 percent use the GPS/location feature on their device to shop
  • 30 percent use mobile apps to search for or purchase products
  • 20 percent looked or posted something on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks to get advice on products or find products
  • 19 percent used a QR code to get information about a product
  • 18 percent used a mobile coupon at point-of-purchase

Among tablet owners, however, this behavior was far more prevalent: 42 percent had used a mobile app to shop for or purchase products, and 41 percent had used a QR code to get information about a product.

“Imagine the day when you walk into a store and the retailer already knows something about you based on location-aware services,” said Davey. “The implications for retailers — in terms of targeted promotions or in-store navigation — are fascinating.”

Image by Flickr user Mosman Council (Creative Commons)

 

 

Small Biz Resource Tip: Alarm.com

January 11th, 2012 ::

Alarm.com

Forget to set your building’s security alarm before you left the office today? Alarm.com lets you activate (or deactivate) your alarm system directly from your mobile device so you don’t have to stress about precious office equipment getting stolen when you’re away. If your employees are responsible for opening and closing your business, no worries–Alarm.com can help you monitor when the office is opened and shut to make sure employees are on time. You can also keep track of locked drawers and storage areas to guard against snooping or theft. And because the system is wireless, you have the security of knowing it will keep working even when the power goes out.

 

Two Small Business Technology Programs Get Extended

January 10th, 2012 ::

By Karen Axelton

The National Defense Authorization Act recently signed into law by President Obama has gained notoriety for expanding the scope of the federal government’s authority against terror suspects. Drawing less attention, but perhaps more interesting to small business owners, is that it also reauthorized the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs for six years, Policy Forum Blog reports.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program, administered by the SBA’s Office of Technology,  aim to ensure that small, innovative high-tech businesses are involved in the federal government’s research and development efforts. Eleven federal departments participate in the SBIR program and five departments participate in the STTR program.

Both programs had been through temporary extensions for the past several years. In addition to a six-year reauthorization, the agreement, which was put forth by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), chair of the House Committee on Small Business, and Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, also includes these key changes:

  • Greater participation by small businesses that have significant private capital support, increasing venture capital participation to 25 percent for the National Institute of Health, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, and 15 percent for other participating federal agencies;
  • Increased award levels for both Phase I and Phase II. The award guidelines for SBIR and STTR will go from $100,000 to $150,000 for Phase I and from $750,000 to $1 million for Phase II; these are the first increases since 1982.
  • Increasing the SBIR program allocation from 2.5 to 3.2 percent and the STTR allocation from .3 percent to .45 percent. This will enable more small businesses to compete for R&D funds.
  • Standardizing parts of the application process across federal agencies to simplify the process for small businesses;
  • Demanding better coordination between the SBA and participating agencies to guard against waste, fraud and abuse in both the SBIR and STTR programs;
  • Requiring most agencies to review applications within 90 days, so that small businesses have a better idea of when they can expect a decision to be made;
  • Setting forth performance-based standards that will encourage businesses to focus on commercialization.

“Because of this deal, businesses will have peace of mind for the next six years,” said Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. “The nation’s innovators will have more access to federal research dollars, and the process by which they get the funding will be more efficient because we cut down the time for final decisions and disbursements.”

Image by Flickr user Francisco Diez (Creative Commons)

Mobile Shoppers Don’t Give Your Site a Second Chance

January 9th, 2012 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

This past holiday season proved that mobile shopping is here to stay. And a recent Limelight Networks survey of smartphone and/or tablet owners showed that consumers have high expectations when researching and buying products online. A whopping 80 percent of respondents said they will abandon a mobile site if the shopping experience isn’t up to par.

Three-fourths of these customers say they won’t give up on the company altogether—they’ll just visit the site later on a desktop computer. But one-fourth will give up on the company and visit different sites so they can complete their research or purchase. What’s more, 20 percent of consumers said they wouldn’t return in the future to a site that gave them problems on a mobile device.

So what do consumers expect from the mobile research or shopping experience? Here were the top 3 features as defined by respondents:

  • 88 percent said the time it takes for the site to load is extremely important or important
  • 88 percent said detailed product images on the site (such as being able to “zoom in” on product details) are extremely important or important
  • 82 percent said mobile site optimization, or how well the site fits the screen, as extremely important or important

The number of consumers shopping on a mobile device is only going to grow. Already 67.4 percent of those surveyed have used their device to shop online; 83 percent have researched and purchased a product on a mobile device; and 17 percent have just researched.

What does this mean to your business? Increasingly, consumers aren’t drawing a distinction between the mobile Web and the Web. They expect the same level of accessibility, detail and convenience whether they’re shopping from their phone or on their desktop computer. So if you’re still making excuses for why your website is subpar on a mobile device, you’d better stop—because your customers aren’t making excuses for you. They’re moving on to your competition.

Image by Flickr user Ron Bennetts (Creative Commons)

 

 

 

Is It Time to Shift to Cloud Computing?

December 27th, 2011 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Why do business owners choose cloud computing, and what benefits do they gain from it? A survey by CSC of IT decision-makers worldwide found that, while at one time cost savings was the primary reason for shifting to the cloud, today the major reason companies use the cloud is to access information on the multitude of mobile devices their employees use.

One-third (33 percent) of respondents said accessibility to information through multiple devices was the most important reason they switched to cloud computing. Twenty-one percent said it was to accelerate the speed of business, and 17 percent said it was to cut costs.

The focus on multiple device access was very pronounced among small companies. Forty-six percent of U.S. small businesses surveyed said information access through a multitude of devices was the most important reason for adopting the cloud; just 10 percent said cutting costs was most important.

Some other findings:

Although using the cloud is often promoted as a way to streamline IT, in reality 20 percent of companies surveyed added more IT staff after implementing the cloud; just 14 percent downsized their IT departments.

While companies are saving money with the cloud, it’s not a whopping figure—and bigger businesses generally saved more. Overall, 35 percent of U.S. companies saved less than $20,000, and among U.S. small businesses, 45 percent reported no savings at all.

That doesn’t mean there are no benefits. Cloud computing gave companies a green boost, helping them reduce waste and lower energy consumption. In addition, 93 percent of companies saw at least one area of improvement in their IT department after adopting cloud computing—most of them within six months.

Overall, small businesses were more open to cloud computing, probably because there are fewer layers of management to convince. Nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of small businesses reported that no one in their company resisted moving to the cloud.

Image by Flickr user Fractal Artist (Creative Commons)

 

The 15 Most Mobile-Savvy Cities in the U.S.

December 26th, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Is your small business based in Houston? Then you’d better start coming up with a mobile shopping strategy if you haven’t already done so. Why? Because Houston is the nation’s most mobile-shopping-savvy city, says a new study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The report looked at four criteria—the population’s ownership of mobile devices, likelihood of being influenced by mobile coupons, having at least one mobile retail app and having at least one social media app—to assess the mobile shopping savvy of each city’s residents. Here are the rest of the top 15:

2. New York City
3. Atlanta
4. Los Angeles
5. Dallas/Ft. Worth
6. Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg
7. Chicago
8. Philadelphia
9. Washington, DC
10. Seattle
11. San Francisco
12. Boston
13. Detroit
14. Minneapolis/St. Paul
15. Phoenix

The IAB conducted the study to highlight places where advertisers need to embrace mobile marketing tactics to woo customers. It also cited data from comScore about the desirability of mobile-savvy shoppers. These users are generally younger and more affluent, with 61 percent are under age 34 and almost half of them have household incomes of more than $75,000 annually.

How are mobile-savvy shoppers using their devices?

  • To find businesses: 15 percent
  • To compare prices/search for deals: 10 percent
  • To research products: 9 percent
  • To take a picture of items in a store: 14 percent
  • To scan a product barcode: 7.4 percent

Even if your business isn’t in one of the top 15 markets, you need to start developing a mobile marketing strategy to stay competitive. That might include targeting customers on their mobile devices, developing an app for your business or making sure your website is mobile-friendly.

Access the survey findings at the IAB website, where you can view details of mobile shopping demographics for each of the 15 cities.

Image by Flickr user Calsidy Rose (Creative Commons)

How to Make Your Email Marketing Effective in the Mobile Age

December 19th, 2011 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Email marketing is still one of the most effective tools for businesses of all sizes. But if you use email marketing for your small business, there’s something you should know: Today, more than one in five email marketing messages is opened on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet, reports a new study by digital marketing company Knotice, reported in Internet Retailer.

Knotice studied 6.5 million retail marketing emails for the first half of 2011 and found that 20.07 percent were opened on a mobile device—up substantially from 13.36 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. With the holiday shopping season increasingly “going mobile,” I’m guessing this quarter’s numbers will be up substantially from just a few months ago. In addition to opening the emails, users clicked on links in 11 percent of them.

What are the most popular devices for opening emails? Of all emails Knotice studied, 12.78 percent were opened on an iPhone, 3.92 percent on an iPad, 3.15 percent on an Android device, 0.22 percent on the now-defunct HP webOS (formerly Palm), 0.05 percent on a device running one of the Windows mobile operating systems, 0.01 percent on a BlackBerry and 0.11 percent on “other.”

What does this mean to you? If you’re sending emails as part of your marketing, you need to assume your recipients will be viewing them on a mobile device at least some of the time. Depending on your audience—if they’re teens, young adults, early tech adopters or others who are more likely than average to rely on mobile devices, that percentage is likely to increase.

So you need to be optimizing your emails for mobile viewing if you want customers to engage with them and take action. While the first step to optimization is tailoring how an email looks on a smaller screen, Knotice’s report says it’s just as important to consider what users do next after clicking on the email’s links.

“Marketers need to be thoughtful about how the message is rendered, but more importantly, how the user can take action in the most convenient way possible,” Knotice’s report states, urging marketers to optimize not only the email, but also the “post-click experience.” That might mean clicking through to a mobile-optimized site; tapping on a phone number to call a customer service representative; or providing their email address to have a shopping cart, wish list, product information or follow-up reminder sent to them so they can complete the action at a more convenient time. Taking users to a Web page that is too cluttered, hard to view or has too many choices for the smaller screen can be worse than not engaging them at all.

Image by Flickr user Annie Mole (Creative Commons)

 

 

Small Biz Resource Tip: Thankster

December 16th, 2011 ::

Thankster

There’s still time to get those business holiday gifts ordered and shipped–and now, you don’t have to let writing a handwritten card or note slow you down. Thankster, the personalized greeting card service, has just added gifts to their products and services, so now you can order online and add a handwritten card to the gift—all from your computer. Thankster lets you create your own digital handwriting font to use on its site by uploading your handwriting from your iPhone or Ipad or by filling out a page, scanning it and sending it electronically. You can also embed a QR code in the card to link to photos, video or other media.