In 2013, Pennsylvania-based distributor Cooper-Booth Wholesale found itself in the market for a new way to handle online sales to its business customers. Lori Homsher, Cooper-Booth’s vice president of I.T., oversaw the search and realized it was time to move away from its old system. “We offered online ordering solutions through a custom web portal since 2007, but the infrastructure for that site was complex and not easily updated,” she says.

Homsher and Cooper-Booth, which has more than 8,000 SKUs of consumer packaged goods that it distributes to convenience stores across the Mid-Atlantic, chose the Handshake Direct platform from Handshake Corp. “Handshake benefits our customers in several ways, it’s one of the simplest ordering solutions available, and in addition to the ease of use our customers like the ability to see product images, inventory balances and expected arrival dates of orders. Our old system required a dedicated connection into our back-end ERP and Handshake’s web portal replaced that system,” Homsher says. The B2B commerce platform was rolled out three years ago. Today, Handshake has 300 customers using Handshake Direct. Cooper-Booth uses its ERP, or enterprise resource planning system, to manage such things as inventory levels, financial records and customer activity.

Handshake also offers a mobile app for salespeople called Handshake Rep, which Cooper-Booth has also been using since it deployed the Handshake platform in 2013. When it came time to look early this year for an app designed for specifically for Cooper-Booth’s customers, Homsher and Cooper-Booth didn’t have to look far to find Handshake’s latest offering, the Handshake Direct Mobile app. Handshake designed a version of the Direct Mobile app solely for Cooper-Booth’s customers so they can place orders 24/7 from the app as they survey their inventory, without having to speak to a Cooper-Booth salesperson.

“We know that sales reps aren’t always going to be available to address an immediate need. If you give customers more ways to buy from you, they’ll buy more,” Handshake CEO Glen Coates says. Handshake launched the Direct Mobile app in April 2016.

Handshake Direct Mobile came up in Homsher’s conversations with Glen Coates. “Since we were already using a lot of Handshake’s platform including the sales rep app, it was a natural progression to adjust it a bit for customer use,” Homsher says.

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Coates sees the Direct Mobile app as a better way to conduct business “shelf-side” and at the pace any individual customer prefers. “The goal is to make more choices available, different customers are comfortable in different ways, our goal is to let them conduct business in whatever way suits them,” he says. Coates says the app will work as a supplement to a salesperson who will still be servicing accounts and advocating specific products.

The Handshake Direct Mobile App is available exclusively for Apple devices for now. But Coates says that an Android version is in the works. The app works offline in areas such as warehouses, where getting a mobile signal can be difficult. Once the app reacquires a signal, the orders are processed. Customers are invited to use the app by suppliers like Cooper-Booth. The app adjusts the features it offers depending on if the user is recognized as a supplier or customer.

Cooper-Booth was one of the first companies to use the new app. Homsher says Cooper-Booth has about 100 customers using the app. In addition, its own IT department uses the app to communicate with their own suppliers of technology products and track inventory. “We have had enormously positive feedback on the Direct Mobile app. Customers really appreciate that they can walk around the store and scan product UPCs and add them to the cart.” UPCs, or universal product codes, are bar codes containing product identification information. While Homsher declines to provide the cost of implementing the platform or app, she did say that internal costs were quite low for the entire operation.

Cooper-Booth has seen the benefit of Handshake in increased sales at its client convenient stores. “Early analysis shows that 75% of our customers that use Handshake show significant year-over-year sales growth, selling more of their products to consumers,” Homsher says. “We plan on growing our user base to at least 1,000 customers using some form of the Handshake infrastructure. Being a company that offers the newest technology to customers and staff is a benefit of its own.”
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