Update 8/10/12: Quite a few things have happened since I first reported on Apps for small business. I won't get into new apps for business, but I'll be focusing on the most important part of business. Payment!
Customer payment via an app is still sort of a problem. Google Wallet isn't taking off very well -as most of Google's 'new' products are wont to do. However there is rumblings out of Apple with their yet to be released Passbook app. For now we know for sure that it is a home for boarding passes, tickets, store cards and coupons but will it be offering customer pay at the register via NFC or Bluetooth 4.0 when the new iPhone is launched? In short, we don't know.
However, there is news out of the world of mobile payment and that comes from Square. If you're still unfamiliar with Square (Read all about it below) you'll be hearing a lot more about it over the next several months thanks to their deal to put the Pay with Square option in approximately 7,000 Starbucks stores (press release). That means that you'll be able to whip your smart phone and use it to pay at nearly all Starbucks locations.
The Starbucks deal won't be putting thousands of iPads in their locations but integrating Square's service into their current mobile payment/gift card app.
OK, so what does this have to do with Myrtle Beach small business? Glad you asked, one hyphenated word, mind-share. With the Square/Starbucks news the name brand of Square is in peoples minds and will continue to grow over the next year or so as all the Starbucks stores begin accepting this payment vehicle. So, for now it looks like Square might be winning the mobile payment war(s). With more people knowing what Square is, combined with their pretty awesome, lower than traditional credit card rates, it is pretty much a no brainer that your small business should offer Pay with Square as a payment option.
If you're interested in accepting Square as a payment for your business, check out their Square Register app for the iPad and if you want to start paying with Square or just check out the app and the area businesses that use Pay with Square check out the app here.
[note: it might read as such but no this was not a paid placement for Square, we just love technology here at TheDigitel and would like to stop carrying our wallets]
First Report 3/12/12: If Myrtle Beach has one thing, it's small businesses. From the frozen lemonade guy on the beach to the many airbrush spots at Broadway and every small bar and restaurant in between. But are local business owners utilizing the best tools for their business?
Wouldn't you, as a customer just love to be able to buy some of that tasty frozen lemonade with your debit card? As a restaurant owner wouldn't you enjoy being able to share the floor plan for your newest venture with your whole team without calling a meeting?
Starting and running a small business is easier than ever, and you can even run with the big dogs in today's game. Below I'll share some useful apps that we at TheDigitel and some of our like-minded friends use daily for their small business.
*Note: I've focused on iOS apps since Apple's platform is taking over as the go-to mobile business devices. However several of these are available on Android. Sorry Blackberry.
Let's talk payment!
Way back when (about 2009) setting up credit card transactions for your business was expensive and complicated. With transaction fees and monthly fees for the "convenience" of taking plastic it could end up costing small businesses more than they make - one of the reasons why some places have a minimum purchase for card transactions. All of that's changed now, thanks to a few app.
Square was the first in the game when it came to rethinking card-taking and fees. They created a little square card reader that plugs right into your phone's audio jack and with a swipe of a customer's card, you can type in the amount (even have sales tax ready to go), have the customer sign their name right on screen and then an email receipt is sent to the customer, complete with a map of where the transaction took place. The best part is that signing up for Square is free and they'll even send you a card reader in the mail - also free. The second best part - only 2.75% per swipe for Visa, MasterCard, Discover and AmEx. There are no transaction fees, no monthly fees, and next day deposits.
Got a store front? No problem. There's no need to buy an expensive register any longer with Square Register. Square Register replaces a conventional register but also serves as a POS system, additionally; Square Register gives business owners added benefits such as simple ways to give your regulars discounts, and allows for customers to pay with simply their name.
Not to be out done, but late to the game, Paypal is also now in the mobile card swiping game. PayPal Here is new and still in the invite only phase. They offer the same 2.75% as Square and a free card reader. But they do offer some extras that Square does not. PayPal Here offers the ability to snap a photo of a check and have it automatically deposited into your PayPal account. The drawback is accessing your money. Spending the money using a PayPal merchant debit card is free, however transferring the money into your bank account will cost you in fees and It usually takes 3-4 business days.
Some small businesses are just one person, while others are a team. If you're running a team-style small business then these apps below are for you.
Sure Skype is great on the desktop for chatting with friends, video-calling grandma, and even calling folks right on your computer, but on mobile you can do all that too. Skype is a great tool for teams to utilize as you can make Skype account to Skype account phone calls cheap or free. If you're calling another Skype number over WiFi, then it's free (for you), however data rates may apply over 3G. This helps save money on talk minutes. Additionally, you can make cheaper international phone calls when using Skype.
Setting up a phone number for your small business can be a hassle and can cost a pretty penny but, Google has made all that much easier and free with Google Voice. For more info check out the video directly below.
Business owners have ideas all the time and the sad fact is some of those ideas are lost throughout the day. Evernote offers a quick and easy way for you to capture your ideas, stay organized, and improve productivity. It lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders and makes these notes completely l, whether you are at home, work, or on the go. Evernote works and syncs across all of your devices - from cell to laptop to work desktop.
Documents To Go is the premier app for editing Microsoft Office files on the go. Very handy if quick edits need to be made on a presentation or last minute changes for a document before it's emailed.
Dropbox is the perfect way to share any and all documents, designs, photos, and videos with all of you business partners, teammates, or friends. It syncs across all your devices, from your phone to your computer to your tablet. You can set some folders as private and others to share with whomever.
CamCard is a business card scanner that allows you to take a photo of any business card and it automatically detects contact info, work place, and name on the card. This app is great so you keep your wallet business card free, and so your friends won't say you have a George Costanza wallet.
Ustream is a great way to have your own live show on the Internet, but it's also a very useful tool for real estate agents, news media and bands. Ustream Broadcaster allows you to live stream video from your phone to the world wide web. Fans, clients and friends can watch whatever it is your're broadcasting live. You can also simply record to the phone and then upload to Ustream.
Tank is a nifty little cheap gas finding app perfect for those who drive a lot for their job or do most of their business out of the trunk of ones car. Tank allows the user to find the cheapest gas stations by current location (GPS) or zip code.
With all of us using our phones for business and personal things, Private Info allows you to store vital information, photos, notes, video, and account info under lock and key - well, under pass code protection. You can load whatever you might need into Private Info and secure it with a 4 digit numerical code. That way if anyone snoops around your phone for sensitive info, they won't be able to access it.
We are hopeful this list is informative and helps out all you small business folks, both those new to the game and seasoned veterans.
So, what's your favorite apps for business?