Martin Flyer has been creating designer engagement rings since 1945. For IT Director Cherian Chacko, the company’s mission is simple: “We get people engaged and married.”

Martin Flyer works exclusively in B2B sales, selling products to authorized dealers and independent jewelers across the United States and Canada. Until recently, Martin Flyer’s sales reps were carrying paper order pads and printed catalogs into each sales meeting. Those order forms were then faxed into the back office for processing.

In a business with a highly customizable product, seemingly countless variants, very specific product details, and a constant stream of new catalog additions, however, the sheer number of SKUs (Martin Flyer currently sells over 20,000 unique products) made these paper processes extremely cumbersome.

The company has since turned things around with the adoption of order management software, which allows sales reps to carry their entire product catalog––along with customer information and an order writing interface––on iPads. According to Chacko, “It has completely changed the way an order is taken and how we communicate with reps.”

The Many Downsides of Paper

The driving force behind Martin Flyer’s adoption of order management software (with iPad catalogs) was the frustration and inefficiency resulting from the company’s reliance on paper. With 20,000 SKUs (all of which are much more expensive than your average everyday product), it was impossible for sales reps to carry samples into meetings. Instead, the company printed catalogs. Massive catalogs.

“It’s how the bridal industry works,” says Chacko. “For any one product, you’ll have different variants––six different metals and varying diamond weights and sizes. For any one product, you could end up with up to fifty SKUs. As a result, our catalog was enormous.”

Another common problem was the fact that with the limited space within the catalog, it was impossible to print detailed product descriptions for every single SKU. Product details were only available for certain styles, and sales reps were missing key information while in meetings with retailers.

To remedy the issue, the company tried to put all of the catalog information into a Dropbox folder. “It was an enormous amount of data,” says Chacko. “Finally, we came to a point where we decided that our reps had to be able to carry the information with them everywhere they went.”

Searching for an iPad Catalog Solution

Chacko and the team at Martin Flyer considered building their own solution, but eventually ruled out the option. “It’s just too complex to build and maintain our own software. It would cost a fortune,” says Chacko. “We want to focus on making our own products better, not software. A product company should be a product company, and a technology company should be a technology company.”

Once this decision was made, Chacko set out to find a third party application that would meet the company’s need for a digital catalog and order writing interface. The goal was to get every product into a digital format, including high resolution images, pricing, and detailed descriptions. The application would also need to store all of Martin Flyer’s customer data.

During his search, Chacko found several applications that seemed to offer what the company needed, but ended up not meeting their requirements. Some were unstable or unreliable, while others had confusing, complex user interfaces that would have been difficult for their sales reps to learn. Many applications simply couldn’t handle the number of products that Martin Flyer had in their catalog.

Eventually, Chacko came across Handshake. “We tested it, and it was great. Handshake stores all of our product and customer data, and sales reps can find all the information they want in the field. We’re now providing better information to our retailers.”

iPad Catalog: The Results

Martin Flyer’s sales reps now carry iPads, and can scroll through their product catalogs with ease. As more products are constantly being added, the new SKUs and details are synced from headquarters to all sales reps in the field, so that everyone is on the exact same page.

The team is also using the technology at trade shows like JCK in Las Vegas and Centurion in Scottsdale. Where before, handwritten orders on paper forms would cause delays and errors due to bad handwriting and manual order entry, orders are now received by the back office in real time. According to Chacko, “The interface is well-structured, and it’s a very clean system. My sales team is really happy with it.”