Working in the distribution or wholesale world, your mind may usually be on the warehouse floor or in the customer service department, rather than on mobile business software. However, choosing the right mobile software (such as ERP or CRM) to empower your sales team, dispatch and delivery services, and any other on-the-go staff is no light decision.
According to a comScore Report, the number of mobile internet users exceeded desktop users in early 2015. When it comes to the software used to perform work-related activities, companies can no longer afford to think of desktop first. As we move toward a more mobile future, so must your business ― but this important step needs to be done right. Let’s explore five key features to look for when considering a mobile software for your distribution or wholesale business.
Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Evaluating Potential Mobile Software
1. Can I access real-time, accurate data in order to make business decisions?
Your mobile software shouldn't be disconnected from the rest of your company’s operations. For example, having the ability to browse through your inventory to find quantity location and information is functionality that a product-centric company will no doubt utilize. For a sales team, creating and editing quotes, orders, invoices, and returns without being tied down to a desk will be a real productivity and efficiency boost.
Consider the tasks that any mobile users will need to accomplish in order to do their jobs well, and try to find mobile functionality that matches those necessary job requirements. Also consider the specific needs of your business (we’ll talk more about this consideration).
Understanding where your needs are when out in the field ― and knowing what is needed in order to effectively complete your job ― is the pivotal first step when considering mobile software. Be sure that the software you’re considering offers access to the right information at all times.
2. Can I fulfill sales on the go?
Sales are what will keep your company moving and growing; therefore, your chosen mobile software should allow sales representatives to close deals and make these crucial sales. Being able to connect with customers and meet their needs from anywhere (and at any time) will not only give your business a competitive edge, but can help boost morale on your sales team.
Sales reps are constantly traveling from conference to conference, meeting with prospects, and working from the road. Offering customers the ability to sign documents on a mobile phone or tablet can actually impact the outcome of a deal. Being able to securely receive payment via a mobile app also offers a sales team all kinds of flexibility.
3. Does this mobile app offer an offline mode?
While this may seem like a basic feature, it’s important to ask the question. Does the mobile software you are considering allow you to have visibility while riding in the elevator? How about during that meeting with a client whose building has the walls of a military bunker? Busy people don’t have time for dead zones. Offline functionality that will allow you to save data until you reconnect is important to consider when choosing the best mobile software for your business.
4. Does the company that created the software offer customization?
When it comes to your business software, you never want to create workarounds or alter good processes in order to accommodate inefficiencies in your technology solution. You shouldn’t create barriers to or alter your company goals to fit your software’s functionality.
While the phrase “custom software” can have negative connotations for some, the ability to work with a software company in order to tweak mobile software to meet your specific needs is invaluable. Simple customization like adding a custom field, adding custom dashboards, or changing the color of part of the display can have a big impact on how you use your business mobile software. After all, if you’re paying to license and implement a mobile tool, you want it to actually work for your company — and every company is unique.
Custom software doesn’t have to be scary. Let’s dispel some common misconceptions about software customization.
5. Does this software integrate well with my Operational ERP system?
This question deserves some consideration, and can sometimes be part of the “customization” discussion. Some ERP systems offer mobile apps, while some may need a little integration work. Again, you’ll need to consider the unique needs of your business right now when considering how integrated you want your mobile software to be. For many medium to large distribution companies, having mobile software tied closely to ERP systems is a must. Benefits like automatic syncing and data consistency should be at the top of your wish list when evaluating mobile software.
Do the legwork now, avoid the headache later
Investing in solid mobile software can be an intimidating endeavor — but, if you put in the work on the front end, you’ll save yourself time, money, and energy in the long run. The last thing you want after purchasing and implementing mobile software is to realize that, after some digging around, said software doesn’t offer the functionality you need.
Lastly, don’t forget that “mobile” can extend beyond your smartphone — it encompasses tablets and laptops as well.
Ultimately, a thorough understanding of your needs as a business (and the needs of individual departments) and the capabilities of the mobile software you’re considering will help you make a smart decision when choosing what software is right for you.