A few years ago, there was talk that distributors would become redundant, particularly as online distribution models started to emerge. But distributors are still around – and still an important part of the channel.
Distributors, to survive, have evolved into value-added distributors –
by providing a one-stop-shop integrated approach for resellers, they’ve made themselves indispensable to their channel partners.
Price is no longer the key factor in the distributor/reseller relationship. Instead, providing value that makes it easier for resellers to do their job means better business for everyone involved.
Several distributors are enhancing their Web tools for resellers to help them boost their business (while, in turn, boosting their own). In the process, they’re more likely to maintain or improve upon existing relationships and gain new ones.
GE Access, for example, is streamlining its business and enhancing its Web offerings for resellers to make it easier for them to conduct business, the company says.
With its Partner Connection site, resellers can browse product catalogues, search for SKUs, view and download quotes, view orders and invoices, as well as request pricelists. Direct Account Access includes the ability to view, research and manage account reconciliation online.
It has also rolled out its Sun Services Resource
Library, which is available to resellers who need training and sales tools for each phase of the services sales cycle, the company says. This is designed to help resellers expand their services business.
Synnex Canada is also bumping up its online offerings to VARs with the latest version of ECExpress, designed for resellers to order software and hardware along with system components, peripherals and networking products.
The company says the improvements to its site are based on input from Canadian resellers.
A search engine offers new options for browsing manufacturers, categories and supplies. Users also have access to an Express tool that allows for searches on all pages through the system.
Resellers can get real-time pricing and inventory availability, as well as verify order status and track product shipments.
By helping resellers to differentiate their offerings and provide a more cost-effective and efficient way to do business, both distributors and VARs benefit.
If resellers go to a distributor’s site and can’t find the information they need, they’ll either go to the manufacturer’s site or to another distributor’s site.
Or they’ll spend a lot of time making phonecalls to the distributor’s reps.
Distributors that provide a one-stop-shop for resellers are more likely to retain their business. An integrated approach – where resellers can research products, obtain quotes, place orders, track shipments and confirm delivery – makes life easier for everyone.
This relationship has the potential to shorten the sales cycle and improve overall customer satisfaction.
And in a world of slim product margins, service is key for all channel players.
Moving online hasn’t pushed distributors aside. While at one time the Internet was seen as a threat to distributors, it’s now seen as an opportunity.