Can Apple Devices Rough the Rugged DSD Market?

by Chrysanthos Nicholas | 05/15/2013

According to a recent article from Mobile Enterprise Magazine, PepsiCo’s North American Beverages division has adopted Apple products into its Direct Store Delivery system. Not only are roughly 4,000 field merchandisers equipped with iPhones and 2,000 field managers with iPads, but PepsiCo has gone a step further and developed two iOS apps entirely in-house through its technology group:


  • Enables merchandisers to view schedules, store and display details
  • Notifies merchandisers of driver arrival
  • Displays store details and account information

Manager’s Briefcase

  • Enables managers to coordinate and monitor deliveries, schedules and contracts
  • Displays pricing and planograms
  • Provides electronic versions of paperwork and automated notifications to merchandisers
This unprecedented move is sure to shake the DSD market, which is characterized by mature processes, long upgrade cycles and heavy reliance on legacy rugged devices. While consumer grade technologies have slowly but surely trickled into markets ranging from retail and healthcare to education and insurance, DSD organizations’ risk aversion and reliance on mature processes has thus far stunted adoption of smartphones and tablets in the DSD space.  PepsiCo’s move to implement iOS devices is even more risky given the considerable capital investment required to purchase solutions, integrate with existing (Windows-based) systems and train mobile workers. However, according to Brian Spearman (SVP of Go-To-Market and Service, PepsiCo North America Beverages), PepsiCo is seeing early success with this program, estimating that the new iOS apps save each employee an impressive 6 hours a week.

Use of Power4Merch and Manager’s Briefcase has actually increased the operational efficiency of the DSD system by facilitating real time communication, leveraging data, and eliminating the need for printed information such as schedules and order quantities.

Beyond facilitating advances in operational efficiency, DSD organizations are increasingly looking at consumer grade technologies as a means to enhance their brand and image in customer-facing merchandising activities. Devices such as the iPad are generally more visually appealing as well as easier to operate than traditional rugged devices. They boast high resolution and larger screens, making sales presentations and customer/end-user surveying activities more intuitive and effective. Further, many DSD drivers are already familiar with operating consumer grade technology, and companies may find it more cost-effective to leverage personal devices instead of those purchased by the company. These are clear advantages that could drive a shift towards consumer grade devices in the DSD market.


A recent VDC survey of DSD IT decision-makers revealed that those in this price sensitive market feel that ruggedized devices may be overpriced relative to the value they provide. And yet, rugged vendors emphasize the total cost of device ownership, citing additional costs to manage and support consumer grade devices throughout their lifecycle (e.g. repairs, OS updates, and replacement cycle).  To address growing interest in the tablet form factor in the DSD market, vendors such as Panasonic and Motorola have been working to develop rugged tablets capable of utilizing apps and increasing operational efficiency as well. In the end, consumer grade devices are sure to make an entrance into the DSD market, albeit slow and cautious. Whether they will prosper will be determined when the first iPhone falls two inches to the ground and shatters. 

Stay tuned for more insights into the DSD Market.  VDC's Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Practice will be publishing its annual Direct Store Delivery Report by end of Q2.