The best apps and online tools for your small business

Head of products at MWEB, Rihana Hoosain gives small business owners the low-down on some of the latest and greatest tech solutions to transform their businesses.

Embracing great online tools and apps can really transform your small business in many ways – from getting your staff in sync, increasing productivity, business intelligence and profitability to improving, simplifying and revolutionising the way your customers shop and pay. Let’s take a look at some of the best online business apps and tools that MWEB, an ISP with a passion for guiding small business, can recommend to South African entrepreneurs.

1. Slack 

Slack is a small business collaboration and real-time messaging tool that has gained enormous popularity around the world. In fact, it is so well-liked and trusted that even though it is ideal for small businesses, it is also used by some of the most progressive companies in the world including AirBnB, BuzzFeed, ebay, HBO, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and DowJones. Designed as team communication for the 21st century, Slack allows companies to create various communication channels within their businesses, be it marketing, sales, or operations, and to use these channels to effectively communicate with their teams, or even suppliers and partner businesses. It is very simple to use, all communications are easily searchable, and channels include messages, file and comment sharing, and image and video sharing. It seamlessly integrates with other services such as TwitterDropbox  and Google Drive

2. MS Office 365

If you run a Microsoft reliant company, and need a deck of business software to run your business and team collaboration, this is the tool for you. MS Office 365 is ideal for the entrepreneur and allows access for up to five users via PC, Mac, Tablet or smartphone. You get up to 1TB of cloud data storage, 60 minutes of Skype calls per month and access all your trusted programmes including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. It makes it easy for your team to stay on the same page, across various programmes, and to keep all your files secure in one place.

3. Pastel

Pastel My Business Online is a fully fledged online and integrated accounting application that is loved by small businesses and start-ups the world over. It is really easy to use and offers dashboards, graphs and drill-downs to any transaction to give you and your accountant an overview of your business finances at any time via the Internet or via your smartphone. You can track customer sales history and supplier purchases, you can upload bank statements to help you manage your banking and cash flow, or process quotes and send them directly to customers. The system allows you to search for and contact your clients directly from your smartphone and contains map links that can help you find your way to your customers’ offices – it really is built for business people on the go. Another popular small business finance tool is Xero which runs in the cloud, integrates with your online banking, works across currencies and integrates with other popular, cutting edge business applications such as ADP for workforce management, Vend point-of-sale software, and PayPal, the popular global tool for online and mobile payments and invoicing.

4. IKhokha

iKhokha is a nifty mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) system. When you join iKhokha as a merchant, you will get The Edge, a tiny, compact card reader that plugs into your Apple or Android smartphone. Once you’ve made a sale, your customer can swipe his or her debit or credit card, input their PIN safely and securely and pay for your product right there on the spot. iKhokha also offers a value added service to small businesses by allowing merchants to sell mobile airtime from the iKhokha app using the Edge card reader, for Vodacom, MTN, Virgin Mobile, Cell C, Telkom Mobile, and World Call. But best of all, it’s the brainchild of a 100% South African company, so not only is it ideal for the South African retail environment, but you will also be supporting a fellow South African business.

5. Snapscan

Snapscan is another hugely popular South African mobile payment system. It’s an app that is powered by Standard Bank and that is free to download and use. SnapScan can be used with any MasterCard and VISA credit or cheque card, as well as selected debit cards, issued by any bank in South Africa. It allows your customers to pay for your goods and services via their mobile phones by simply taking a photo of your Snapscan QR code or punching in the amount they need to pay. The customer is freed from paying with cash or card, and once the transaction is made, they’ll be notified either via SMS or their PoS system that the transaction was successful. Over 14 000 South African businesses are already registered with Snapscan and it has even rolled out to all Big Issue vendors across South Africa. There are also plans afoot to roll it out as a street parking payment solution.  Merchants can set up the system in a few minutes with no hardware required – all you need is a mobile phone. 

6. WeChat

Another tech solution for small business (recently brought to South Africa) ismobile instant messaging (MIM) service WeChat. WeChat allows businesses to set up Official Accounts for their users to share marketing content, highlight promotions and connect with fans of their brand. The mobile messaging service supports text and video chat, video calling, photo or video and location sharing, and allows users to broadcast messages to wide audiences or send smaller group messages. You can also use your company’s WeChat official account as a mini brand website, it’s just more interactive. Having achieved massive success in markets like China, WeChat has about 500 million users worldwide and has become a popular way for businesses and brands to connect with consumers.

7. GetApp

There are millions of brilliant business apps out there, and it can be a daunting task to choose the right one for your business. And once you’ve signed up for an app or service, on-boarded your staff and customers, only to find out it wasn’t right for you, it can be tricky to backtrack. Enter GetApp. The website is home to a wide selection of reviews, previews, comparisons and industry articles on more than 3 000 business apps and helps you find the app that’s best suited to your business through its business app search function.

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