Think your new tablet is strictly for entertainment purposes? Think again. Small businesses are rapidly finding innovative ways to use tablet computers (iPad, Kindle Fire, Playbook, etc.) to connect with clients, market while on the go, and enhance customer experiences. With the deluge of apps available in the marketplace geared toward tablet devices like the iPad, we small business owners can have the latest technology at a fraction of the cost of more traditional setups.
Here are a few ways a tablet can help your business.
1. Cut Staffing Costs
It seems odd to think that a tablet could replace your workers, but that’s what the iPad is doing for many restaurants nationwide. Tech savvy restaurants either put the tablets in the hands of the servers to process the orders more quickly, or the tablets are installed at the tables, where diners can customize and order their food directly through the device. Servers still bring the food out, but the use of tablets cuts down on the staff needed to process orders.
Point-of-sale systems for restaurants like ISISPOS also make it easy to seat tables, update menus and accept payments, all from a tablet.
2. Accept Payment on the Go
If your business is too small to really benefit from merchant services and credit card processing, but would like to accept credit cards, the tablet can help you do that. Mobile processing apps like Square were introduced with the iPhone, but tablets make payment processing even more accessible. You accept payments by swiping a credit card through a small card reader that can be attached to your iPad, your customers sign their names on the tablet, and you can email them a receipt.
Rather than pay up front for merchant service equipment, you pay per transaction, which makes credit card processing so much more accessible to small businesses on tight budgets.
3. Beef Up Your Presentations
Tablets are sleek, sexy and fun. Because they’re so portable, they make great digital portfolios for you to show off your work. Photographers and designers find tablets ideal for showing off images when visiting clients.
There are also some great presentation apps, like Keynote, that help you put together animated presentations. You can easily plug your tablet into a projector to share it with an audience, or send the presentation to participants via email.
4. Save a Tree
We all hate forms, don’t we? Rather than asking customers to fill out a paper form that you then have to type into your database, you can have a client fill out an application or contract on a tablet. The information is immediately entered into your database, and you no longer have to try to decipher bad handwriting. Contract Maker offers commonly used templates, and you can also design your own contracts.
5. Conduct Inventory
If you run a business that has inventory, a tablet can make inventory tracking and auditing a snap. Just take a tablet with you to the warehouse or storage room -- no laborious hand note-taking or having to go find a computer. Apps such as Inventory Tracker make the job easy.
6. Issue Estimates, Invoices and Receipts
Sync up your tablet computer with QuickBooks Online, using the QuickBooks Mobile app. Or simply use regular QuickBooks or another accounting or invoicing service using your tablet (check out this list of 50 Online Invoicing Apps for Small Businesses). If you’re out calling on customers or new prospects, you’ll be able to issue estimates, invoices and/or receipts right there (you know what they say about sales – strike while the iron is hot!). Even if you don’t normally issue invoices this way, consider that you may need to now and then. Recently, while exhibiting at a conference, I sold a few books. Several people asked for receipts and having the ability to create one and email it right on the spot would have been real efficiency.
7. Increase Your Cool Factor
We haven’t gotten over how unique tablets are, and business owners who use them to enhance their customers’ experiences are becoming the “cool kids.” From salons offering the use of tablets to customers waiting for their hair color to set, to clothing boutiques providing easy ways for customers to log into Facebook or Twitter to share their shopping experiences while in the store, there are hundreds of ways you can use tablets to draw in customers and create an “experience” – not just a business transaction. When you create an experience, your business becomes more memorable and increases word of mouth. Customers will barely be out the door before telling others of the wonderful experience they had because of the way you used tablets.
Bottom line: There are many ways to use a tablet in your business. The more you use your tablet, the more use you will have for it. And with prices coming down, and more apps in the small business space, we’ll be able to do more while spending less.