The death of PC devices has been greatly exaggerated. Headlines from the past several years spoke of a fading device market, with only areas such as smartphones and hyperconverged systems as exceptions. The message to channel providers: start adopting services and subscription-based offerings or risk going the way of the dodo.
Such advice is still accurate and worth taking seriously. But the pandemic has exposed it as a little one-dimensional. Sales of hardware, in particular, laptops and monitors, exploded over the past 18 months. According to Deloitte, PC device sales grew between 11% and 15% in that period, and Gartner reported that PC shipments grew by 9% in Q3 2020 alone.
Yes, hardware is indeed moving closer to commodity status. The longevity of a channel business cannot rely solely on hardware sales. It is also true that these surges are likely to spike and not represent the sustained growth we experienced in the past. But we are also reminded of an inalienable fact: to reach users, software services need devices. Box-dropping isn’t dead – it’s just not as dominant in the channel as it once was. B2B companies need the ability to take advantage of both hardware sales and value-adding services.
Traditional hardware sales tend to exclude the smaller guys. It’s a game best played by large service providers that find it easy to align with vendors. Yet the market is changing: smaller channel companies have the agility and focus to deliver services that the big players struggle to match. Think beyond the number of certifications or vendor relationships a company could have: smaller providers can offer more nuanced problem-solving and are more motivated to pursue long-term value over short-term pay bonanzas.
But hardware is still necessary, so how can we square the device market with the services revolution and its niche participants?
This was the question we posed to ourselves at Axiz. The Axiz brand is traditionally associated with distribution and, as a supply chain partner, we wanted to offer value beyond that but without alienating or disregarding our strong distribution business. The answer is a platform that combines both worlds.
Our platform is not a supply chain solution or e-commerce service. We didn’t just make it easier for our customers to log on, fill a basket and schedule delivery. We wanted something that leverages what Axiz traditionally does well – distribution – with new capabilities we’ve built for our business and customers. Those capabilities include cloud services and extensive customer enablement with an emphasis on SMEs – such as quick short-term vendor enrolment, business incubation and development, and de-risking for SMEs by taking on various responsibilities and deliverables.
The traditional channel market was linear. Get the deal, install the goods and cash the cheques. If all Axiz offered was a digital way to do that, nothing would change. Instead, the Axiz platform offers our customers choice on how they can augment their delivery, selecting hardware and service combinations that fit their evolving business models. They can engage with a comprehensive family of vendors, including new vendors they discovered, and access a growing network of partners and peers. They can scale their efforts and deliver what the market demands.
What is that demand? It’s not just hardware or services. End-user companies don’t pick one or the other – they want a specific combination that will meet their needs. If channel companies can create those combinations through access to the right devices, services, partners and support, they can meet the new B2B market expectations.
The new channel mantra is to amplify product value with services. We designed the Axiz platform with precisely that in mind. It’s all about giving our customers – particularly SMEs – access to the choice, confidence, development and safety to redefine their business models in this new era where linear is out and networked scale is in.