The iPad is Hot in Small Business

on September 19, 2011

One of the most interesting things related to our tablet research of late is what is happening with the iPad in small business.

Apple in their last earnings reports made some points related to the iPad and the enterprise but it is small businesses who are adopting the iPad at incredible rates.

We are still underway surveying small business all over the US but with more than two dozen small business owners already surveyed it is clear the iPad is hot in small business.

This is a significant trend. First of all because the sales of these devices would fall under general consumer sales. So we wouldn’t necessarily be able to track them as specific sales to be used in small business like we can enterprise adoption.

I have a hunch, which would be hard to quantify, that a significant portion of iPad sales are being put to use in small business in some way shape or form.

I have talked to restaurant owners using them to take orders and send automatically back the kitchen. I have talked to financial advice firms using them for notes, organization, and to walk clients through data. We have talked to consultancies, legal firms, small boutique shop owners, automobile dealerships, photographers and a host of other types of small businesses and nearly all of them are finding creative ways to integrate the iPad into their business.

Interestingly so far in our study over 85% of small business owners we surveyed are either using the iPad in some way or plan to purchase and use one within the next year.

A key observation coming out of this research so far is how all of the small business owners using the iPad for business have been using non-customized apps right out of the app store.

This differs from many enterprise solutions where the enterprise or IT department often times creates custom applications. Small business owners don’t have the luxury or resources to have custom apps built to serve their needs so they find apps or combinations of apps that fit their purposes.

Another key finding in the remarks of many small business owners and users of iPads was that they felt the iPad made them competitive. For some, part of their reasoning for buying the device was that their local competition was now integrating iPad and they wanted to stay current.

Another fascinating finding was how many small business owners found that using the iPad as a part of their business gave their customers or prospective customers the perception that they were “with the times” or on top of the trends. They remarked how using technology and specifically the iPad was “cool” and they wanted to send the right message to customers.

Perhaps even more interestingly many also said that they believed that using the iPad actually helped them land new customers. This was especially true when small business owners, like several financial firms we spoke with, compete with larger firms who are not using iPads. These small business owners believed that new customers viewed their use of the iPad in their services business gave them an edge over the larger firm’s reps who still used pen and paper. Apparently it isn’t cool to show up to a meeting with a pen and paper these days. Ebay mobile is currently running a commercial that makes this point.

Lastly although we have only spoke with just over two dozen small business so far, many remarked on how many iPads they are seeing by small business in their towns by friends and even competitors. It is clear the trend of iPad in small business may be larger than most anticipated.

When asked about Android tablets price and lack of key apps for their business needs were the biggest factors keeping them from considering anything other than iPad at this point. That and they kept hearing glowing reviews from other small business owners about iPad and mixed results if any about Android tablets.

The iPad phenomena is so much more than just consumption. Small business owners, who can claim the iPad as an expense, are finding new and creative ways to integrate iPad into their workflow.

My sense tells me that we are barely scratching the surface of iPad in enterprise and small business. I believe the next year will shed much more light on the potential for iPad and business.

If you are a small business using iPad in unique ways feel free to share with us how you are using iPad in your business.