Electrical distributors adapting to mobile apps

By Jack Keough


Apparently, there is an “app for that” in the electrical/MRO distribution business.


Just last week, Grainger, in a press release, introduced a free mobile app for iPhone and Android smart phones that will allow instant access to the company’s 900,000 products making it easier for maintenance, repair and operations professionals to search for products, see account pricing, check product availability and quickly order products anywhere.


 “We find that many people work away from their desks. By allowing these customers access to Grainger’s products anytime and anywhere, Grainger’s mobile technology helps them work more efficiently,” said Geoffrey Robertson, Grainger’s vice president of e-commerce strategy and planning.“We are moving beyond the standard trend of using mobile for information-gathering and leveraging it to help companies manage their workflow.”


The new Grainger app provides a convenient and personalized experience with easy access to information on Grainger products. Through the new mobile app, Grainger customers can:


  • Browse through and purchase from Grainger’s entire product assortment;
  • Use Real-Time Product Availability to find out when a product will ship or if it is available for pickup at a nearby Grainger branch;
  • Find the nearest Grainger branch based on location;
  • Manage purchase order workflow – accept, reject or forward orders made by multiple staff members using My Inbox;
  • Receive notifications when orders ship or are pending approval;
  • Find products using voice search;
  • Get prompt access to frequently purchased items through My Lists;
  • Access orders placed online within the last six months to check order status and reorder using My Orders; and
  • Use either a computer or mobile device to access shopping carts and place orders through an integrated shopping cart.


The iPhone version of the Grainger mobile app is available at the Apple App Store and the Android version of the app is available on Google Play.


It will be interesting to see just how many other distributors have an app in place in the near future. Two distributors (not in the electrical area) tell us they anticipate using mobile apps early next year.


Meanwhile, in July, Summit Electrical Supply introduced its first mobile application that was designed specifically for electricians and electrical professionals in the field.


The application contains more than 240 NEMA receptacle and plug configurations so professionals at a job site or in the field can quickly and easily identify even the most complex devices. The NEMA Configuration Guide is free to download and gives professionals an effective tool that’s hassle-free and that saves time.


The easy-to-use interface allows users to search by NEMA configuration number or other known specifications, such as amperage, voltage rating, grounding, or poles, to filter for matches. Users can then view detailed specifications and find matching configurations with the plug/receptacles cross reference option.


The application has had almost 5,000 downloads since its launch and has received nearly a five-star user rating. The NEMA Configuration Guide is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android devices from the App Store or Google Play.


Rexel has an app that allows customers to find store locations, access its energy calculators, call an emergency line, and learn about the company’s service guarantees. Rexel’s app is only available in the U.S. and can be downloaded by going to www.rexelusa.com/mobile.


Mobile applications have become a huge business.


Global revenue from mobile applications — including paid downloads and mobile advertising — could increase to $17.5 billion by 2012, from $4.1 billion last year, according to a study commissioned by GetJar, an app marketplace.


The study also estimates that download of applications could increase to almost 50 billion by 2012 from about 7 billion in 2009.

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