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The Best Apps for Your Business

Oct 1, 2012

  When Apple unveiled the iPhone 5 in September, sales exploded as millions reached for the bigger, thinner and longer living version of their beloved companion. For the first time since the original iPhone release, the size of the product's screen was lengthened so as to view more content but not stretch users' thumbs. Most importantly, downloads and apps are as responsive as an Aston Martin, and every bit as nimble. The keyword in the success of mcommerce is responsiveness, and Apple surpasses all previous standards with its redesigned Maps app, with which any user can view the world from above and pivot it with two fingers. Apple calls it Flyover, but users call it phenomenal.

  The slew of promises that comes with many mobile apps approaches productivity from every angle. As business owners find themselves becoming more and more mobile, the curiosity surrounding these collectible tools makes a visit to an iTunes or Android store feel like the grown up version of a trip to the candy shop. Hundreds of thousands of apps are available for iPhone, iPad and Android, with more being added by the minute. In the presence of so many options, it is easy to get lost in the fog when working from the Cloud. Here are some top picks to help independent retailers and wholesalers conduct business and have a little fun at the same time.

  Google Drive, built to replace Google Docs, is one of the latest offerings by the cyber giant. This file-sharing app tackles files of any kind, anywhere, from any device. If one employee is out in the field and another is at home, for example, employers can coordinate work between them from any remote location. "Store everything. Share anything," is the app's tagline, and with no file size limit for items users shuffle from place to place, it eradicates concerns for whether or not a file is too large to be emailed. As one of the most universal app makers, Google works and transitions seamlessly with PC, Mac and Android, and with their associated devices. Also offered by Google is Google Goggles, an app enabling users to search for items by taking photos rather than typing in keywords. For the visual learners of the world, it is the best tool since Swiss Army knives. Google apps for business start at $5 per user per month, or cost $50 per user annually.

  GoodReader lets users keep the proverbial kitchen sink on their mobile devices, and has earned much attention as a result. With a deceptively simple name, the app packs a powerful punch in handling files of any type in any location. Import a PDF, .txt file, .zip file, or any other type of file, and this app can handle it gracefully. In areas where a wireless Internet connection is patchy, GoodReader has been found to work more reliably than some Google apps, for a mere $4.99 per user.

  The web is not always easy on the eyes, especially when it is necessary to read documents or articles that fill more than one mobile screen. Instapaper is an app that acknowledges this common mobile hang-up and addresses the issue of eyestrain. The $3 app makes it possible for users to save written items on an iPad, iPhone or Kindle for later reading with the touch of a button. By revisiting the headline, users can read the article or document in a sleeker, gentler layout. The option to change a screen to white text on a black background, or any combination of grays, comes in handy at night, as well.

  FastCustomer is an app that was developed because no customer appreciates slow service, especially when waiting on hold for an answer to a question. No matter how appealing the hold music, how inoffensive the answering service, or how accommodating the automated voice response system, being on hold is still being on hold, and most people do not want to wait. FastCustomer initiates a call back from the company, liberating patrons from the holding pattern. The tool has helped eliminate nearly two million minutes on hold. Companies looking to employ this service can work with the FastCustomer team to build a plan, starting at $5,000 per month.

  While the handshake is undeniably the most used greeting in any networking situation, Bump is on its way to changing that. This free app takes the phrase, "let's put our heads together" to a new level. The app works by allowing users to input contact information that would otherwise be on a business card, including a photo to attach faces to names, then exchange this information by literally "bumping" two smartphones together. When the phones make contact, the app exchanges contact information between the two app users, more easily than swapping business cards and in a more physically interactive way.

  Dropbox is an app that has been around for a while and has a high standard for updates. One of the more recent tweaks this sharing and storage aid has adopted is to free users from having to hit a refresh button to update folders after files are added, moved or subtracted. Engineers have also developed a unique two-factor authentication process for login, which prevents spamming and increases security, both of which are core issues in the information industry. Available for iPad, iPhone and Android, Dropbox is quick and easy to use. Install the Dropbox software on an office desktop or laptop, then add the app to any mobile devices within the company where information may need to be distributed. Any file stored in the corporate Dropbox folder is immediately accessible on all associated devices. The software and app are platform neutral, unlike iCloud, which works well for companies that have employees using both PC and Apple devices. Compatibility is no longer an issue, and a variety of pricing plans are available, beginning at $795 per year, plus $125 for each additional user.

  Another app, called DocuSign, lines up well with companies requiring documents to be signed. To have items signed, users add documents and signers, then send the documents for signatures. The added security of a personal signature is appealing to businesses and customers alike, and among its peers, DocuSign is the leading signature app. It is one of the more user-friendly products on the market, and can help any business move its electronic paperwork along in a more efficient manner. DocuSign works with all tablet platforms, including Apple and Android. It is priced as low as $20 per month per user, for businesses of up to 200 employees, and other options are also available.

  Finally, there is Square, which has caused perhaps the biggest stir of 2012, since caffeine kahunas at Starbucks announced the chain would offer payment through mobile scans to its customers. This accelerates the ability of small businesses to grow, according to Stephen Burke, president of mobile at Resource Interactive, which worked to facilitate the partnership between Starbucks and Square. Founded in 2010 by the creator of Twitter, and beloved by independent businesspeople nationwide, Square is quickly leveraging itself to change the way consumers make purchases, whether between wholesalers and retailers, or at the local coffeehouse. As this technology develops, more and more businesses may wish to adopt this payment option, and can expect for customers to request this convenience. The app charges a fee of 2.75 percent per transaction, or a flat rate of $275 for businesses that process at least $250,000 annually.

  Contrary to what you learned as a child, it can be a good idea for you to keep your head in the Clouds. In choosing which apps to introduce to employees, it is important to go forth with a plan, and with thorough knowledge of what the app is and is not capable of doing. Mobile web traffic continues to grow and is up 103 percent, from this time last year, according to digital marketing company Monetate. Business apps are quickly becoming as multifunctional as the devices that host them, and the bar for functionality is set high. By harnessing the right blend of apps, it is possible for business owners to prevent problems they may have never considered.

 For more information:

 Google Drive
 Tel.: 866-954-1565
 Email: Online contact form
 Website: google.com/enterprise/apps/business/products.html#drive

 Email: Online contact form
 Website: www.goodiware.com

 Email: instapaper.support@marco.org
 Website: www.instapaper.com

 Email: Online contact form
 Website: www.fastcustomer.com

 Email: support@bu.mp.com
 Website: http://bu.mp/company/

 Email: Online contact form
 Website: www.dropbox.com/teams

 111 Sutter Street, Ste. 1000
 San Francisco, CA 94104
 Tel.: 866-219-4318
 Email: sales@docusign.com
 Website: www.docusign.com/products/docusign-mobile

 110 5th Street
 San Francisco, CA 94103
 Tel.: 415-375-3176
 Email: Online contact form
 Website: squareup.com/register

Topic: Web Tech Tips

Related Articles: Apple  Apps  Mcommerce  Mobile Commerce 

Article ID: 1663

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