Q&A: IT Channel Trends and Transformations

22 September 2020 | Channel Business

5 Questions: With Dalibor Protrkic, Program Manager at Aximpro. As an expert in IT channel account management and multichannel marketing, he shares his views on current channel challenges, trends and transformations, as well as the importance of digitalization.

1. First things first: The coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented circumstances and changes across industries, across the globe. How is the IT channel business impacted by and transforming because of this?

Nobody was prepared for the various lockdown situations. The reachability of customers during the phase of transitioning to decentralized work came quite abruptly and it took some time for companies to set up their new ways of working. From this, there came a high demand for client solutions in terms of products, such as PCs and printers. In addition, there was also a high demand for network infrastructure and security solutions due to this decentralization of everyday work.

2. What are the biggest challenges that the channel business is currently facing?

At the beginning of the year, Covid-19 led to big uncertainty in the world economy and the pandemic broke supply chains in most industries across the globe. The coronavirus stopped hardware delivery nearly completely within EMEA. This meant that partners could only sell items from existing stock. Partners are 100% dependent on big tech vendors to deliver hardware, so this has major implications for them to conduct their business. Furthermore, investment stopped for almost every big infrastructure project, because when the pandemic started, nobody thought of buying hardware or executing bigger projects. Purchasing was just not a priority. Another challenge, which is not related to the pandemic, is that there is still a great lack of digitalization within small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) – especially within the German market. It is crucial to have a future-focused approach and utilize the new technologies that are available to stay relevant and successful. 

3. What is your advice to overcome these challenges?  

Be proactive, agile and prepared! Almost everyone is merely reacting to current circumstances. Planning in these times is really challenging as the future is so unstable and unpredictable. It is, therefore, important to be prepared for more than one outcome. Set up plans for different scenarios, such as a second lockdown, a similar situation as we’re currently experiencing and a scenario of transitioning back to normality – at least the “normal” before the pandemic.

Another piece of advice is to transition to pay-per-use models. Now is the time for Everything-as-a-Service due to uncertain future economic developments. This is the desired approach to avoid big, one-time investments. Also, set up virtual customer experiences fast through, for example, webcasts and switch to virtual sales processes. The key is to switch from the old-fashioned style of selling hardware and extend offerings and services to digital and virtual solutions. This is important to prepare for the future. The new normal will be here for a while and those who want to stay relevant, need to adapt and transform.

4. What current market trends would you highlight as important for those who want to stay at the forefront of the channel business?

Apart from the coronavirus implications, the market is turning towards topics such as AI, automation, predictive analytics, machine learning, big data and deep learning. Therefore, it is crucial to know your data, use your data and plan for the future through the power of data analytics. The technical possibilities to manage data are becoming more and more mature. For example, AI offers many ways to analyze and enrich your own data and to find new customers that are very similar to your existing customer base.

5. Final thoughts: From your industry knowledge and first-hand experience, what do you predict is to come for the channel business?

Digital marketing is key – especially in terms of personalization and relevance. Webinars, for example, offer the possibility to present your solution, but at the same time directly engage with your target audience. Furthermore, programmatic advertising is best for high open rates and, therefore, high conversion rates. With this approach, you are not only able to distribute communication at the right time, but also via the right channels and/or devices, plus you are able to distribute different content to different recipients. As the attention span for ads has been decreasing, videos are a good choice for short and snackable content, offering significant information within a short period of time.

Dalibor Protrkic, Program Manager at Aximpro

About the Expert: Dalibor Protrkic is a Program Manager at Aximpro, a multinational software development, as well as omnichannel marketing and consulting company with long-lasting expertise in the channel business. He has hands-on experience in the account management of multinational clients. In his current role, Dali focuses on multichannel marketing campaigns for international vendors and their partners (resellers and distributors) within the German market. He is excited about working for so many different stakeholders simultaneously and enjoys the positive challenges that come with it.

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