Rental software companies aim to help
Getting customers to visit your website is one goal, but do you know how many are accessing your site through their smartphone or tablet these days?
More than 152.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones as of November 2013, according to comScore, Reston, Va. That’s more than 63 percent market penetration. Of those, the majority own Apple devices, followed by Samsung, Motorola and LG. However, Google Android led as the No. 1 smartphone platform, with 51.9 percent of market share. Google sites were the top mobile media property and Facebook was the top individual app.
What this all means is that more rental customers and employees are using mobile devices in addition to or instead of laptops and desktop computers. The rise in smartphone ownership has paved the way for the increase in companies offering mobile websites.
Patrick Haley, director of marketing, Automated Rental Management, San Antonio, says mobile has been a hot topic in the rental software industry. “Business owners want to be able to access their data whenever and from wherever they want. They also envision extending the mobile capabilities of their rental and financial system to the rest of their workforce. However, simply having access to the system doesn’t mean that every employee will use it.”
Adopting mobile technologies in the workplace sometimes requires a change to how that business operates, Haley says. “We often find that going mobile happens in phase two or phase three of an ERP [enterprise resource planning] management software implementation, which can be several years after adopting a new system,” he says.
Once the business operation is in place, mobile can allow employees to get work done more efficiently.
“Our rental software, Automated Rental Management (ARM), supports mobile access via tablets and smartphone,” Haley says. “The adopters of this technology are often more agile and adoption rates by employees is largely driven from the top down. The CEO says, ‘This is how we are going to do business.’ Our customers utilizing the mobile features use them to generate sales quotes, place orders and check on inventory from the field. They also find a lot of value in the delivery routing functionality, which allows drivers to optimize their routes for maximum efficiency while on the road.”
Paul Chapdelaine, RMI Corp., Avon, Conn., agrees, and says using mobile devices can be much more efficient. “It used to take hours, if not days, to process the paperwork required to get a service order through to completion and customer payment. Now, service work orders are pushed through to the service tech’s mobile device in the order in which the orders should be processed. Upon completion of the service activity the service tech identifies time spent and parts consumed in fulfillment of the order through his/her mobile device immediately upon completing the service. The completed work order is immediately available for customer acceptance with a signature capture triggering the invoice process,” Chapdelaine says.
“Taking the process full circle, the mobile device can be outfitted with a credit card reader, which results in customer payment immediately upon completion of the service order. The customer has been invoiced and the invoice has been paid before the service tech leaves the work site,” he says.
The company’s RMI ADVANTAGE Mobile User was specifically designed with the limited screen of a mobile device in mind, Chapdelaine says.
“The entire purpose of the Mobile User interface is to make it possible for field workers, such as service techs and/or outside sales reps, to communicate with the rental business’ primary business systems via a smartphone or tablet,” he says.
“To be effective, the interface delivered to the mobile device must take into consideration the limited space while providing the means for the user to extract data and input data through that device quickly and easily. RMI’s Mobile Worker interface does just that. In addition to the interface itself, RMI has integrated document management functionality to send and receive documents using PDF formatting and Signature Capture functionality within the interface, so that paperwork can be completely eliminated within these functional areas.”
The process is effective, Chapdelaine says, “because we know who we are sending information to and what branch they typically work from. With this information in hand, along with information known about the customer/prospect, we can determine significant amounts of critical information without requiring the user to enter it. As a result, we are able to minimize the amount of data needed from the user, which then makes it possible to work from within the limited amount of space available on the mobile device.”
The increase in the number of customers using mobile technology to gain information about rental has been significant, says Andre Farci, Manager of Web Design/Hosting, Point-of-Rental™ Systems, Grand Prairie, Texas.
“We now see anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of website traffic originating from smartphone/mobile devices, and we have been getting numerous inquiries about our smartphone websites from our customers each week,” he says.
Farci says Point-of-Rental’s mobile website layouts “have been designed to specifically address usability as well as performance issues often found when accessing any website on a smartphone device. With the rapid growth of smartphone/mobile devices in recent years, Point-of-Rental Systems quickly realized the importance of offering our customers, such as rental stores, an integrated website solution, allowing mobile consumers to quickly and efficiently navigate through these rental stores’ online inventory. Since our smartphone websites are integrated by design, rental store online catalogs are always automatically up to date, eliminating the need for the stores to maintain their inventory in two different places.”
Pulling all the elements together takes some work, but it is the end goal for most companies, allowing customers to access inventory and create orders from their smartphones or tablets.
“eCommerce and the ability to take orders online is definitely big these days,” Haley says. “One of the more common questions we get is, ‘How can we integrate our eCommerce store with our accounting system?’ You would think this is easy, but it requires some expertise in the area to be done right. We provide tools necessary to integrate our clients’ ERP system to their website and guide them through the process on the software side of things. We’ll also help them with tools required for managing sales tax complexities if they’re needed.”
Do your research
Integrating your website and financial system isn’t easy or cheap, says Patrick Haley, director of marketing, Automated Rental
Management, San Antonio.
“It’s important to do some research beforehand to see if and where it makes sense. I would encourage anyone considering this to look at website trends with their Google Analytics data. If they find that a significant amount of their web traffic comes from mobile devices, it might be worth it,” he says.
“If the rental business does any email marketing, it also might be worth looking at your email reports,” Haley adds. “You will typically find that mobile devices appear to have a higher open percentage compared to desktop email opens. This is because email clients on most mobile devices automatically load images, which ‘opens’ the email when the images are viewed. Microsoft Outlook and many other email desktop clients require the reader to manually ‘Show Images’ to open the email. Since email open percentages can get skewed, you’ll want to look at the click-through percentage for mobile devices versus desktop clients. This also will give you a good feeling if your mobile viewers are more likely to engage with you than someone sitting at their computer.”