Apps have become a staple of contemporary life and modern-day convenience. For small business owners, apps can support a more effective way of working – increasing productivity and collaboration, driving marketing and sales, and streamlining operations.
Technology is changing the way that we live and the way we work. At home, apps help us organize our lives, manage our finances, monitor our health, and play Among Us (beware, it's addictive). The scope for business is equally broad.
In the extremely competitive world of business, apps level the playing field by adding useful capabilities for smaller operations. For example, accounting apps such as Xero, Sage One, or Intuit QuickBooks give small business owners access to technology previously reserved for larger organizations.
What's a business app?
A business app is software, or a set of computer programs, used to solve a business problem or provide a function — such asfinance or HR. They're designed to boost and measure productivity, perform business functions, and increase capacity. Most are cloud-based applications – pulling information from a secure, shared location – giving users access at the office, on the road, or at home.
They're user-friendly and intuitive (you don't need to be a tech-guru or a finance-whizz to use an accounting app). And most are responsive so that you can use them on any device – anytime, anywhere.
Working smarter, not harder
Business apps are ubiquitous in working life. What's more is that they are always on – working in the background, supporting the essential parts of your business. For example, accounting apps process your income and expenses, while point-of-sale apps let you take customer payments and monitor your stock. Others track the success of your marketing campaigns – providing detailed reports on demand!
The significance? Your business is always working, even when the lights are off, and you and your team have gone home.
The app life
For small businesses, apps can be a lifeline — enhancing capabilities, boosting resources, and giving users added control over their business. Used effectively, they can provide the insights required to make better decisions, be more time-efficient, and save money across your business.
There's an app for almost everything, and the app store grows daily! From managing your cash flow, payroll, inventory management, and eCommerce, to project management, web analytics, and website building – apps have you covered.
An inventory management app, for example, provides constant, up-to-date information on what's in stock, what's on order, and what needs to be ordered. It's also highly functional, letting you make orders, fulfill deliveries, and even take payments through one piece of software.
Some of our favorites
With so many apps on the market, it's difficult to know where to start! Here are our best picks for optimal business management:
Accounting: Intuit QuickBooks
QuickBooks is designed to empower self-employed and small businesses with services to manage income, expense tracking, and more. It enables you to focus on running your business. Using QuickBooks, you can view financial statements, track sales and expenses, pay outstanding bills, and create custom online invoices , manage payroll, and more.
Sounds dreamy, right? Plus, you can provide your accountant with access so they too can manage our records remotely – making it easy to collaborate.
Expense management: Expensify
Expensify simplifies business expenses. It allows users to easily capture receipts on the go by using the camera on their mobile device. That data is then fed into the expense-reporting software, and a report is automatically created, filled out, and submitted for you. Admin users then have a new, simpler way to manage expense transactions online. Convenience at its best.
Communications: Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is the great unifier, combining instant messaging and video conferencing on a hub built for sharing and collaborating. Connected to your other Microsoft apps — from your calendar to Microsoft Planner — it brings your team together for a more productive and connected experience.
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that offers a professional online storefront with excellent shipping, fulfillment, payment, and inventory control systems. What about marketing tools? Shopify has that too, with built-in tools that help you create, execute, and analyze your digital marketing campaigns.
Asana empowers teams 'to do great things together' by providing a platform for improved communication and collaboration. It’s a web and mobile app designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their work and is especially useful if overseeing projects. Asana also integrates with Google Drive and Dropbox to attach files, and Slack for communication!
Mailchimp is a simple marketing automation tool that provides several easy options for designing and sending your business emails. Whether you need to sell your products, share some big company news, or tell an ongoing story through marketing campaigns, Mailchimp gives you a simple way to directly reach out to your audience. Plus, you’ll get quick insights into the success of your emails and newsletters with analytics.
Your data in one place
As businesses use more apps, the next challenge is consolidating the data from each in one place. That's where 9Spokes comes in. Our business Tracker aggregates data from the apps you use to run your business — from finance to HR, and every vital thing in between — to provide insights you can use to inform decision making.
Let's take James, a busy furniture store owner who wants to stay on top of his business's key areas. He's recently set up an eCommerce facility to offset a decrease in footfall to his brick-and-mortar store, and wants to monitor his inventory, cash flow, and marketing activities.
Managing his inventory is essential to ensuring items are in stock for customers — in-store and online — and optimizing limited storage space. He does this by using Shopify. He connects Shopify to his 9Spokes business dashboard and adds the metrics (tiles) he wants to see — Product performance, Stock on hand, and Sales revenue, in this case.
James also needs to be careful to manage his cash flow in line with his business needs. He uses QuickBooks to do this. Again, he connects QuickBooks to his dashboard and adds the Cash and commitments tile to help him stay on top of his cash on hand and upcoming invoices and bills.
Finally, to inform his customers that they can now purchase items online, James is running a targeted email marketing campaign and wants to track its success. He's also running a second campaign to promote new stock. Although James is no marketing expert, he can easily track his email campaigns' performance by connecting the Campaign Performance tile powered by Mailchimp.
Using the 9Spokes business dashboard, he sees all of this information in one place. Plus, he’s kept up to date on how things are tracking, he can adapt his strategy should the need arise. Easy.
To app or not to app
Business life is hectic. Packed with brilliant features and tools, apps are an efficient way to improve your processes and better support your customers. Whether you use an online accounting app to manage your invoicing and accounts, social media platforms to engage and build relationships with customers, or POS software to manage eCommerce, apps can help you to drive your business forward.