Making the Most of Mobile - Modern Distribution Management

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Making the Most of Mobile

Expert: 'Don't do it just because it's cool.'

Over the past year, customers have become more reliant on mobile devices in almost every aspect of their lives. When it comes to looking for information online, it's the first screen most people go to, according to a recent survey conducted for Google. While the Google survey focused on consumer behaviors, more and more business transactions are following the same pattern, according to John Sonnhalter, founder of business-to-business marketing firm Sonnhalter.

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As a result, more distributors and manufacturers are creating mobile applications for use on smartphones. The problem, however, is that there's a temptation to jump on the bandwagon of creating a mobile apps without really thinking through what your solution is – or what problem you're trying to address. "Make sure it's something that improves the experience for your customers," Sonnhalter says. "Don't do it just because it's cool."

Making the experience easier or more efficient can take many forms. For example, the mobile application launched by Johnstone Supply, No. 5 on MDM's list of top HVAC/plumbing distributors, earlier this year provides a toolkit that customers can use in the field, including a pressure-temp chart and duct-sizer. On the other hand, Platt Electric Supply, which was acquired by Rexel earlier this year, focused its app on providing access to products and information on its website, as well as access to your Platt account.

And Grainger's mobile app was designed to provide the "full functionality of the Grainger website," according to Geoffrey Robertson, Grainger’s vice president of U.S. e-commerce strategy and planning. The app synchronizes what a customer does on a smartphone with the customer's account on the website so the information doesn't have to be entered multiple times as the customer moves across multiple screens – another trend uncovered by the Google survey. Grainger built in a workflow function to allow for faster order approval.

Mobile has the potential to be the next "big thing" in technology, and we're just at the beginning of the trend. Apps may not be the right move for everyone right now, but mobile is definitely something that should be in future strategy talks.

I spoke with Grainger about its new mobile app in the latest issue of MDM Premium. Learn more about the trend toward mobile in "Grainger Goes Mobile: What It Means".

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