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5 Ways the iPad [Did or Didn’t] Transform Marketing, Part 5 – Value Chain Optimization

The number of mobile CRM apps available for download on the app store grew more than 500% in less than two years, jumping from 200 to 1,200 applications. Gartner predicts that, by 2017, 65% of sales organizations will use mobile devices to drive user adoption and improve data quality for sales force automation (SFA) systems.

It is evident that businesses have optimized their value chain by going mobile, being able to access real-time information while reducing IT costs. So, what is the role of the iPad on salesforce automation and value chain optimization? Has the iPad enabled functional efficiencies and effectiveness across corporate value chains?

During the past four weeks, we’ve been assessing our predictions from 2010 that supported our hypothesis that the iPad was more than just another consumer electronics fad. We believed that the iPad would signal the beginning of a transformative era for marketing and business computing. 

Of the five categories we evaluated to date, the only prediction that fell flat was pertaining to talent development and training. Although companies have increasingly integrated the use of iPad in their development programs, the adoption rate is still very low compared to other business areas.

On the other hand, we found out that the iPad plays a critical role to empower customers, enabling product visualization, self-guided experiences and payment processing. It is also the ideal tool to streamline complex sales processes by providing interactive product information through a dynamic platform. Marketers have also realized the opportunity to use the iPad as a tool to entertain their customers while educating them about a product or service.

It’s time to review the last part of our iPad series: “Value Chain Optimization”. Did we score 4 out of 5 for our predictions?  Have businesses been using the iPad as a tool to sustain their strategy and optimize their value chain processes?

5. The role of iPad for Value Chain Optimization

In 2010, we predicted that the iPad would emerge as a killer platform to support and sustain companies’ competitive advantages, specifically in processes such as product design & development, inventory management, product assortment and merchandising.

Product Design & Development

In order to optimize the entire value chain, we suggested that the iPad would help retailers gather insights from their customers in the store and design products that would delight their customers.

FACT: The portability of the iPad allows researchers to capture key information from customers at the point of sale, helping brands to better understand what their customers think and feel. iPads have transformed survey design, providing the ideal platform for easy-to-use survey apps. From Survey Monkey to Qualtrics, there is an abundance of tools to support researchers to design surveys and collect data in real time.

Inventory Management

Inventories must be managed tightly to sustain profit margins. We had suggested that the iPad could be used to track and monitor inventory levels dynamically. We also predicted that the iPad would integrate with other corporate systems like ERP, CRM and SCM and become an important source of emergent knowledge for refining business strategies and creating differentiated customer experiences.

FACT. There are hundreds of inventory management, control, and tracking apps available for iOS devices. Camcode put together a list of the top 30 apps, considering their integration, scanning, and ease-of-use capabilities.

SAP, for example, has an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for small to medium sized organizations: the SAP Business One. The system offers a mobile app for iOS, so businesses can monitor inventory levels, process approval requests, view reports, and manage business partner data and sales opportunities from anywhere.

“The ERP functionality is complete – from accounting to service functions, to distribution and manufacturing functions. It comes with mobile apps available as part of the system.“ Don from Mascidon, 12-year SAP Business One veteran


CRM solutions also provide mobile apps integrated with the corporate systems, allowing salespeople to access real time data while out in the field meeting prospects and customers. In fact, the usage of iPads and mobile apps improves not only inventory management and sales processes, but also makes the entire supply chain more efficient.

Monsanto, for example, a controversial provider of agricultural products for farmers, applied a mobile solution that allows the company to complete orders faster, track deliveries and capture customer feedback from the field in real-time. The app integrates with Monsanto’s SAP ERP system, allowing real-time visibility of deliveries.

As pointed out by foodlogistics, iPads and tablet technology also empower supply chain leaders to manage the distribution centers in real time, from anywhere. Managers can update information while an operational change is being made, and potentially reverse changes quickly to avoid work stoppages. Supervisors can also send metrics and spend one-on-one time with warehouse employees. By receiving this information in real time, employees can adjust their behavior and maximize their productivity.

Product Assortment & Merchandising

An optimal store assortment begins long before the product is available for the customer. It involves coordination of key information such as design, development, merchandising, planning, marketing, sourcing and vendor. We predicted that the iPad would not only serve as a “virtual merchandiser,” but also as the ideal platform for capturing, analyzing and sharing this type of information between trading partners across the value chain to assure optimal assortment in the store, supported with compelling merchandising and in-store communications.

The iPad serves as a virtual merchandiser, as confirmed by examples shared in the first chapter of our iPad series. There are also visual merchandising apps such as TouchBase and Canvas that help retailers create effective window displays, in-store displays for products, and other merchandising services.

However, it would be too optimistic to say that the iPad serves as a platform that really integrates key information between trading partners across the value chain. There is still a lot of space to grow and a great opportunity to apply tablet technology to assure optimal assortment in the store.

Were our predictions Fact or Fiction?

Overall, the examples and business cases shared in this article validate our predictions made in 2010 for the usage of iPads for value chain optimization. From basic visibility and order traceability to warehouse management solutions, the iPad and tablet technology empower businesses to optimize value chain.

FACT: A Transformative Era for Marketing and Business Computing

Check out the final score for our predictions. Were they fact or fiction?

  1. Customer Empowerment: FACT
  2. Complex Sales: FACT
  3. Talent Development and Training: TBD
  4. Entertainment & Edutainment: FACT
  5. Value Chain Optimization: FACT

The iPad is more than just another consumer electronics fad. It represents the beginning of a transformative era for marketing and business computing, providing the ideal platform for innovative apps that have the potential to significantly impact various businesses scenarios and needs.

With fantastic functionalities, that are applicable for such a variety of business applications, why is it that the iPad’s sales performance is falling short? Perhaps… Market saturation? Maturity lifecycle? Lack of innovation in hardware? Convergence among devices? The exact causes are difficult to pin down.

Gartner shows that during 2012 and 2013 global sales of tablets were growing in double-digits and the steep drop can be explained by several factors: “One is that the lifetime of tablets is being extended – they are shared out amongst family members and software upgrades keep the tablets current. Another factor includes the lack of innovation in hardware, which refrains consumers from upgrading.”

Apple insider, instead, pointed out the rise of “phablets” like the iPhone 6s Plus, which are big enough to handle some tablet duties — like reading and video — while also serving as a phone.

IDC analysts say that tablet sales have been hit by the growth of detachable tablets such as Microsoft Surface.


In fact, what we’re seeing is the convergence among devices, especially when we talk about screen size and functionalities. The iPhone is more like an iPad; the laptop is more like a tablet; the tablet is more like a laptop…

The reality is that employees now use an average of three different mobile devices to perform their jobs on a daily basis. Since they can download business apps, store data on the cloud and make it available anywhere, they can easily switch between devices. 

Clearly, what makes this a killer platform is the combination of a portable device with innovative applications and cloud computing. And, most importantly, user adoption based on user needs and user success.

The iPad was the beginning of a transformative era for marketing and business computing. Now businesses must keep up with these innovations to build their own competitive advantage and #MoveTopRight.

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Photo Source: Food Logistics

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