Eaton's Mobile App is Path to Growth

By Lori Castle, Editor in Chief — May 05, 2014

You are in sales. You finally get in front of the right person—the decision maker. It’s time to present your offerings; chances are if you pull out a printed brochure or big paper catalog, the decision maker has already decided—to pass.

But, break out an iPad and swipe the screen that has detailed images or videos and the most current product data, then a sale is much more likely to happen. Better yet, offer customers their own mobile app for your business, and make it easy for them to get the information they need before even contacting a rep.

This is where many sales organizations find themselves—in between yesterday and today— and the Filtration Division of Eaton, a diversified industrial manufacturer, is no different. In order to continue its commitment to exceptional customer service and better enable its sales force, Eaton released its eFiltration mobile app for iPhone and iPad. The user-friendly powerful tool helps customers make quick, informed decisions about their industrial filtration needs, right in the palm of their hands.

The company realized that as more tech savvy, socially engaged people enter the workforce, it would have to be able to reach this new demographic of customers, engineers, maintenance workers, distributors, etc. This understanding was the beginning of a change in strategy that could communicate Eaton’s value proposition in a modern way.

Rick Jacobs, Vice President and General Manager of Eaton’s Filtration Division says, “We wanted to create a tool that would allow us to be a source of information and one that enhances our branding, where people see us as a customer-focused, innovative company; and, one that can be there 24/7. As we update the data, customer and employees have the latest and greatest information, as opposed to a piece of paper that is yellowing and sitting in someone’s bookcase that’s obsolete five minutes after it’s been handed to them.”

From the Field
Jacobs spends more than 30% of his time in the field with the customers and the sales force, “listening,” so the evolution to the  app was driven both up from there and down from the business. Customers were asking for more than just product pictures, and the company needed to figure out a way to deliver information around things like training and technical specs too.

Looking at the popularity of Apple devices and the powerful functionality therein, plus the ease of interaction in the app store, they decided on iOS as the right path. Then, a customer anywhere in the world could get product information in their hands, anytime, as well as get in touch with a rep via phone or email at one click.

Couldn’t this just happen at Jacobs said, they asked themselves this question, and yes, customers can get all the information they need on the company website. Still, the popularity of tablets with their customers was apparent, and with the device’s ability to easily connect wirelessly it became “obvious to us that going the mobile app way was the right decision.”

Creating the App
The app was developed internally, and, in part, locally at the Filtration Division located in New Jersey. “For the local apps, we tend to generally sketch it out and then corporate IT creates what they would call a platform for technology—a roadmap or structure. Then we fill in the data ourselves and often use a third-party with specialized expertise to do the programming.”

Jacobs points out that using an outside partner is important and often not considered when it comes to mobile. “For instance," he says, “we don’t write our own ERP systems. Sometimes people think mobile apps and digital technologies are lesser in some ways than an ERP system. To me, they may look simpler but they really are just as complicated. They have to get through firewalls, to get to data, handle the security issues and so on.” Mobile technology must be embraced, but it must be done in a smart way that it does not jeopardize personal or business information.

The app was built for iOS, and Jacobs says that the customer base isn’t demanding any other version yet, but as that changes, they will meet the need. “When we look at who is coming to our landing pages and who is accessing the information off the website, we’re in a very heavy Apple-centric environment. But, I think over time, we’ll definitely put it into the Android space,” he explains.

Analytics are not yet built in either, but he sees that down the road. Generally speaking, they are seeing, on average, 30% growth rates in access.

Employee Interaction
While the app was essentially built for customers, employees and the company are benefitting too. To start, the app is an educational tool. “You hire a new employee, they don’t know about the product; they are looking for some information; you can basically self-teach,” says Jacobs. He also views this as a knowledge library, alleviating the old problem of the knowledge walking out the door with the only employee who had it. Plus, the data becomes more organized and sequential.

Customer information is not built into the app for employees and they need to access the Siebel CRM system for that. “But if you look forward to our vision, eventually we see all of this coming together on a mobile platform,” according to Jacobs. And with technology moving so quickly, he acknowledges that there are going to be features and functionality that are not envisioned just yet.

“We have a never-ending list of ideas. You don't get to be a 100-year-old company without adapting to modern tools and the way people work,” he says. There has been a lot of positive feedback on the app, and Jacobs sees it as the path to growth.


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