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There’s a Workplace App for That

Ah, the 2000s, the decade that introduced us to TheFacebook.com, the Black Eyed Peas, and trucker hats. It’s also the decade that brought us one of the most impactful inventions in recent memory: the iPhone. But despite the glory of this product, there was one noted downside to the advent of smartphones, namely the phrase, “There’s an app for that!”. Like so many advertising slogans, the catchphrase, trademarked by Apple in 2009, became so ubiquitous that the mere sound of it sent shivers down the spine of many an advertising-wary human. Want to check tomorrow’s weather? There’s an app for that! Want to remember where you parked? There’s an app for that! And so on. In addition to much ire, the phrase inspired many parodies, including this cute ditty on Sesame Street. In the past ten years, apps have grown in power and sophistication. You no longer just check the weather on your apps, but you can track your burrito delivery in real-time, stream music from seemingly endless libraries, or meet the love of your life. So while Apple’s original catchphrase remains true, it needs to be amended. Nowadays, there are darn good apps for that, including those that make your job easier. Workplace applications, or mobile-ready platforms that improve on-the-job processes and workflows, are now being internally deployed by companies of all sizes. Still, you might be skeptical about adding yet another icon to your already-crowded smartphone display — or your team’s already busy day. In this post, we’ll explain why you should move forward with workplace apps without looking back, despite what your 2000s-era curmudgeon might be telling you. Workplace Apps: A Key Element of Digital Transformation The business world is changing. Companies everywhere are embracing digital transformation and using new technologies to automate manual processes that no longer serve them. Digital transformation is a massive trend — and one that has been in motion for a long time. This trend is sometimes called the fourth industrial revolution, as it refers to a new era in manufacturing that will be defined by the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, machine learning, ultra-fast connectivity, and — of course — apps. However, embracing digital transformation and benefiting from it are two totally different things. Often, digital transformation can be nebulous and difficult to effectively drive across an enterprise. Businesses can also face resistance from employees who are reluctant to change how they work — which is largely why one in five executives secretly think that digital transformation initiatives are a waste of time. It turns out that app usage, perhaps unsurprisingly, is now exploding in the workplace. Companies across all verticals — including finance, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, and utilities — are using apps to streamline workflows and increase productivity. When it comes to app usage, organization size isn’t a determining factor, either. Every organization — from small businesses to large enterprise — can benefit by using them. Companies are using apps to optimize many types of processes, like inventory management, communication and collaboration, scheduling, managing workflows, field service productivity, and everything in between. How apps can help your business By now, you understand how more and more businesses are using apps to work more effectively and improve profitability. But you might be wondering about the specifics. You’re in luck: Up next, we’ll explore five use cases to give you a better idea on how apps can transform your business. 1. Painless data entry Data collection is highly resource-intensive and risky when it’s performed manually. For example, in manufacturing and utility environments, data is typically recorded onto paper and then transcribed into a spreadsheet. This opens the door for countless errors. Workers might lose these records or they might fudge the numbers during the data transfer process. Apps, however, enable easy data entry, providing workers with an opportunity to record information using simple drop down menus, photos, and user-friendly forms. With the right tools in place, data can flow seamlessly from an app into correlating spreadsheets, databases, and supporting programs like customer relationship management systems or inventory control platforms.  2. Easier process control In the words of Karl Iagnemma, uniformity is the friend of scalability. Businesses must stay in sync across all departments, teams, and facilities. A manufacturing facility in Munich, for instance, should follow similar policies and procedures as a sister branch in Chicago. Companies today are using apps to centralize management and information. Thanks to apps, global teams can share information in a way that’s easily accessible over a smartphone or tablet. Essentially, apps can serve as digital blueprints for processes and procedures, enabling consistent and predictable scalability across the enterprise. 3. Improved visibility It’s not easy managing a team when you have limited visibility into what your workers are doing every day — especially if you are overseeing multiple projects and a distributed workforce. Apps can provide greater visibility across teams and departments by facilitating real-time communication. With the right app in place, managers can receive hourly or daily status updates, allowing them to make managerial changes based on data. In this light, apps help managers keep their fingers on the pulse of operations every hour of every day. 4. Enhanced productivity Productivity issues tend to stem from poor communication. For example, the average worker checks email 74 times per day. And as much as 15 percent of a company’s time is spent on meetings, on average. Workers are also less productive when they aren’t clear about what they should be doing. Apps can lead to major productivity gains in this arena by automating communication during project updates and eliminating unnecessary meetings. What’s more, thanks to no-code platforms, employees can build their own apps to support their specific workflows. They don’t have to rely on apps built for the run-of-the-mill company; they can use a tool that’s fit for purpose instead. 5. Increased profitability Inefficient data sharing can lead to major financial losses. For example, in a competitive real estate environment, agents need accurate data to identify deals, close properties, and flip them. Without an effective communications mechanism, it’s impossible to compete in this fast-paced industry. Apps ultimately put data into workers’ hands faster — meaning companies can move beyond merely collecting data and instead turn their data into actionable insights. As a result, workers are equipped with the information they need to make the best decisions and respond to new opportunities with agility. These are just a few ways that apps can help your business. In the age of no-code development — where you can build your own app to help make your own job easier — apps can deliver an essentially endless amount of benefits to companies like yours. To get started, all you need is data. Find out more about how to start making apps with AppSheet.

How Apps Have Improved Five Key Aspects of the Construction Industry

What would the construction industry be without great tools and processes? After all, this is an industry where every inch, day, and dollar counts. The success of contractors and construction companies hinges on efficiency and attention to detail. As a result, technology has already made a huge impact on the field. Recently, drones, robotics, and GIS technology have altered the landscape of construction by optimizing mapping, planning, building, and data management. We can look forward to further advancements with the help of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and much more. But what’s happening right now in the construction industry? Apps, apps, apps! According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans now own smartphones—up from just 35% in 2011. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Our lives are dominated by the small but powerful computers that we keep in our pockets and purses. We can instantly access our money via mobile banking apps, post a selfie or three on Instagram, watch some videos on YouTube, and chat with friends on iMessage. Clearly, smartphones and apps have transformed the way we live but now this technology is changing the way people in the construction industry work, too. General contractors use apps to set estimates and manage bidding. Workers navigate job sites via mobile maps. Construction teams collaborate and scope tasks using digital punch lists. Foremen log and fix safety concerns on smartphones and tablets. This post explores the top five aspects of the construction industry that have been transformed by mobile applications. Whether you work in private, residential, commercial, or industrial construction, you’ll find inspiration on how to digitally transform your workplace. We've also put together a bunch of Excel templates and sample apps so that you can start working digitally today.  1. Project estimates and bidding Before any construction project kicks off, companies and prospects need to get on the same page in terms of the scope and price of the proposal. Historically, construction professionals have resorted to all types of methods and formats for estimate and bidding work—from pen and paper forms to spreadsheet templates, Word or Google docs, and PowerPoint slides. These solutions require a lot of manually entering and distribution of project estimates. Thanks to mobile apps, however, much of this work can now be automated and digitized. How applications help with construction estimates and bidding: Track materials lists. Estimate the cost of permits, administration, legal fees, engineering, etc. Send estimates directly to your clients via standardized email templates or PDFs. Capture signatures using touchscreens. Include photos to clearly communicate concepts, locations, and materials. Download our free construction cost estimation Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet quote and proposal app: 2. Punch lists Punch lists are essential tools for construction companies because success hinges on contract fulfillment and accountability. In order to pass final inspections and receive payment, all contract items on a punch list must be completed. Punch lists include work that’s incomplete or not started, areas of the project that were done incorrectly, or materials and work site features that became damaged during the job. In short, construction projects and inspections rest heavily on the quality and accuracy of punch lists. Originally, workers would literally punch a hole in the margin of a piece of paper next to a completed construction task on the list. Mobile punch list apps have since digitized this process. Now, you can keep and manage punch lists right on your smartphone. How punch list applications help with construction management: Create a single reference point for outstanding tasks that can be referenced by multiple stakeholders including owners, architects, subcontractors, and workers. Track and filter tasks by priority to ensure that all outstanding issues are resolved prior to inspections. Assign and change team or individual ownership of tasks in real time, which reduces errors and eliminates duplicate work. Update the punch list from anywhere at anytime with the most up-to-date information. Download our free construction punch list Excel spreadsheet template. Check back soon for our punch list app! 3. Safety reports and accident near misses The safety of a job site should be the top priority for everyone working in the construction industry. Of course, no one wants accidents on their watch. Unsafe working conditions put people in harm’s way, and also leave construction companies vulnerable to costly litigation. Apps that track construction site accidents and near misses are designed to save lives, time, and money. Near miss and accident reporting apps facilitate clear and timely communication between workers and managers so that incidents don’t fall through the cracks. How mobile apps help manage construction safety reporting: Workers signify the location and circumstances of almost-accidents so that near misses don’t become full-fledged accidents. Workers can document the specific nature of their accident near miss report, including uploading photos of the problem. Managers have all the information they need to make smart process improvements and secure job sites. Managers and foremen prioritize fixes to the safety issues based on urgency. Download our free construction safety report Excel spreadsheet template. Check back soon for our safety report app! 4. Mapping and site inspections Construction professionals thrive on their keen understanding of spaces and places. Blueprints are some of the most basic, yet essential, plans used during any construction project. Contour maps help workers, planners, and stakeholders better understand the job site and project progress. We all use maps on our phones to get around. Mobile map applications are so common that their impact can easily be taken for granted. The technology has so much potential beyond everyday consumer use. Digital maps are now integrated into mobile and desktop construction software to amazing ends. How applications can help with construction mapping and site inspections: Digitally map job sites for greater transparency into project scope, progress, requirements, and budgeting. Gather and track distances and measurements. Report progress on specific geographic areas of job sites. Access maps across multiple platforms (i.e. laptops, smartphones, and tablets) so that you have seamless information no matter if you’re working in the office or in the field. Save map data to work offline. Create maps from images that you upload. This can be used to map floor plans with interactive capabilities such as commenting. Download our free construction site inspection Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet construction floor plan app. 5. Time sheets Construction companies of all sizes require sound HR solutions. Foremen require accurate time sheets, while workers expect timely payroll processes. The smooth management of these vital components of your business fosters trust between management and staff, helps reduce turnover, and creates records for the legal protection of everyone. There are several options when it comes to handling employee time sheets. Word processor templates and paper solutions are unreliable given the sensitivity of the information being collected. Spreadsheets can quickly become unruly if not property maintained. HR software comes with a high price tag and may not be tailored to the construction industry. How time sheet applications help with construction management: Employees can fill out time sheets on their own smartphones, which saves companies the overhead cost of investing in additional hardware. HR, management, and employees receive app interfaces relevant to their roles. This reduces distraction and keeps protected information private. Increase transparency and employee morale through accessible and easy-to-use shift and timekeeping apps. Download our free construction time sheet Excel spreadsheet template or copy and customize the AppSheet time sheet app. Build your own construction app suite Mobile apps for the construction industry promise constant, clear communication between workers, foremen, architects, owners, and other stakeholders. These tools have already become essential on job sites and their importance will only grow as our world becomes more connected. There are tons of options for how to fulfill each of these needs through technology—from buying out-of-the-box software to hiring developers to build custom apps. AppSheet provides an alternative to these options. Instead of building or purchasing individual apps, you can create your own unique apps with our platform. If you haven’t already started using mobile application technology on your construction jobs, don’t worry. AppSheet lets you build a whole suite of applications all under one roof.

Digital Trends in the Mobile Workforce

Recent advances in cloud computing, mobile connectivity, and enterprise app development are making it easier than ever for companies to manage mobile workers. As such, the demand for a mobile workplace has never been greater. More specifically, it’s anticipated that 50% of the U.S. workforce will operate remotely by 2020. On a global scale, 70% of employees already work from home at least one day per week. Employees increasingly expect their employers to offer mobile flexibility—and companies are rightfully paying attention. According to Global Workplace Analytics, businesses can save as much as $11,000 per employee per year for each employee who works remotely on a full-time basis. At the same time, 77% of employees feel that they are more productive working from home than in the office. Managing a mobile workforce also comes with its own set of challenges challenges—such as maintaining data security and employee engagement, among others. However, companies that are doing it effectively are unlocking the full benefits of a mobile team. With that in mind, let’s take a look at today’s growing mobile workforce trends. Using software and apps to manage remote teams By digitizing and automating processes that were once paper-based—like employee time-card management, field service data collection, and productivity management—companies are not only saving lots of time and money, they’re also making it much easier for their teams to operate remotely. Harvesting this valuable data in the cloud also enhances data quality and accuracy, as human error is less likely to enter the mix when compared to keeping track of data by hand. Additionally, mobile workforce management (MWM) services help businesses manage teams that work outside of the office. Generally speaking, a MWM strategy assigns devices and software to specific employees, thereby enabling businesses to monitor activities like software deployment, procurement, and productivity management, among other things. SD-WAN infrastructure is playing a critical role in enterprise software performance Advances in software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technology make it easier for companies to securely manage enterprise data, apps, software, and networks remotely. Traditionally, wide-area networks (WAN) were used to connect satellite offices to headquarters via Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS). MPLS is still being used in many networks, but SD-WAN is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative. By harnessing the power of private cloud or hybrid cloud infrastructure, SD-WAN—and mobile SD-WAN— enables businesses to bridge the gaps between data centers and branch offices over large geographic distances. This means that your business apps and software will operate faster, with less downtime, and with more security than ever before. And, thanks to its use of the cloud, SD-WAN lowers costs for most businesses, too. Expect to see more widespread adoption of the technology in the coming years, with the global market for SD-WAN predicted to reach $4.5 billion by 2022. Increased Focus on Security and Compliance As teams operate remotely, it’s important for management and IT to enforce strong mobile network security policies. Common sense strategies—such as requiring the use of strong passwords and biometric authentication—are helping keep accounts and devices secure as employees move from location to location. It’s also advised to conduct routine cyber security training to keep employees up to speed on the latest cyber security threats. On a more advanced level, security information and event management (SIEM) software enables business to remotely collect and aggregate security related incidents from their devices. SIEM also enables real-time monitoring of security threats from cyber attacks and data breaches. As data breaches become an increasingly common problem for organizations of all sizes, we expect SIEM adoption to continue to accelerate. Custom Apps Keep Mobile Workforces Connected As more and more companies adopt mobile workforces, they will need to use new tools and technologies to manage on-the-go employees effectively. While some of these tools can likely be found in out-of-the-box solutions, many companies are able to unlock additional productivity gains by using custom software designed to support their specific workflows. Instead of building these custom solutions from scratch or contracting an expensive agency to build one for them, leading organizations are increasingly turning to no-code development platforms that enable them to create their own custom apps without hiring expensive developers. Companies across nearly every industry—including real estate, construction, e-commerce and technology—are using AppSheet’s no-code platform to increase productivity and boost employee engagement across their mobile workforces. To learn more about how AppSheet can help you optimize your distributed workflows and streamline mobile worker management, check this out.

The Top 5 Barcode and QR Code Scanner Apps - for iPhone, iPad, and Android Devices

  Whether you're using barcodes and QR codes to decode product information or to capture and store items for inventory management, it's important to have a robust app (and data storage system) in order to stay organized.    We’ve rounded up the leading QR code scanners and barcode scanner apps made for a variety of purposes. Now, you can choose one that works for you. image: https://todaytesting.com     Top 5 Barcode and QR Scanner Apps AppSheet QR Code Reader and Scanner Sortly Scanbot Barcode Scanner Pro AppSheet Appsheet, or as we like to think of it, the perfect app maker. Looking to scan barcodes and QR codes to track inventory or manage your business? Look no further. AppSheet is used by thousands to better capture data within a business. You can easily scan, record, access, and share information through your apps. AppSheet itself isn't really an app in the traditional sense—it is actually an app development platform. You're in control from start to finish. And AppSheet is a no-code platform. All you have to do is upload your data from a spreadsheet, doc, or form to start. Appsheet has great templates that you can copy to create a barcode scanner app. Here is one. AppSheet is the only option on the list that lets you customize your app to fit the needs of your business. But if you're looking for something that's ready to go right out of the box, we found some great alternatives. QR Code Reader and Scanner Need a quick and easy scanner to find product information, prices, and reviews? This straightforward scanner app is user friendly and offers a clean interface. It scans all kinds of QR codes and barcodes, then saves those scans to your history. You can also save and share the codes right from your phone; each code is saved in your photos and can be sent by text, email, Twitter, or Facebook. Whether you're trying to make better purchases at the grocery store, look up an informational website, or quickly read through a digital instruction manual, this app can do it quickly and efficiently... no search engine required. This app also has a feature some others on the list do not: it allows you to generate your own QR code for URLs, numbers, events, and any other code generation tasks you might desire. This feature, and the fact that you can get it for free, puts QR Code Reader and Scanner near the top of our list. iTunes rating: 4.5/5 Not available for Android Price: Free Sortly Sortly calls itself the "ultimate inventory app". It lets you create a visual inventory of your items using photos, tags, notes, prices, QR labels or barcodes. Customize your lists and track details, all within the app. You can also import or export spreadsheet data from the app to PDF, Dropbox or Evernote. You can save, share, or print your data and sync it up between devices. If you're in the middle of a big move or want to keep your warehouse inventory organized, Sortly can work for both your individual and business needs. Works on both iOS and Android devices.   iTunes rating: 4.8/5 Google Play rating: 4/5 Price: Basic app is free, Sortly PLUS subscription with sync, export, web access, (including barcode and QR scanner) is $4.99/month.   Scanbot      Scanbot will scan practically anything. Documents, sketchbooks, QR codes, barcodes, receipts, whiteboards, you name it. Save your documents as a PDF or JPG, then auto-upload and instantly share to over a dozen applications, including Google Drive, Evernote, and Dropbox.   And if you want to edit your PDF, you can, right from the app. Scanbot will also fax documents for you without needing an actual fax machine. You can now send faxes from your phone to more than 50 countries.   iTunes rating: 4.8/5 Google Play rating: 4.2/5 Price: Basic app is free, Scanbot PRO with full scanner access $6.99.   Barcode Scanner Pro    This professional-grade app packs a punch. It can quickly and accurately scan, decode, create, and share QR codes or barcodes.   This app is a lot like the "QR Code Reader and Scanner" but for the Android.   You can create a QR code for your personal information, including email addresses and phone numbers. Share your QR codes on social media (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, WeChat, Line, E-mail, SMS) to your friends. And, the app keeps track of your scan history.   It's perfect for anyone who wants to digitize their inventory; you can now create and store codes for your products and store all the information on your phone for easy access anytime.   Google Play rating: 4.6/5 Not available for iOS Price: Free Final Thoughts Code scanners can sometimes differ significantly, and rightly so. It is important to find an app that suits your needs, whether it be tracking and management or information lookup and sourcing. Whether you prefer a wealth of information, higher security protocols, or the ability to customize depends on your business. Code scanners are not "one size fits all" and ultimately business owners must look to what best meets their specific needs.  Need more ideas for apps for your business? Checkout the AppSheet blog for useful tips, free templates, and more. 

Apps Aren’t Just For Smartphones Any More

As smart technology permeates our society, powering our wearables, homes, cars, and other IoT devices, apps to drive are also on the rise.  In fact, a recent report by VisionMobile said that out of the 4.5 million people identified as IoT developers in 2015, 1.4 million were focused on smart home apps. According to VisionMobile’s IoT Megatrends 2016 report, there are seven distinct IoT areas that app developers work in—smart home, retail, industrial, wearables, smart city, medical and connected car—with the opportunities offered by connected homes a clear favorite. Retail IoT apps, wearables and industrial versions attract around one million app developers each, while the connected car is of interest to 700,000 people. People have become used to the concept of IoT and recent research by Gartner said that there could be as many as 700 million smart homes by 2020. With smartphones and tablets working as remote controls for connected devices, there will be a tremendous need for new apps to drive them. And according to IDC Research, 101.9 million wearable devices were shipped in 2016, a 29 percent increase over 2015.The rise of smart wearables like the Apple Watch and Microsoft’s Hololens demonstrate the rise of new opportunities for app developers and vendors to provide connected apps. "The trajectory of the wearables market signals a strong opportunity for developers," Llamas continued. "Applications increase the value and utility of a wearable, and users want to see more than just their health and fitness results. News, weather, sports, social media, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications will all have a place on a wearable. And, when combined with cellular connectivity, users will not have to take out their smartphones to get the latest information. All they will need to do is glance at their wearable." App Trends for Leveraging Smart Devices This year sees a huge opportunity to leverage this new smart space. We have gathered a list of some of the top mobile app development trends to watch in 2017. Continued rise of Location-based services (LBS). GPS availability and ease of use means that location-based services will continue to evolve to provide real-time information or deals based on user locations. LBS is particularly useful for indoor mapping, location-specific payment portals, retail offers, security features, navigation, travel and tourism, and more.  When combined with mobile apps, LBS can enable a new generation of personalized services and information. AppSheet also ready includes LBS in many of its offerings, like Site Scout, an app for construction site inspections. Integration of Augmented Reality (AR) into utility apps. In its early stages, the use of AR was seen as a gimmick, but it has grown into its own more recently with the addition of wearables. AR tools can now be used more effectively and productively than ever before. Word or phrase recognition can be used in messenger apps to pull up appropriate actions, and integrations like social media syncing, location tracking, and product links can also be leveraged with AR. A number of retailers are already integrating augmented reality into their mobile apps to help shoppers visualize furniture and décor in their homes at full-scale before making a purchase. The rise of “run-only-as-you-need” apps. Android’s new Instant Apps feature allows apps to run instantly, a trend which will become more appealing and widespread. These enabled apps don’t have to be downloaded or installed and can run with just a single tap, saving data and memory space on the device. The “run-only-as-you-need” concept is poised to fundamentally transform the app industry. And while these apps are usually preview versions lacking some advanced features, they do provide quick insight and experience. The normalization of embedded AI within apps. As embedded AI becomes more standard, it will also transform the industry. Self-learning apps have the potential to customize what they display to users based on personal preferences or location-based data, and they could soon be found in everyday devices like phones, cameras, and IoT devices. Continued dominance of IoT app integrations. The IoT industry is booming, leading to the rise of apps that cater to IoT integration. Data analytics will also be central to this trend, in order to allow easy and efficient access to stored and shared data. App security becomes paramount. As smartphones become more versatile and handle larger amounts of sensitive data, security will become increasingly crucial as well. That means that apps with built-in security features will be highly successful, helping to guarantee the protection of user data. According to Gartner, in 2017 75 percent of mobile app security breaches will be caused by misconfigurations, which means that mobile app security is essential when building apps for the IoT. Focus On Optimal User Experience The most important feature of apps in 2017, however – whether for smartphones or other smart applications – will be a premium and smooth user experience. One aspect that guarantees success is the use of rich media that help transform apps into better and more memorable tools.  Through effective display of data and content on your mobile user interface, you can help guarantee a positive user experience. The most successful apps will exploit technologies with novel features like interactive content layers; circular design patterns, cards, and manipulation of content to create an augmented reality that allows users to interact with content in further detail. From LBS to AR and beyond, AppSheet has a wide range of tools to help you create the smart apps for your business to connect with your customers and their devices.

What Do the Best Apps Have in Common?

The great thing about so many apps being out on the market is that you can learn from the many who have gone before you. It’s like the wheel has been invented and you just need to focus on customizing it to make it go faster, run smoother, and improve it so you can arrive at your specific goal. With free apps builders, you can certainly see what other apps are offering and take their examples to make your own personalized tool. Consider these features that popular apps have in common to make the best app for your specific needs. 1. Work In Shorthand Apps are used on mobile devices which are not convenient for lengthy data inputting. Evernote is one great example to follow; when inspiration hits and you want to take a picture or if you’re running errands and need to make a quick list, you can easily capture these thoughts and move on to your next task. Premade checklists, abbreviations, yes or no surveys, and easy-to-use buttons make apps quick, easy and more likely to be utilized. 2. Team Communication If no man is an island, then apps are the cruise liners that connect your workforce. “When the internal forces of a business are working toward communicating the same message to vendors, suppliers and customers, good communication can also lead to a boost in sales for the business,” observes Kristie Lorette in the Houston Chronicle.  “Essentially, good communication creates a win-win situation. The customers who can benefit from the company receive the messages they need to make them aware of the company and to make a purchase, which in turn boosts the sales of the company.” Apps that keeps employees and management connected know the right questions to ask, the appropriate answers to give and keep the team well-informed to provide optimal customer experience. Well-known project-management app Basecamp is a great example of opening the lines of communication so that projects stay on time. 3. Organization Your businesses’ future relies on being organized. For example, customer relationship management (CRM) is a necessary task that can be overwhelming and time-consuming. If you are creating a lead tracking app, it’s important to keep all of your information in one place. Streak allows you to keep track of where you are in your business relationship rather than organizing customers by contact name. The best apps keep your information organized, logical, and easy to interpret for group accessibility. 4. Simplicity “I want to read directions,” said no one ever. This is especially true when it comes to apps. Afterall, mobile apps were built for speed, mobility, and simplicity. Facebook’s Messenger app was one of the top apps of 2016 with more than 136 million active monthly users. YouTube came in at a whopping 134 million. Chances are, you have used one of these apps and found they were self-explanatory. The best apps are user-friendly and ready to go. 5. Synchronization Every business or even individual accesses a variety of technology platforms each day. From social media to emails to spreadsheets, we are inundated with information. Great apps work with the tools that we already use and that have proven their worth. AppSheet is a great example. You can import the spreadsheets you already use with software from Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and more to create customized apps to manage your mobile employees. Like any product, the best apps fill a need and do it well. The best part about mobile app makers is that you can create your own apps. No one knows your needs like you do and no one knows how to solve them like you can. Seeing what’s available and incorporating the most useful tools can guide you as you create your perfect app.

The Biggest Mobile Trends You Need to Know in 2017

Last year, mobile became a dominant digital platform, and adoption of the technology has exploded. Apps are more important than ever for businesses striving to engage with their consumers, employees, operations and suppliers. Our latest white paper - Mobile App Trends: What to Know for 2017 draws insights from AppSheet user data and leading industry research to spotlight the 7 trends that we believe will shape mobile app development for businesses in 2017. Get an overview of some of hottest trend you'll need to know in mobile this year, and download our white paper for the full scoop.  1. Enterprise mobile app development to accelerate  Mobile app development and engagement has been growing at breakneck speed. In its most recent prediction for mobile apps, Gartner Inc. forecast that 70 percent of software interactions in enterprises will be on mobile devices by 2022. IT departments are challenged to manage and distribute the array of custom built and prepackaged apps in use within enterprises. Developing an enterprise app store is the solution to this problem. 2. Micro apps to become a powerful force While some mobile apps offer the same all-in-one functionality as desktop applications, all-in-one mobile apps tend to have too many features, can be hard to use and slow. Micro apps, on the other hand, take the opposite approach. They are streamlined and targeted at enabling users to perform specific tasks easily. They can address a specific employee need or streamline a discrete process, like approving an expense report. While such apps have been around for years, they are now flourishing on mobile platforms because of several advantages. 3. The year of the citizen developer A trend has sparked: the rise of the “citizen developer.” These are ordinary business users with little or no coding expertise who takes it upon themselves to build an application. Low-code and no-code development platforms like AppSheet facilitate rapid mobile application development,  and have supported this trend. Citizen developers make it possible for business users to meet their own needs quickly and affordably, leaving IT departments to tackle bigger, more complex and strategic projects. 4. Greater democratization levels the playing field An April 2016 survey by Clutch found that less than a quarter of small businesses had a mobile app, but nearly half of the small businesses were likely to have a mobile app by 2017 or later. Cost, skill and geography are no longer constraints as app-building tools make it possible for non-professionals to develop apps anywhere. 5. Beyond iOS vs. Android The battle between Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iOS has raged for years, but the arena is broadening, and app builders in 2017 must contend with new and evolving frameworks. App builders still need to target Android, iOS and web browsers, but they now must also contend with apps embedded in messaging platforms such as Slack, Facebook Messenger and Skype. 6. Deeper integration with mobile sensors Location-based services (LBS) are expected to be integrated into more mobile apps. The GPS feature of smart devices is a common starting point for app builders. This trend has put mobile apps on a convergence path with the Internet of Things (IoT). Mobile apps that exchange information with smart sensors will be a key part of this phenomenon. Location-sensitive mobile apps are adding greater value through features such as credit card capture devices, on-device printers and connected scanners. 7. New dimensions for app security Security looms as a large concern with mobile apps, and recent publicity over hacking attacks at Yahoo and the Democratic National Committee among others will increase demand for more sophisticated defenses on mobile apps such as two-factor user authentication and stronger data encryption as well as more robust security features on mobile devices themselves. For details on each of these trends and how you can prepare yourself, download our 2017 Mobile App Trends white paper. 

Messaging Apps And Chatbots Help Retailers Connect with Customers

As customers increasingly turn to technology to showroom, price compare, and search for the best deals, retailers need to be responsive to these new consumer behaviors. One way that retailers are trying to better connect with their customers is through the increased use of chatbots and messaging apps, according to a new study from [24]7, a provider of chatbot and human agent assistance for retailers. Customers on the hunt for superior service Customers want to connect with their favorite brands, but brands that offer great service experiences are in the minority. A 2015 Customer Care Measurement & Consulting study found that 54 percent of retail customers are dissatisfied while Gartner predicted that companies offering personalization will outperform competitive brands by 15 percent by 2018 revealing the clear cut opportunity costs associated with innovation. Consumers are turning to chatbot technology as it becomes more integrated within their personal lives and evolves to provide better, more efficient and engaging customer service. Scott Horn, CMO of [24]7 stated, “Messaging apps are incredibly valuable for retailers looking to enhance relationships with consumers, particularly millennials.” Preference of chat bots to other traditional customer service outlets The [24]7 study, titled, “A Retailer’s Guide to Chatbots, Live Chat, and Messaging,” found that nearly one-third of consumers (28.9 percent) prefer chat tools over phone (28.7 percent) or email (27 percent) for interacting with retailers (jumping to 37 percent for millennials). Other findings include: 2 out of 5 consumers are open to interacting with a chatbot in a retail scenario 9 percent of millennials prefer to always interact with a robot instead of a human Nearly 40 percent of millennials are open to interacting with a company through a messaging app 1 in 5 consumers are most excited to receive instant order updates via a messaging app, over receiving other retail tech offerings, like immersive virtual experiences and drone delivery The findings demonstrate that retailers need to be flexible enough to meet the needs of their customer segments via the channels they prefer and already use in their everyday lives. Less than a quarter of millennials prefer email (23 percent) or phone (21 percent) as methods to contact retailers. Retailers who adopt channels such as Facebook Messenger is a strong path to this demographic. The growing use of messaging apps by businesses has the potential to further accelerate the trend toward chat as a primary way to communicate with retailers. In the survey, 26 percent of consumers said they're open to interacting with a company through a messaging app such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp -- and the number jumps to 39 percent for millennials. Convenience (15 percent) and access to conversation history (10 percent) were the top reasons customers cited for using messaging apps, while the top concerns included security and privacy (28 percent) and distrust of third-party apps (12 percent). One in five consumers also said that instant order updates via messaging apps are the best way to improve their online shopping experience, second only to location-based coupons on mobile devices (24 percent). And providing an effortless checkout process is still crucial to driving completed sales, as 13 percent report that they would abandon a shopping cart if they could not find answers to their questions, while 15 percent say that incomplete or inaccurate product information is a serious roadblock. Chatbots can provide a more seamless checkout process and save some transactions that might otherwise be abandoned. Last spring, retail heavyweights Sephora and H&M launched bots on messaging app Kik that help shoppers browse and buy their products, and Taco Bell showed off its TacoBot, a way to use the messaging app Slack to place a meal order. Facebook also announced that it has created a platform that allows companies to develop bots that run within its Messenger app, which has some 900 million users worldwide. Bots are the new apps Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said, “Bots are the new apps.” The case for a bot-centric future goes like this: Smartphone users have proved they are only willing to download and spend time in a limited number of apps. So companies might be better off trying to connect with consumers in the apps where they are already spending plenty of time. And proponents say that a bot can potentially provide greater convenience than apps and Web searches because it can understand natural speech patterns. Because bots are designed for one-to-one conversation, they may ultimately find their most logical home in messaging apps, which are seeing explosive growth in users and are the digital-communication channel of choice for Generation Z. There were 76 million people in the United States using messaging apps such as Kik, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger in 2014, according to research firm eMarketer.  That figure shot up to 113 million last year, and is it expected to surge to 177 million by 2019. The study asserted, “Although chatbots cannot resolve transactional hurdles at purchase like price and delivery, they can help customers find desired information, fill out fields based on prior purchases and answer queries. With the right solution, anything more complex can be escalated to a live human agent.” Let AppSheet work with you to develop a relevant app that can incorporate the elements that will best reach your customers today. With AppSheet, retailers can design affordable, easy and attractive mobile apps to improve your customers’ shopping experience. Give it a try today!

With 80% Of Purchases Now Influenced By Mobile, Your Business Needs To Meet Demands

Increasingly, your customers, employees and service users expect a fast and intuitive mobile experience. Eighty percent of purchases are now influenced by mobile. If you fail to meet these expectations, users will quickly turn away. Meeting expanding customer expectations Research demonstrates that 62 percent of consumers expect a mobile friendly website, while 42 percent expect a mobile app, and 23 percent expect a location specific contextual experience.  Further, 86 percent favor mobile apps over mobile websites, and with 80 percent of purchases now influenced by the mobile channel for a projected $689 billion influence on sales, your business cannot afford to be left behind when it comes to mobile. A 2015 AppDynamics report An App Is Not Enough  found that consumer expectations of retail websites and mobile apps are evolving in response to the growth of mobile and emerging technologies, with 70 percent of consumers stating that the performance of a mobile app impacts their perception of the retailer. Further, two thirds of consumers said they would reconsider shopping with a retailer if they had a negative experience with its app. That places greater pressure on brands to deliver flawless app performance to keep their customers happy. “As the lines between work and personal, digital and physical, continue to blur, retailers must ensure their apps function at all times across multiple platforms in order to retain and nurture always-on consumers,” said Jyoti Bansal, founder and CEO of AppDynamics. “Technology has transformed the retail landscape significantly over the past decade, and now more than ever, software defines business success – with revenue and reputation often hinging on customer interactions with apps.” Providing seamless cross-channel experiences “Today’s consumers expect a seamless shopping experience across online and offline channels, with minimal friction points,” said Paul Hobbs, head of e-commerce at Shop Direct. “This puts increased pressure on retailers to innovate, using the latest technologies to improve and augment the online e-commerce journey so it delivers the thrill of visiting the high street in a more convenient way. As an example, Very.com has recently introduced image recognition technology that allows shoppers to take photos of clothes they like and search for similar styles across the brand’s product range.” “At the same time, mobile continues to play an integral role in increasing online sales – allowing consumers to shop when they want, how they want, and on any device,” Hobbs continued. “With retailers using a combination of technologies to deliver a competitive and flawless experience to shoppers, ensuring the performance of these applications is mission-critical.” Tips For Creating A Top Mobile Experience There were 2.1 billion mobile phones and tablets sold around the world in 2014, and by 2020 there will be a projected 200 billion connected devices. Here are some tips to help create a successful mobile experience that is fast, intuitive, and satisfies the demands of your customers. Start with a clear mobile strategy that aligns all internal stakeholders. Identify the user journey, defining the phases of their experiences from beginning to end to understand their context. Build personals and clearly identify your audience. Clearly define business goals that you are trying to achieve via the app. Is it boosting loyalty, sales conversions or recommendations? Identify the analytics to track and drive feature prioritization to ensure you are meeting your established business goals. Set a feature roadmap. This helps create the optimal user experience. Build with iterative development that connects all internal and external data points. Once your app is complete, don’t forget to use analytics to track and improve your app continually to ensure continued user satisfaction and cohesion to business goals. From beginning to end, the process of bringing your mobile app to life should be thoughtful, calculated, and specific,  tailored to your audience and  your business’ goals. AppSheet can help your business create simple, user-friendly mobile apps that are customized to meet your specific goals.

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