Mobility as a Competitive Advantage for Wholesale Distributors

As a follow-up to my September 27, 2011 blog entitled “Wholesale Distribution in the Moment”, I thought I would extend my point of view on the mobility topic by sharing my recent experiences in the field with several distributor sales representatives.

Distributor Sales Representatives have leveraged laptop based mobile sales applications for years. These applications, though disconnected, allow for sale order entry and account management in the field. They often give visibility to customer information, pricing, margins, inventory availability, vendor program offers, and sales history. In addition, they may also enable cash collection and application. These mobile solutions require several types of synchronization; down-loads to get current balances, pricing, and availability, and up-loads to publish recent sales orders to back-office transaction systems.

It is clear that laptops are slowly becoming obsolete and that one-step tablet devices are becoming the preferred way of allowing salespeople to interact face-to-face with customers in real-time. Totally replacing legacy PC based mobile sales applications is however a long term aspiration for some distributors. These often functional rich systems can be difficult to quickly migrate over to new mobile devises in their entirety. As an interim step, many distributors are activity pursuing mobility accompaniment strategies in order to quickly improve sales force productivity and increase sales.

Accompaniment vs. Replacement for some Distributors

The Sybase Unwired Platform is a mobile enterprise application platform that enables distributors to simply and quickly deploy mobile applications that can accompany their full featured laptop based mobile sales software. Built on proven, industry-leading technology, the Sybase Unwired Platform addresses the challenges of creating and maintaining multiple mobile applications that connect to a variety of back-end data sources, and managing them of a variety of devices. These solutions can include separate sales rep and customer order entry apps rendered on a tablet or phone. Salespeople can not only see the latest business intelligence via their mobile device, but they can eliminate the task of hand writing phoned-in orders while they are on the road by instantly entering an order on a tablet while on the phone, making it unnecessary to pull out their laptop, go through VPN, and wait for programs to launch.

Customers can reduce the level of effort required to place order-adds or fill-in orders. Instead of phoning in an order to a sales or customer service rep, or managing their way through the distributor’s ecommerce site, they can quickly view product information and enter order quantities via a mobile phone. These two accompaniment application examples demonstrate how distributors can take advantage of anytime, anywhere sales opportunities by redefining the way salespeople and customers interact. Not only do specialized mobile sales apps increase efficiencies, they also help increase revenue.

Paul Pretko is the lead industry principal for Wholesale Distribution at SAP America. He is a wholesale distribution technology and operations leader with over twenty five years of comprehensive experience in distribution and logistics environments, executing operational improvement strategies through technology. He focuses on enabling efficient distributor operations with SAP for Wholesale Distribution solutions.