Lorries are not going to go away, anytime soon
There are some very clever 3D printers around these days that can construct prototypes and objects but it’s still going to be quite some time – for that read never – before we’ll be able to download milk, PCs or iPads from the internet. And that means, of course, that distribution lives on in a 21st century where you can order practically anything online.
Put simply, distribution, warehouses and trucks are not going to go away as long as boxes need delivering to customers. But there are ways to maximise slender margins and keep your customers satisfied.
The nature of the channel is continually changing. Channel veteran Luke Ireland, who cut his teeth at Evesham Micro in the 1990s, sees some clear changes. He said that there is still room for the traditional channel reseller, specialising in selling to local businesses or corporations. Customers, he said, like to buy products from one place. If resellers are up the mark, and can service all the needs of their customers, “they will be guaranteed good business”.
It means, however, that corporate resellers need to to provide as many services into a single package as possible, Ireland said. He points to the “per person” billing model serving a computer or a mobile to each employee per month. “They can aggregate the demand and getter pricing,” he thinks. And that’s particularly applicable to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – these business appreciate fixed known costs.
Essentially, resellers should not haggle over the price of an egg for the sake of maintaining a strong relationship with customers – that is to say keep the customer happy, and if possible tie in VOIP expertise too. And, re-assuringly for channel players, the tier one vendors will never be able to deliver the kind of service that re-sellers can. Technology is now so advanced that businesses don’t want to be bothered with understanding how things work – they want you to come up with a solution that works for them.
In fact, there are many models to emulate in the channel, whether you are a reseller or an etailer. Amazon’s gigantic growth is due to its close attention to customer service – it delivers when it says it will, if you’ve a problem with a product you can return it for a refund and they’re contactable. Navigation on the web site needs to be easy and efficient. Etailers need to make it easy to register online and even easier to buy, concentrate on simple navigation, deliver things that Amazon can’t.
Ireland makes the further point that big stores like PC World and Currys are now a stop off point for people intending just to look over the goods and then buy elsewhere, and probably cheaper on the internet. That means staff in these kind of stores need better training, particularly in clinching deals.