When it comes to analysing market trends for the IT distribution channel, invariably the devil is in the detail. Despite some worrying developments that immediately spring out from the latest CONTEXT ChannelWatch survey, a closer look reveals many reasons to be optimistic. All markets face challenges, and IT distribution’s bugbear today is the challenge from e-tailers. But this is a manifestation of an ever-evolving market. Remember the threat from direct? So those distributors who focus on new ways to differentiate and meet the changing expectations of reseller community, will be well placed to drive success going forward.
The CONTEXT ChannelWatch Report 2018 is developed from interviews with over 7,000 resellers to generate key insight now across 14 countries: Australia/New Zealand, Baltics, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and the UK. As such, it’s the best single piece of industry research out there for discerning key market trends and channel priorities.
This year’s report highlighted the fact that 30% of resellers polled said they bought up to 10% of their stock from these etailers, thanks to their ability to compete on price, product availability and general ease of doing business.
Yet the IT distribution market is healthy, and growing while meeting the challenge. Combined H1 18 year-on-year (YoY) revenues grew 5.1% —with all countries studied enjoying positive YoY growth.
Time for growth
IT distributors’ success is based on tactics such as focusing on solution-driven areas where they can add value by bringing their expertise to bear on complex offerings like cloud. According to predictions that this market will be worth $160bn by 2020, we estimate that if distributors can capture as much of this space as they do IT as a whole (21%), there’s a $34bn opportunity waiting. Already a new generation of “born in the cloud” distributors are bringing innovative new offerings to market.
The opportunities to differentiate don’t end here. There’s a huge range of value-added services which distributors can and are beginning to offer: from project management and logistics to licensing, technical support and much more. Yes, this will require significant investments of time and resource, especially in infrastructure and skills. But it’s increasingly what resellers are demanding of their distribution partners.
One message came across loud and clear from our interviews with global resellers, especially the smaller ones: they’d like a lot more support and training. This varied from country to country, but sales techniques, IoT and cloud (SaaS, IaaS, DaaS) and smart home skills were among those in demand. We also noted that resellers are placing an increasing emphasis on customer service. When asked what resellers liked most about their distributor, the provision of B2B customer portals jumped six places compared to last year’s survey to take the top spot.
The good news is that distributors are already investing in many new value-added services to help them differentiate. If they can find that sweet spot where the resellers recognises and is prepared to pay for the value-add of such services, rather than simply choose the lowest cost offering, there are great opportunities for growth ahead.