IT Distributors Nurture Channel Reseller Relationships During Lockdown

CONTEXT CEO Howard Davies
CONTEXT CEO Howard Davies

Global IT distributors appear to have worked hard during lockdown to support their resellers and enhance key channel partnerships, although there’s more work to do as cloud emerges as a key focus area, according to CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.

CONTEXT’s much-anticipated annual ChannelWatch report is based on the results of a survey of over 8,367 resellers across the UK & Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic, Baltics, Russia, Turkey and South Africa.

As interviews were conducted from March-June at the worst point of the crisis so far, they provide an interesting insight into how the channel is coping with the new reality.

The good news for distributors is that in every category for which there are comparisons available, resellers’ perception of them has improved since 2019. On-time delivery garnered the highest average approval rating of nearly 4.5, although the biggest gains from a year ago were seen in field support, and billing and other cloud-related services.

The CONTEXT ChannelWatch report this year reveals some fascinating insights into how the industry is adapting to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the negative impact on some parts of the sector, it has provided an opportunity for distributors to get closer to their resellers, and the support they’ve provided has been well received”, explained CONTEXT CEO, Howard Davies. “Going forward, there’s a clear call-to-action for distributors from a reseller community increasingly requesting training and education to help drive business growth from the cloud.

In fact, 55% of reseller respondents named this as the number one thing distributors could be doing to help support success in selling and delivering “as-a-service” categories—far above second-placed marketing (40%).

It appears to be a break-through year for cloud services as the percentage of resellers selling in the past six months increased in five key categories: back-up, disaster recovery and storage; infrastructure; security; web hosting and e-commerce; and business applications. In backup, the numbers surged from 44% in 2019 to 70% in 2020—an unprecedented high.

The report had other encouraging news for the IT channel in that reseller sentiment for the coming 12 months was far less pessimistic than one would have predicted, given the interviews were conducted at the height of government lockdowns.

Two-fifths (40%) of respondents said they predict a better year ahead, albeit down from 71% last year, with around the same (39%) claiming no change and just 21% predicting worse for the next 12 months.

In terms of the areas that B2B and B2C resellers are investing in, they’ve been remarkably consistent since 2019. Cloud (50%), security (44%) and networking (44%) were top choices in the business space while B2C resellers are doubling down on PCs (65%), components (39%), accessories (35%), headsets (19%) and other categories.