Internet Retailer: ADI Global's New Mobile App Sparks Online Customer Activity at Electronics Distributor

April 19, 2015

ADI Global designed a mobile app to meet the needs of the contractors who often order parts from job sites but don’t have PCs at hand.

ADI Global Distribution was determined to make it easier for its customers in the United States—including thousands of contractors that install its electrical products in businesses and homes—to quickly find and order products through smartphones.

Not relatively clunky tablets or laptops, which don’t fit the bill for many installers, saysMichael Flink, president of ADI Global. “On the job site, most don’t have a tablet or laptop,” he says. “Our customer may be in a crawl space in a basement when he needs to order a product. So what they have on the job site is a smartphone.”

Taking such needs into consideration, ADI Global worked with a mobile technology vendor to develop a mobile app for researching products and placing orders. The results, Flink says, have shown a substantial improvement over prior efforts to engage customers online.

Launched six months ago, the app quickly caused a surge in the number of customers ordering online—far more than earlier launches of a mobile commerce site and a full-fledged e-commerce site, Flink says. “When we went to a mobile site, a little more customers began using the web,” he says. “But when we went to the app, we got three times as many people to order online.”

Flink declines to name ADI Global’s mobile app development firm, citing corporate policy not to publicize the names of its technology providers. ADI Global is a unit of a unit of Honeywell International Inc.

Although many customers still call ADI Global to speak with a customer sales rep—ADI’s contact center receives about 350,000 to 400,000 calls per month—that call volume has remained constant even as ADI’s sales have grown, Flink says.

ADI Global sells some 150,000 products from about 500 suppliers. It operates in 20 countries, including 12 with e-commerce sites.

The distributor is a unit of manufacturing conglomerate Honeywell Inc., which doesn’t break out ADI’s sales figures. But Flink says ADI’s worldwide operation is a “multi-billion-dollar business,” with e-commerce accounting for between 10% and 30% of sales, depending on the country.

Its new mobile app, however, is only for its North American market, where it is helping to drive up online sales. “Our conversion rates are extremely high,” Flink says, adding: “E-commerce is growing at a faster pace” than offline sales.

ADI took several steps to plan its mobile to meet the particular needs of its customers. Many of the installers, for instance, have large hands and find it difficult to key in information on a smartphone. And they often need to order a part quickly in order to finish a job within a one- or two-day time frame.

The app addresses such needs in multiple ways, Flink says. For one thing, customers can see the updated availability of particular products, the location of the nearest distribution center, the time and cost of delivery to the job site, and the availability of the product at branch locations across the United States for customer pickup of online orders. ADI operates nine distribution centers across North America, and 104 branch locations spread across 65 metropolitan areas in the United States.

“Being in the middle of an installation and having the ability to pick up a smartphone, search a big catalog of products, and find out if a product is available right at that minute, or available tomorrow, is critical to our customers,” Flink says. “Their profitability on the job site is based on their ability to get in and out quickly.”

In another practical feature for installers—addressing what some refer to as the “fat finger” challenge on smartphones—the app is also designed to take voice-activated orders.

ADI Global, which solicits feedback from customers through three or four surveys a year, has more improvements ahead, Flink says. He declines to specify what’s ahead, but says the company is already planning to launch its next-generation app this spring or summer. “The key is that the next app launch will make researching and ordering products from the job site even easier and faster,” he says.

Read the article on Internet Retailer.

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