How are small businesses digitising their data in a mobile-first way?
Businesses (especially SMBs) worldwide are shifting from a computer-focused data management model to a mobile-first one.
Here's a simple question - Name one technology that people cannot live without today. A vast majority would answer - ‘mobile phones'. No surprises there as these tiny little hand-held gadgets have started co-existing with us and are involved in most of our daily tasks. They have in fact become the go-to tool for almost everything, right from ordering your favorite food to managing voluminous data for your business. Yes, you heard that right - mobiles are playing a vital role in data management too!
Businesses (especially SMBs) worldwide are shifting from a computer-focused data management model to a mobile-first one. The reasons are two-fold:
1. Everyone is on the move, be it the business owner, the employees, or even the customer. The need of the hour is a portable device to collect and manage data on the go. And mobile phones, with their modern-day sophistication, is the perfect answer to that need.
2. Mobile phones are omnipresent. It's easy to find people without laptops and computers, but not without a smartphone. This reduces the overall expenses for small businesses as they do not have to equip all their employees with a laptop to manage data.
This leads us to a very important question - How are small businesses digitising the data in a mobile-first way?
Using a mobile CRM
Collecting customer data is important as it helps craft a personalised experience for the customers, which, in turn, improves customer retention. The defacto tool used by businesses to manage customer data is a CRM (customer relationship management). Most CRMs come with a wide array of features that helps one to collect and manage data in a more effective way.
But CRMs also come with three major downsides -
1. Most of them are desktop-optimized. If your employees are usually on the move, then they need to note down all the details manually and then upload them to the CRM later. This is a highly inefficient process.
2. CRMs themselves are expensive. For a small business that has plenty of other critical areas to spend money on, this might not be an option.
3. The learning curve for a CRM is steep. For a business with only a few hundred customers, investing in powerful CRMs might turn counter-productive as most of the time will be spent training the employees.
And due to these reasons, many small businesses switched to a mobile CRM solution which is built on top of spreadsheets. Such a tool is easy to use and is more than sufficient to manage customer data for a small business.
Tools like Lio makes it even simpler with their in-built customer management templates and an ability for multiple stakeholders to collaborate on the same sheet.
Using a mobile-friendly tool to manage financial data
Profit and loss, cash flow, income, expenses, and credit are typical numbers that businesses have to calculate and live with every day. Many businesses employ powerful tools like Tally to crunch these numbers and come up with useful insights. But such tools had their own share of disadvantages -
1. You need people who have expertise in using these tools. For a small business, finding or affording software experts is not easy.
2. These tools cannot be operated on the go. You need a computer to operate which is not portable.
3. It's very difficult to collaborate on such tools as they can accommodate only a limited number of users.
Due to the above factors, many small businesses switched over to spreadsheet-based tools that anyone with little mathematical skills can use. Such tools were also mobile-friendly and multiple stakeholders with access to the sheet could collaborate.
Small businesses that were short on human capital, but experienced a significant number of daily transactions particularly found such mobile-based tools to be a boon. This is because they did not have to place an employee in front of the computer round the clock to input the details every time a transaction happened. Any employee who handled a sale can instantly input the details on their smartphone which will be synced together to form a single database for all financial data.
Using a mobile-first inventory management system
Imagine a situation - all your products are stored in a warehouse neatly arranged on hundreds of shelves. You are responsible for replenishing the stocks whenever they go out of stock. Every day, you visit the shelves and manually count the stock, note them down in a notebook and come back to your computer and feed the data to an inventory management system. This is not an efficient usage of your time.
Inventory management systems that are not mobile-friendly had the following cons -
1. It did not entirely eliminate the paper-based process.
2. There was more dependency on labor.
3. You could not add/edit/manage data on the go.
4. The data is usually stored only in a single system. This means it cannot be retrieved outside of it.
5. It did not give complete inventory visibility to all stakeholders 24/7.
To counter all these problems, businesses switched over to a mobile-first inventory management system that lets employees manage data anytime anywhere. Employees could walk around the warehouse and feed the data directly to the inventory management system on their smartphones.
Small businesses with only a few hundred SKUs started using spreadsheet-based tools to manage their inventory as it offered easy accessibility, the ability to collaborate, and 24/7 visibility. Also, since it is connected to the cloud, data can be accessed everywhere and on any device.
Small businesses are trying to beat the competition and looking to stay in the game by adopting various advanced technologies and processes. Digitalising data management in a mobile-first way is one such revolutionary process. Tools are helping them in this journey with their easy-to-use templates and accessibility on the go.
This article has been written by Anupam Vijayvergia, Co-Founder & CEO, Lio
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