Five Retailer Benefits from Shifting Paper Forms to Mobile Apps

By Jason Peck, Director of Marketing, Canvas

Business adoption of new technologies often flows from their personal use. This certainly applies to mobile apps and devices. The ability to download an app in seconds, share photos and data via the cloud in real-time, and communicate from any location at any time have evolved from “nice to have” to “need to have.”

These consumer-grade technology expectations are just beginning to spill over to the business world. Yet, despite increased adoption of mobile devices and technologies, paper forms are burying many retailers and distribution firms. Consider that the average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper each year, which means that at an estimated cost of $40 per case of paper, businesses are spending $80 annually on paper per worker. Furthermore, it takes 18 minutes on average to find a paper document, and a whopping 70% of businesses would fail in three weeks if they had a catastrophic loss of paper due to a fire or flood.

Getting from paper forms to mobile apps is not without challenges, such as a fear that developing a custom mobile app will prove costly and time-intensive. With custom mobile app development often costing more than $50,000 and three months of IT time and resources, this fear has merit. Other concerns include maintaining control and security of customer and business data, and introducing new processes.

But today, mobile business apps are accessible to retailers of any size due to the benefits and economics of the cloud and do-it-yourself app builder tools that eliminate traditional costs associated with custom app development, reduce the need for internal IT and development resources, and speed deployment across your workforce.

As a result, your business can experience five key benefits that a cloud-based mobile app solution delivers.

1. Mobile time cards enhance workforce visibility

Businesses with mobile workforces often struggle to see in real-time what workers are doing. Paper forms compound this problem because it can often be several hours or even days before a mobile worker returns to the office, files paperwork and enters data into your system.

Cloud-based mobile apps provide greater visibility into workforce productivity in several ways. By creating a time card mobile app, businesses can have time automatically entered to ensure accuracy, and that information can be sent in real-time via the cloud to the office. Greater accuracy means fewer issues, and allow you to spend less time tracking employees and more tracking actual work performance.

2. Mobile work orders improve workforce productivity

For retailers with field workers, tracking employee productivity can be cumbersome and time-consuming with paper work orders that can also be hard to read, inconsistently returned to the office, lost or damaged, and impossible to get in real time. At a more granular level, fields often aren’t filled in fully or correctly, and pricing is entered or calculated incorrectly.

The result? Your sales cycle grinds to a halt. Mobile work orders create a system that's reliable, accurate, and accessible in real time. Companies are able to use time and date stamps to accurately show when a job occurred, while built-in GPS capabilities can confirm a worker was at a job site or customer location.

3. Mobile GPS capabilities streamline vehicle routing

A cloud-based mobile app can also improve routing efficiency as you dispatch workers to job sites and customer locations. With GPS location capture, business owners can visualize routes on a map, consolidate two routes into one, or even calculate date and time. A light dispatch service also allows companies to send delivery information to remote or field workers, and a careful review of routes can save hundreds of gallons of gas, as well as wear and tear on vehicles.

4. Mobile inspections improve quality control

For retailers charged with conducting quality control, safety and compliance inspections at store locations, paper forms introduce several vulnerabilities and inefficiencies. Workers could report inspecting a location they never visited, and workers must rewrite the same information over and over, use expensive carbon copies that are hard to read and easily lost, and are limited to text-only data.

Mobile inspection apps allow your business to build in time and date stamps – as well as GPS location – to ensure inspections are being done correctly and in accordance with company and industry regulations. Mobile inspection apps also allow for multimedia to more easily report complicated issues and provide visual proof of issues. Time and date stamps as well as GPS location ensure accurate, effective inspections.

5. Mobile apps transform data collection and storage

Integrating mobility into core applications places a premium on effective data collection that can be easily stored and shared across the organization. With mobile data collection capabilities, employees can fill out information anywhere and have that data stored securely in the cloud, a huge cost savings driver as each four-drawer filing cabinet costs a firm $1,500 annually. By using Application Program Interfaces (APIs), businesses can easily integrate data collected via mobile apps with internal systems such as Salesforce and Quickbooks. Finally, with mobile data collection capabilities, businesses can collect an expanded set of information beyond text through image capture, barcode scanning, e-signatures and GPS. 

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