I've told you once

Every now and then you get the feeling mum is looking over our collective shoulders uttering that most annoying of phrases ending in "a million times".

It's been a good few years since ARN started pushing the "box moving is dead, services are the future mantra" - no hidden agenda, no great conspiracy theory - it's just a fact.

And I'm not about to stop pursuing that message now either. Box moving is dead. Let me repeat that again. Box moving is dead.

But don't just take my word for it, look at our page 1 stories this week.

Volante is a classic example of what I mean. Granted, it has developed consulting and network integration expertise, but Volante's core business still heavily relies on box margins, or procurement.

The company reports box moving is still a healthy proposition if done well, but just how long can it last?

A successful reseller business will only come from an intelligent approach to business, which takes into account the great services nirvana.

So on this count the addition of Netbridge's services expertise can only be a good thing.

Let's also not forget a listed reseller will think differently than the non-listed variety. For example, just look at Powerlan. It used to be a traditional reseller before spreading its services wings.

Next, take a look at Sealcorp. Smaller distributors are in real trouble over the coming 12 months. Leading vendors will not tolerate anything less than innovation and niche or value-added services. If you don't have a solid value proposition you're out. And if you choose to play Tech Pacific's volume game it's all over. It's that simple.

SME bargains

Finally, our story on page 6 about b2bBuyer.com.au is an interesting business model, and one everyone should study. This variation on the emerging IT buyer's exchange says to SME customers, "we will allow you to form a buying group to bargain for lower prices from suppliers".

The site is actually set up to cater for just about any segment of business from cars to office furniture, telecommunications, road maintenance equipment and of course IT.

The worrying thing for the channel is if it works well, its price focus threatens any shred of margin distributors or vendors hoped to squeeze out of so-called commodity products. This is not a services business by any stretch of the imagination.

On the upside, all it does is recognise that zero margins might eventually become reality for many IT product sets. If your business relies on a decent level of high-margin consulting and integration work it's not a problem. So in that case, bring on zero margins!

The other interesting thing I can see in the b2bBuyer.com.au model is that no one owns the customer. The site allows customers to remain anonymous in the bidding process, reducing the interaction to a simple financial transaction. I wonder how customer-hungry vendors will feel about this? It also makes life interesting for resellers. And it's definitely a no-go zone for any self-respecting distributor.

So what should you do? If I've told you once . . .

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