What kind of apps do small businesses really need?

We often talk about the demand for apps that help small businesses to become more successful; be sure to check out this ebook for some great insight into the needs as well as the opportunity for developers. Whether you’re competing in a hackathon (like #SmallBizHack), have a great idea, or are an established SaaS app company, understanding your target audience is key to creating that next killer app.  Here are some resources and ideas to inspire your innovation.

Ask a shopkeeper

The most obvious and straightforward tactic is to ask your target customer! You likely meet small business owners every day going about your daily routine. Next time you visit your neighborhood coffee shop, stop in at the local bakery for some sweets, head to the gym for your evening exercise, or volunteer at a homeless shelter  — take a few minutes to talk to the owner or shopkeeper. Ask them what they love about having their own business, and then ask them what keeps them up at night. Observe them and their staff as they work. That’s where you’ll get the best insights into what kind of app or solution you could build to help them.

Do some research

You may have a great idea, but are you the first to think of it? What apps are small business owners already using and why? Check out this recent article to see how some small businesses are using apps. What apps are already available?  Is what you’re building revolutionary? Or a variation on a theme? There are few “one size fits all” solutions, so even if a problem has already been tackled, you might be able to improve on it.  What works for a retail store probably does not work as well for a medical clinic or a yoga studio. Look at each small business at the detailed “niche” level. Ask: what is unique about each business and how can you address their needs? You can get a good idea of the range of apps already available by browsing the QuickBooks App Store. What solutions are missing? Which apps could be improved or customized for a specific niche market?  Are apps missing for your region or geography?

Here are some needed target areas:

  • Solutions that are tailored to specific vertical markets like property management, farming, construction, and eateries
  • Solutions that help professional services (legal, medical, etc.), as well as scheduling-based businesses
  • Solutions that address the unique needs of charities and nonprofits
  • Solutions that streamline and simplify data-in, payments in-out

Brainstorm ideas

Once you’ve focused on the business and problem you want to tackle, then the creative work begins. At the Small Business Hackathon we’ll have some great API partners for you to use in your solution. The possibilities are endless; here are just a few ideas to help get you started —

  • An accountant has clients located in different countries or buying/selling goods to multiple countries. They have to handle multiple currencies w/ fluctuating exchange rates for receipts, payroll, and billing.  How can you streamline the accuracy and process of ensuring the right exchange rate is applied at the right time? Can you help the client or accountant take advantage of best exchange rates to save money?
  • Create an Alexa skill that checks QuickBooks for sales trends and profit margins of items in inventory, and then cross-checks with Estimote to determine where to place products that are in stock with highest profit margins based on how often they are picked up.
  • Charities struggle to track/reconcile/report on the usage of funds they receive through various grants. How can you simplify this? Check out this recent post for more details.
  • Use Estimote beacons to help a shopkeeper track which items customers like most, and tie it to a loyalty program that provides special discounts for specific items.
  • Shoe-shop owner uses an Estimote beacon on shoes to see which are most commonly picked up/moved. A wall monitor displays advertisements when the beacon activates. The shop owner asks Alexa if they have a specific size in inventory rather than walking to the back. The owner takes payment via Square, and then sends “thank you for shopping with us! Get 20% discount next time you come in!” via Nexmo. Payment flows directly into QuickBooks and updates inventory levels.
  • Create a virtual “TechSquad” platform for charities, matching the skill-sets of tech industry employee volunteers with the charities that need them.
  • Create an app that helps people discover nontraditional banking solutions near them, complete with operating hours, available services (check-cashing, money transfer, etc.), and read/contribute user ratings/reviews.
  • A shop owner asks Alexa to find out from QuickBooks which customers are 90+ days late on payment of their invoice, and then sends notification to the late customers via Nexmo. This also works for a charity to follow up with donors who have pledged contributions.

This is just a start. What will you build?





2 responses to “What kind of apps do small businesses really need?”

  1. Thomas Avatar

    I would like to say as a small business owner I am always looking for a better way to track inventory in the warehouse and on service vehicles with each one having a inventory site in Quickbooks. A big part of this is the writing of invoices. If there could be a way to streamline it all I would jump right on it. To have a way that my service techs can easily move parts on and off their inventory list. As well as writing invoices. To have them scanned with bar codes or RFID. I know each year this would save me about $30,000 in lost inventory. The big part is it has to be supper simple and easy or people get lazy and do not do it.

    1. Lisa Rathjens Avatar
      Lisa Rathjens

      Thanks Thomas, this is a terrific use case!

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