Small business owners are getting smarter — or at least their phones are. 34 percent of small business owners in the U.S. now use a smartphone, according to a recent survey by Discover.
Going mobile isn’t just about checking email from outside of the office, either. 19 percent of owners said they’ve taken or are currently taking steps to make their business more accessible to mobile customers. Discover’s survey also included 3,000 consumers — more than one in four of which also said they used a smartphone. The credit card issuer asked 750 small businesses, each with less than five employees, about their mobile habits as part of its Small Business Watch series.
But smart can come with a hefty price tag — not just for the phone itself, but the required monthly data plan. Cost is the biggest obstacle to wider use: According to the SMB Group’s 2010 Mobile Solutions Study, 37 percent of small businesses — defined by the market research firm as companies with fewer than 100 employees — cited voice and data service costs as a top mobile concern, outweighing all others on a list that included security and network reliability.
As smartphone adoption grows, both reports indicate significant potential in the market for mobile business applications. 44 percent of owners already equipped with a smartphone want better mobile apps for small businesses, according to the Discover survey. The SMB Group’s study found that 42 percent of “very small businesses” — those with less than 20 employees — have future plans for mobile marketing and advertising, nearly three times the number that have programs in place today.
Smartphones are not, however, on many small business wish lists this holiday season. Just 3 percent of owners in Discover’s poll who don’t currently use a smartphone said they plan to purchase one or expect to receive one as a gift during the end-of-year holidays.
That doesn’t necessarily mean small business is embracing its inner Grinch. Perhaps smart owners simply know that prices will continue to drop as the competition for their business — literally, in this case — grows more ferocious in 2011.