Four Channel Predictions For 2021
As 2019 came to an end, most predictions of how the year would unfold for channel players focused on continuing automation and continued consolidation within and among channel players. There would be continued migration to the cloud, and channel companies would combine to achieve greater economies of scale.
Channel vendors, distributors and resellers that had made prescient investments in infrastructure, software and services, were poised to do well in 2020. They were prepared for disruptions to supply and demand as well as technology changes. But, it’s safe to say, at the beginning of 2020, very few, if any saw exactly what was coming.
The global pandemic and consequent business slowdown placed huge strains on the channel, and yet, as a whole, it was able to respond. One could even argue that in many cases, it actually out-perform predictions. So now, a year later, still in the midst of the global pandemic, what can we forecast as to its ongoing impacts on channel business? What lessons did we learn in 2020 that will shape this year’s growth for channel players?
2021 Channel Predictions
Channel Prediction 1: Adaptability Pays
For the foreseeable future (at least through to the second half of the Current Year), we can expect that channel managers and executives will stay grounded. And of course most employees will continue to work from home. This means the tech needs of these managers and employees is continuously changing due to the altered circumstances. Channel players best able to quickly adapt their own businesses to meet the changing needs of their customers, will be the ones in the best shape at the end of 2021.
Many industry executives see network upgrades continuing to happen as a result of companies taking advantage of pandemic-related downtime. However, at some point though, most of these will have occurred, and the pace will more than likely decrease once the pandemic ends and business returns to normal.
To thrive in this uncertain environment, successful channel players will lead the drive for business efficiencies for their customers, as they simultaneously strive to lower their own costs. This imperative applies to distributors as well as resellers. Successful distributors are investing in the technology needed to support their customers’ digital transformation. While the the reseller landscape has winnowed, many have thrived through the application of automation and by focusing on the technologies required during the lockdowns.
Many also see the continuation of the move from on-premise to cloud. Channel Mechanics has seen tremendous growth in the channel automation SaaS space as companies of all sizes work to maximize employee productivity.
Channel Prediction 2: SaaS for the Channel More Important Than Ever
To maximize productivity, channels need employees to have the most efficient means of transacting business, right at their fingertips. Any time spent chasing up inefficiencies is wasted. Instead, this time needs to be utilized on productive and profitable activities. We have seen tremendous uptake in SaaS-powered channel business operations – everything from deal registration to order status to renewals. Taking the spreadsheet out of the equation and moving to cloud-based transactions has always made sense. But in 2021, it’s now more imperative.
In his Channel Software Tech Stack report, Jay McBain of Forrester states:
“With the rapidly shifting partner landscape, channel leaders and B2B marketers can no longer succeed with manual, human-centric processes or rely on spreadsheets to manage their partner programs. The effective use of technology tools is no longer optional — ecosystems don’t run on spreadsheets!”
Channel Prediction 3: Ease of Doing Business Matters
Companies utilizing the Channel as their go-to-market model, must invest more in the partner experience. By making the user experience simple and painless for customers, they will create stickiness. This can be as straightforward as simple web interfaces and processes for managing the business. Every interface that works simply does so because of the complexity that underlies it, which of course is not visible to the user. But channel companies that make that experience (maybe even) pleasurable will gain differentiation, loyalty and business.
Channel Prediction 4: Efficiency is Key
During the pandemic, channel players adopted very quickly to the immense changes occurring around them. Ranging from vendor supply disruptions to the repercussions of large parts of the channel workforce working from home. Thankfully, distributors pivoted to managing the swings in stock availability, as vendors managed their own logistics issues. Providing the right technology to workers now at home has been key. And the companies that have done so, have fared better than others as a result.
Kenneth Fox, CEO of Channel Mechanics sums it up like this:
“Even though we’re going through unprecedented times, channel fundamentals remain the same. Channel players that know their customer and do everything they can to help them succeed, whether it’s through automation, ease of doing business improvements, or giving themselves the flexibility to turn on a dime—they will be the ones that come through this in the best position for 2022.”
Keep an eye out to see how these Channel Predictions evolve in 2021 – it promises to be an eventful year! Wishing you all the best for 2021 and hoping you stay safe.