For years the direct store delivery market has been dominated by rugged Windows Mobile devices. These tough and rugged devices have served us well. But now consumer goods manufacturers that operate mobile sales and direct store delivery operations are opting to use tablets more and more.
We’ve been advocating for the use of tablets since 2014-Why? -because our goal is to help improve the productivity of mobile sales reps by making their work day easier and tablets do that.
It may seem obvious but with DSD personnel needing to complete tasks such as inventory management, capturing electronic proof of delivery, entering pre-orders, completing merchandising surveys and more, the tablet really is the ideal choice for the job.
But with so many tablet choices on the market today, it can be difficult to determine which model makes the most sense. So, what are the features to consider when evaluating tablets for DSD needs?
Issues to Consider When Selecting a Tablet for Mobile Sales and DSD applications
Here’s our list of issues to consider– in no particular order. (we’ve left out many obvious features that should be standard with any tablet such as cameras, WiFi and BlueTooth)
- Portability for drivers: With delivery drivers balancing everything from boxes to hand trucks, carrying a large heavy device into the store is simply not an option. At the same time, smartphones may not have all of the needed features or have the ability to run your software, thus small tablets are ideal for this use case. Look for devices that are around five-eight inches in size, as they can easily fit in one hand and can even be dropped in the driver’s pocket when not in use.
- Larger Screen Size for Pre-Sales: While clearly a smaller device is the best fit for delivery personnel, it’s not necessarily the best fir for Pre-Sales personnel. Pre-Sales people need to capture new orders. Often times they need to browse historical sales data or talk with a store managers to create the new orders. To do these tasks efficiently they need to see more data on the screen than delivery personnel. In these situations at table size of 10” or higher is preferred.
Rugged vs Not Rugged
Delivering goods and getting in and out of a truck multiple times per day can create a harsh environment for a mobile device. Drivers are exposed from everything to a walk-in freezer to a rain storm and often face the risk of accidentally dropping their device when loading or unloading the truck. In these conditions, a traditional consumer tablets without a rugged case will not hold up.
Higher failure rates can lead to increased costs, as well as significant downtime – a non-option for most manufacturers. Thus, ruggedized devices are the way to go when searching for a DSD mobile solution.
With routes that can exceed the standard eight-hour workday, battery life is critical for both drivers and pre sales people. Consider tablets that have 12 to 14 hours of battery life so that drivers can make it through all the day’s stops without a dead battery.
With the need for signature capture or other forms of delivery confirmation required by manufacturers, a dead tablet is simply not an option. That being said never send your drivers on the road without a charging cable
With retailer data at stake, manufacturers must implement stringent security features in order to ensure sensitive information is kept safe. While many device manufacturers now tout their devices as secure, look for third party validation through standards bodies.
Also, some tablets’ come equipped with fingerprint scanners to ensure only the tablet’s authorized user is able to gain access to the direct store delivery app.
While the DSD model significantly increases efficiency, many manufacturers are looking for ways to continue squeezing every possible ounce of productivity out of the DSD model. One way this can be achieved is through route optimization, meaning selecting routes that save drivers the most time and fuel when going to and from the manufacturing facility to retailer locations.
Route efficiency patterns can be tracked via GPS and therefore, tablets that have this functionality built-in are a great fit for DSD manufacturers looking to achieve optimal driver routes.
GPS is also effectively used to geo tag images and ensure salespeople and drivers are visiting your customers on a timely basis.
Inventory management and identification are at the heart of DSD, and the devices used by delivery drivers must be able to quickly and accurately scan product barcodes or RFID tags, and send data updates.
Tablets that integrate barcode- and RFID tag-reading capabilities into the same unit used for all the other tasks the driver needs to accomplish in a day simplify the job.
Connectivity WiFi and 4G
Drivers are constantly on the move and while driving from location to location, may find themselves in areas with poor or no connectivity. However, the direct store delivery app still needs to communicate their location and receive updated delivery information.
Some devices are only equipped with WiFi which means drivers can only synchronize the DSD data when they can find a WiFi hot spot. There are many tablet options that include built in wireless data capabilities that are provided by a commercial data carriers (ATT, Verizon, Sprint etc) .
Although more expensive because of the monthly data charges, devices with built in LTE or 4G are certainly preferable to those that do not have it.