27 Oct 2015 17:39 IST

Smart businesses leverage mobile tech too

How a business can use mobiles to increase its efficiency and get rid of pain points

After discussing in detail about the fundamentals of Digital Marketing (read articles on the topics of digital marketing , in-app advertising , optimising website marketing , and social media marketing , this article will deal with the topic of how smartphones can help businesses achieve better efficiencies.

Apart from regular internal communication between employees, are mobiles being used for other purposes in businesses as well?

Of course yes. Every business uses mobile in its own way to achieve better efficiencies. Though most of such initiatives are not directly revenue driven, like marketing, these initiatives result in cost-optimisation and better speed of delivery, hence increasing the revenues of an organisation.

How do business managers go about adopting smartphones in their business process?

Every business manager has specific ‘pain points’, which cannot be resolved through conventional models. There usually comes a situation where, addressing that specific pain point properly, will result in a huge enhancement of efficiency. Only a domain expert will be able to accurately identify that pain point. Since mobile as a platform and as a medium is very versatile, it is easily adopted to address such pain points.

Can you explain in more detail? It isn’t very clear.

We can discuss it like a simple case study and understand the role of mobile enablement in the scenario.

Take the example of a sales distribution system of a company selling washing powder and soaps.

In a conventional set-up of a sales organisation of an FMCG product, the sales executives report to a territory manager. The executive goes about visiting shops allotted to him and notes down the orders from each retailer. Typically, he carries a printout that contains the list of variants of powder and soap, and different denominations, such as sachets, 200g packs, and so on.

The executive then notes down the order for each variant, for each retailer, in the printout. Once he completes his beat of 15 to 20 shops, he keys in the details into his office computer and sends it to the warehouse, from where the despatch of the products takes place. In remote locations, executives keep travelling for the whole week and then send the order list to the head office by the weekend. So, the head office receives orders every weekend.

Can you make out what the pain point here is?

Yes. This system has a lot of scope for manual errors, while the executive inputs the data in his sheet or when it is input again at the head office. Not just that, the same data is input twice, which is duplication of effort.

To makes matters worse, the head office receives information after a time lag. And if the data is wrong, they will end up sending wrong quantities of the product to the retailer, which will result in returns and wastage.

If they receive timely information, they can plan their despatches better, and once the despatches happen on time, the manufacturing department can also plan their production based on this data. This will result in products spending less time at the warehouse and more time in the market, resulting in better sales.

So how have they adopted smartphones to get rid of this pain point?

Nowadays, organisations have started developing their own mobile apps or purchasing standard sales tracking apps that are available in the market.

The executive carries a tab or a mobile, which is embedded with this app. He searches for the retailer’s name from the database and starts entering the purchase quantity for each product variant and submits the data, which is then immediately reflected in the database. The executive will then have the option of entering other information related to payment cycles or other remarks from the retailer.

There are many such apps in the market. Next time you visit a retailer, you might notice an FMCG salesman taking orders on his mobile or tab.

Sounds interesting. I think I have noticed it. But it didn’t occur to me that it was linked to some business strategy! But are these the only pain points faced by sales managers?

No. In fact, one very important point was missed. Since the sales executives are always out on the field and happen to work in various remote markets, it is difficult to track them; management has no way of knowing whether they are actually working in the field or not. So, all these apps are enabled with GPS settings, so that, along with order data, the app also sends the user's location. This ensures that the sales executive is indeed out there, on the field.

It also helps the management understand the geographical spread of retailers and the reach of their distribution system. Thereby, the mobile, as a platform, helps sales managers monitor their distribution system and enhance efficiency.

That’s interesting. How do other areas of business use mobiles to their benefit?

We will look at this one by one. In our next chat, we will examine the pain points of a brand manager and how he solves it using mobile phones.

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