Distribution – The Future
Kevin Kelly, President and CEO of Stampede: “Distributors have 100% responsibility for growing the sales of their vendor partners or they shouldn’t be their partner in the first place!”
Just months after Tech Data announced plans to take its Maverick and Datech businesses global, with expansion into the Americas and Asia Pacific. DCC, owners of Exertis, countered with the acquisition of US AV leaders Stampede. Bryan Denyer looks at reasons why ‘globalisation is good’ in AV distribution, and some reasons why it might not be!
Towards the end of last year, Tech Data announced plans to take its two pan-European specialised solution businesses, Maverick AV Solutions and Datech Solutions into all of the company’s global markets. Maverick AV Solutions remained under the direction of Jon Sidwick, vice president, Maverick AV Solutions, reporting to Michael Urban, corporate vice president, Strategy, Transformation and Global Vendor Management at Tech Data.
At the time, Sidwick explained that:
“This is a new chapter for Maverick with a new brand and the strongest mix of manufacturer partners we have ever worked with. We are extremely proud of relationships we have built with our customers and vendor partners and I want to take this opportunity to thank them for the support of Maverick to date. I am excited for a new challenge, working with an already established team of AV specialists in these markets to bring the experience from the European teams and create new services and solutions for customers in the regions.”
Following the announcement, Maverick has embarked on an aggressive programme of vendor acquisition, large focused in the buoyant collaboration sector where worldwide demand has been variously forecast at between 32 and 50 million rooms and huddle spaces.
It is no coincidence that this year has been chosen by two major distributes as the ideal time to globalise their operations. A statement from Maverick explained that: “The huge growth in audio-visual applications being adopted by companies of all sizes, educational institutions and government agencies, around the world means that now is the perfect time to expand Maverick’s approach across the globe. Maverick’s collaborative, scalable, platform-based solutions and top-flight vendor portfolio is well-positioned to meet the needs of this fast-growing market.”
So, what does this mean for the future of distribution: does it mean that only the big, the global will prosper? Kevin Kelly, President and CEO of Stampede, a role that he will continue after the DCC acquisition believes that: “The role of the distributor is becoming more and more important every day as manufacturers seek to maximize sales of their products in every size geographic market. The strength of the distributor is in the quality of their reseller network.”
“If they have the right reseller network, as Stampede does, manufacturers are benefiting from a scope of reach that can’t be found with any other channel partner. It all comes down to having the right kind of distributor with the right mix of resellers that reach all vertical markets in all targeted geographic regions. Having this ensures that no business is ever left on the table!”
In a recent interview with Jon Sidwick I asked him whether globalisation would limit the opportunities available to new players in the AV marketplace and innovative new technologies? He pointed that since the announcement of the globalisation plans, new products and technologies added to the Maverick portfolio include: the HP Elite Slice desktop device which provides seamless video meetings on the users’ preferred platform; The Huddle Room Kit, which pairs the Logitech BRIO Webcam and K400 Professional Touch Keyboard, with HP’s Collaboration PC and Quicklaunch SE software; Dell’s interactive touch monitors with 20 touchpoints and InGlass touch technology; Condeco Software, focusing on Connect, a streamlined, cloud-based meeting room management solution; and a global partnership with Zoom.
While these vendor partners are not exactly start-ups, they are new to the AV channel. Ralf Jordan, Vice President, Distribution at Dell EMC EMEA explained;
“Our partnership with Maverick gives us the opportunity to reach a much wider audience thanks to their comprehensive customer base, giving a consistent service across the 19 countries they represent. We know there’s a real requirement for alternative interactive whiteboards and we’ve designed this range to give companies and educators reliable and impressive tools for collaboration.”
Kelly believes that even the best-known technology brands need the support of a capable distributor: “Distributors can play the most critical role in bringing new products to market, because it’s the distributor who actually physically brings the product into the field and demonstrates the product, both as a standalone solution and as part of a larger integrated system solution. The distributor is also the one best able to educate the resellers and their customers on how to best use the product in specific vertical market applications. Manufacturers rely on distributors to take the launch and make it real in ways that the market can understand and respond to with new product orders.”
Sidwick believes that we are entering a ‘perfect storm’ in the development of the global AV market. Not only is demand up generally, the relationship between AV and IT is becoming clear and the role of service provision is better understood by the channel. Not only can vendors sell globally, appropriate end-users can buy globally.
Kelly adds: “The connected eco-system we live in today is being shaped and driven by interactions that are largely anchored in audiovisual experiences — immersive audiovisual experiences. These are becoming the norm in every part of our lives: at stores, hotels, theatres, stadiums, schools, travel, transportation centres, among others. Even traditional AV markets that featured a speaker or a display are reinventing themselves with a whole new generation of interactive digital displays, projection mapping, digital wayfinding, spatial audio, augmented reality, virtual reality. There has never been a better time to be in the business of AV and distributors play a key role in turning the dream into the reality by connecting the dots, designing the system, installing the system and, in some cases, maintaining the end result.”
“The more complex the system solution is the most likely it is that it involves a mix of AV and IT. That’s just the way things are going. For low end, commodity driven work there might still be a reason to distinguish, but at the higher end of the food chain, the two are becoming part of a single new blended solution.”
Growing the market
But who has responsibility for certain demand for new solutions in emerging markets? The conventional wisdom that the vendor had the primary responsibility – but Kelly disagrees.
“Distributors have 100% responsibility for growing the sales of their vendor partners or they shouldn’t be their partner in the first place! Assuming the product performs as advertised and that inventory is in place to ship, it’s up to the distributor, the value-added distributor, to create the kind of market-specific sales and marketing programs that will drive sales for the vendor. They have to monitor the effectiveness of each and every program, adjust the program as necessary, and be accountable for the results.”
The emergence of ‘x-as-a-service’ has given the channel a significant increase in financing options and end-users a whole raft of new ways to buy and account for capital items and the services that support them. Kelly believes that:
“AV as a Service is an ideal whose time has finally come, thanks in no small part to the relentless pace of innovation that is making products and technologies obsolete faster than ever before. Now, customers can make an investment in an initial solution and pay for scheduled upgrades to the system as new products and technologies emerge and become mainstream. This offers an unbelievable opportunity to resellers to attach themselves to their customers in a way they’ve never been able to do before. And every time they go back to upgrade an existing system the reseller has the opportunity to sell something new that was not part of the system when originally installed.
Right now, collaboration is the focus of much market attention, and will be so for the foreseeable future. Kelly concurs: “Collaboration is such a broad concept that it literally encompasses everything happening today. Collaboration in all of its definitions will be the driving force in our industry for quite some time. What comes after it? I can’t say for sure right now, but I can guarantee you that Stampede will be ahead of everyone else is identifying it when it happens and helping our resellers to capitalize on it!”
But what if the next big thing originates with a small start-up, out the remit of the volume global distributors. I won’t identify the vendor or the large pan-European distributor to save blushes al round, but I have certainly flagged up distribution opportunities that were ignored only to be picked up by others who went on to great success. Sidwick says that there are still opportunities in the local Maverick operations to pitch new technologies and products. Indeed, one relative to the distribution scene, Ascentae, that makes a virtue of the genuinely new and innovative. So whether it’s through the local branch of a globalised major od through a specialised distributor of innovative new brands, distribution remains the primary route to the AV market.