By now, it should be clear that the smart phone is not only here to stay – it's taking over. More and more consumers and companies alike turn to their devices for anything Internet-related – email, shopping, Voice over Internet Protocol – the list goes on. As a result, small businesses are faced with a dilemma: how are they to manage all these emerging marketplaces alongside their existing stores and websites? Is it worth it to invest in mobile technology?

The answer is resoundingly, 'Yes.' Small companies cannot afford to sit by idly while their competitors – and indeed, larger companies – make moves to embrace the dynamic digital world. Those that do not act will be left behind by their consumers and their competition. Fortunately, it is becoming easier and easier to develop a mobile application. Now, these small businesses have no excuse not to enter into the smart phone marketplace.

Smartphone sales rose in the third quarter
The first and foremost reason why a company should invest in its own mobile app is the sheer ubiquity of the smart phone, along with its projections for future growth. According to Gartner, smart phones sales reached its highest ever growth among emerging markets in the third quarter of 2014. Worldwide, smart phone sales to end users increased 20.3 percent.

Overall mobile phone sales were flat, indicating that smart phones are continuing to replace standard mobile phones as the most commonly used cellular devices. As of now, smart phones account for 66 percent of the entire mobile phone market. By 2018, Gartner estimates that for every 10 mobile phones, nine will be smart phones.

"Sales of feature phones declined 25 percent in the third quarter of 2014 because the difference in price between feature phones and low-cost Android smartphones is reducing further," Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner, said in the report.

Soon, nearly every single consumer will be armed with a smart phone. Without a mobile app to bring business to the customer's fingertips, a company will be unable to compete.

Companies have more access to app-building tools
Companies that build an app and put it up for download in huge application marketplaces like Google Play will still have the trouble of making it stand out among the thousands of other apps. As a response, Salesforce.com has created the AppExchange Store Builder, a platform that allows business-to-business (B2B) organizations to build custom, e-commerce app stores, according to Industry Week.

"If you're a B2B brand and you're building a bunch of apps for your customers, putting them in the Google Play store does not make sense," Jim Sinai, senior director of AppExchange and platform marketing, told Industry Week. "Customers have asked us to help them build their own app ecosystems."

Retailers, manufacturers and government agencies have all expressed interest in building their own app stores. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to use AppExchange to provide various fleet management, budgeting and process management apps to fellow agencies. Small businesses could also benefit on the receiving end, as more specialized apps stores will make it easier to find the specific, reliable apps they might need. Additionally, consumers could use these new marketplaces in a similar way, searching through a retail marketplace to find the exact services they need.

IT and tech industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in information technology equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.