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New Year, New Toys for Small Businesses
By: Brenda J. Trainor






Have you noticed how many people are using tablet computers?  I’ve been noticing them everywhere, people are carting them around like giant cell phones - they use them when commuting on the metro and for shopping, for texting and especially for entertaining the children.  And now that the holidays are a happy memory, think about how many tablets computers, and especially iPads or iPad minis were given as gifts this year.  If you haven’t noticed the proliferation of things like iPads, you surely will in this new year.

I’ve even noticed them at many retail locations -- not only in the Apple store, but in other locations, even those retail establishments as basic as Sears - want a Craftsman tool? ... the clerk will reach in her handy messenger bag and punch up your options right there in the aisle.

Small businesses can really benefit from incorporating the use of an iPad into their operations.  While it may seem a bit scary to trust your business to a consumer product, incorporating the use of a tablet into your small business has many advantages.

Why use a tablet in your business?  Coolness.  Consumers love dealing with innovative and progressive companies, and nothing says innovation better than pulling out an iPad mini when doing business with a customer or client. 

The advantages are numerous:  the initial capital investment in equipment is significantly lower than acquiring large “commercial”  information technology systems.  Then there are also great cost-savings for operating the tablet - because there are so many applications out there for consumers, many are adaptable to business uses, and many of these applications are even free!

One of the obvious innovations is the use of the iPad as a cash register... really!  There are several gadgets that allow your iPad, and even your cell phone, to accept credit cards.  SQUARE is one such innovation - it is a little square inch of plastic that plugs into the earphone jack of the iPad - and through its little slot, you can swipe credit cards.   When a merchant starts an account with SQUARE, you get an application that allows you to simply create an electronic cash register with all your products and prices.  You simply snap in the SQUARE reader, swipe the card, and touch the products on your product list.  The customer signs the iPad with the tip of a finger, and then chooses to get a receipt via text or email.  And to add to the coolness factor, consumers can also get a square app for their smart phones -- they can register a credit card to the app, and when they visit a merchant who has SQUARE, they simply call up the app, and through a wireless connection, the merchant’s equipment will recognize that consumer - presto, the consumer’s picture shows up on the merchant’s iPad, and the transaction can be completed without ever seeing the credit card, but fully recorded for both the merchant and the consumer via electronic magic!

Innovations for the iPad are numerous -  in addition to being a credit card reader and cash register, the device can be used as a dictaphone, a calculator, a word processor, a data base management system, a camera, a conference phone, and numerous other business applications.  And because they are small and affordable, you can provide one for each of your employees.  And what are the benefits, aside from the coolness factor?  Your employees get to engage with customers in the aisle or in the field at the client’s site, increasing the engagement of the customer and encouraging more thorough business relationships.  The details of the transaction can be quickly recorded and even transmitted back to headquarters via cellular technology.  So, you can get a different quality of interaction, better record keeping, and flexibility and speed, and you accomplish all these functions with greater affordability than with other “commercial” business systems. 

These are the advantages that can help make a small business unique and successful.  And having a customer think you’re cool really makes you stand out and that has be good for any business!