App Essentials

Eight free apps every retail exec should download

The life of any top-level retail executive is hectic, but there’s a whole host of mobile app tools to help manage everyday tasks and ultimately boost efficiency.

From keeping track of to-do lists and meetings to eliminating paper receipts needed for expense reports, here are eight essential iOS and Android apps every retail exec should download — and actually use:

Evernote: This note-taking app can be a lifeline for retail executives. Whether in a meeting, on a train or unwinding on the couch at night, Evernote is a key platform for jotting down notes by voice, text or photos. In addition to housing a place for ideas, it keeps track of to-do lists and keeps you organized, without having to bug an assistant for calendar updates.

Bonus: Evernote is newly integrated with Livescribe, a Wi-Fi-enabled smartpen ($169.95), which records what you hear during meetings and syncs it up with the notes you take. (So if you tap the pen to notes at a later time, the recorded audio matches what was said at that time.) Because the Livescribe pen works with Evernote, users can access everything directly via the app.

Dragon Dictation: For execs who are more orators than pen-to-the-paper writers, Dragon Dictation is a speech-recognition app that translates what’s said into notes. So if there’s an hour to spare in the car to work on a speech, this app simplifies the process and serves as an on-the-go virtual secretary.

Dropbox: This cloud-based app syncs documents, photos and media files remotely, so dragging data from a PC or mobile platform to a Dropbox account allows users to access them while on the go. Dropbox is also shareable between users. Need to approve that document before it’s presented at a conference? Pop it into the app and make necessary changes without actually downloading data-sucking files.

Twitter: As Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently said at a San Francisco tech conference, the biggest misconception about the micro-blogging site is “that you have to tweet to use [it].” By following key retail journalists and publications — Chain Store Age included via @ChainStoreAge — you can get the most up-to-date news in real time and stay ahead of the curve. Monitoring brand competitors on Twitter is also valuable for keeping track of merchandising strategies, especially during the holiday shopping season.

Flipboard: There’s a good reason why Flipboard has been among one of the most-downloaded apps for about two years. Along with a beautiful, streamlined interface, the app packages the top news on the Web into a magazine-style reading format, allowing users to flip through headlines like turning pages in a book. It’s also customizable, so the app presents the most relevant news based on interests and industry (e.g. brand marketers are presented with different articles than a financial executive would see).

Pocket: Another news consumption app worth downloading is Pocket, which saves articles, videos and Web pages and gives you access to them at a later time, even when you’re offline such as taking a flight.

CamCard: This business card reader app for Android users scans images taken from a smartphone camera and automatically saves them as contacts to a mobile address book. This means taking a picture of a business card will ensure you’ll never lose important contact information again.

Expensify: For avid business travelers, Expensify automates the entire expense report process so you can be reimbursed quickly and avoid carrying around piles of receipts. The app syncs with the user’s credit cards and bank accounts to keep track of purchases and creates digital copies of paper receipts. Meanwhile, when a credit card is used, items paid for in cash can be documented digitally via the app’s scanner feature.

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