In Part 1 of this series, I discussed how an internet presence and eCommerce are vital components of maintaining relationships with customers, that best-in-class distributors are able to achieve better results through the management of internet channels, and that many wholesalers have yet to implement a modern eCommerce strategy. I suggested that businesses that chose to sit on the sidelines may one day find themselves swept off the field all together. The reason being is that the game is changing fast as complementary technologies are being developed. Simply, the telephone itself is going the way of the telegraph. The proliferation of Smart phones (31% in 2010 according to Nielson and expected to be close to 50% by end of 2011) internet usage, and applications that enable businesses to operate along entirely new dimensions are fueling a rise in expectations as we all get used to seeking real-time information anytime, day or night, from virtually anywhere. (“Hey, there’s an app. for that!”)
This has implications from both a consumer and a worker perspective, because the flip side is that these advances also make it possible for you to leverage your ERP in increasingly dynamic ways. Epicor has been an early mover in developing Enterprise Mobility and Mobile Solutions and these are now a key part of our product strategy. With all of the uncertainty in the world, it might be hard to care, but it is worth checking out and knowing about. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to begin is to visit an Apple store and see first-hand how Apple is using mobile solutions to both operate and change the retail experience. This is just one example of how the game is changing and I’ll give you another that may ring a little closer to home.
I recently had an in-home service call that I would call outstanding. The heating and cooling tech who came to fix my air conditioner when it went failed to start this summer used a mobile device to check inventory on his truck and capture my credit card information to close the service call. (Tip: shut off the electricity to your AC during the winter, mice feel the warmth and chew through wires.) I was impressed by the fact that he actually had the parts that he needed on his truck and how quickly he had cool air moving into my house. No calls to dispatch or additional trips or trucks required to complete the job, which is something I’ve experienced frequently in the past. Maybe you have too and know how much extra time is carved from your day when this happens. The point is, this guy will be the first I (and very likely many other people) will call the very next time I need service.
Mobile technology is changing the competitive landscape: DC Velocity columnist, James A. Cooke has recently written about the proliferation of commercial GPS navigation systems, which is an important advance for small outfits who want the most cost effective way of finding the most efficient way from point A to point B. And it is a great example of how technology (once only leveraged by the big guys) can be used to level the playing field when it comes to gaining efficiency. GPS enabled mobile devices are also being used to allow dispatchers real-time positioning of their drivers. Moreover, through commercially available routing solutions like Appian Logistics this information can be displayed on the internet so customers can even view the real-time movement of their orders.
Epicor mobile solutions provide business the means to address field service and sales activities while our enterprise mobility initiatives allow workers to access your ERP from virtually anywhere. Like any investment, there is upfront cost in terms of time, money, and education and it is important to understand how a mobile strategy fits with the overall business. And fit it must. Just as we once had to make room in our ceilings and walls to accommodate network cables, we must now plan to integrate mobility into our IT infrastructures. Someday, the relationships we have with our partners and customers may be built around mobility, because, really, we all want to spend less time wondering where the orders are and more time on more enjoyable, more productive endeavors.
Posted by Michael Tatara, Manager, Product Marketing, Epicor