Download the Transforming In-Person Sales Infographic here.

While many wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers have already invested in back office systems to run operations, there has been a shift recently toward focusing on investing in technology to improve the sales process.

Businesses are looking to equip sales reps with a more efficient way of taking down orders than the paper order forms of years past––an order taking app that includes customer information, a digital catalog, and a digital order writing interface on a mobile device. Today, the speed and efficiency of this new digital order writing process is directly affecting back office operations.

in-person sales infographic

Why an Order Taking App is Necessary in Today’s Sales Environment

When asked to rank their biggest order management challenges, wholesalers surveyed cited order writing inefficiencies as their biggest pain point. These inefficiencies commonly stem from manual processes like order writing using paper order forms, Excel spreadsheets or cumbersome PDF forms.

When orders are taken by hand, illegibility, human error, and delayed order submission from the field to the back office can be extremely common. Other pain points included sales reps selling with inaccurate information, as well as orders being placed for out-of-stock products.

As it turns out, many wholesalers have already looked to rid their sales processes of such inefficiencies. Of those surveyed, order writing software was the primary method of writing orders (39% of respondents), 10 percentage points above the next most common order writing method. Of the wholesalers not using technology to write sales orders, paper order writing was the most common at 29%, with PDF order forms (14%) and ordering using Excel (12%) trailing behind. Notably, 25% of respondents are planning on investing in order writing software over the next 12 months.

A Look at Companies Already Using an Order Taking App

Among the respondents currently using order writing software, the vast majority––81%––are taking advantage of third party solutions, with just 19% of respondents using proprietary solutions. Indeed, given the prohibitive up-front cost of proprietary solutions, the extensive investment required for ongoing maintenance, and the challenges of making feature updates, more and more businesses across all industries––including those outside wholesale distribution––are turning to off-the-shelf SaaS solutions for their technology needs. The cloud subscription model, in which maintenance and upgrades are all taken care of by the vendor rather than internal IT staff, is providing the rapid time-to-value that agile companies need to make key process changes.

Interestingly, order writing software adoption rates in several industries exceeded the survey-wide rate by a significant margin. Industries like Eyewear & Optical and Toys, Baby & Kids stand out as leaders in the transition to digital order writing, with 64% and 62% adoption, respectively. Other industries, such as Apparel (33%) and Beauty & Cosmetics (29%) have been slower to make this change.

While brands in industries that have seen a higher than average adoption of order writing technology must make these investments to catch up to companies that have already, those in industries with lower adoption rates have an opportunity to forge ahead and gain a competitive advantage.

Also notable, 83% of wholesalers using order writing software are able to get their orders to the back office in less than 24 hours, compared with just 67% of respondents using manual order writing methods. 49% of wholesalers using order writing software can get their orders into their back office in less than 1 hour, compared with just 17% using manual methods. This clearly demonstrates that efficiency gains in in-person sales can extend into the entire order fulfillment process.

This blog post features just a few insights from our recently published Wholesale Technology & Sales Survey Report. To get more information on the current state of the wholesale distribution industry and how you stack up to the competition, you can download the entire report for free here.