WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT WIRELESS services: retail, Web and operator come to mind. It doesnt seem like systems integrators and VARs would play a role in how businesses buy wireless, but thats not really true. According to business decision makers, channel partners do play a role, an important one, in wireless decision making. It seems that channel partners are influence-peddlers. They whisper in the ears of many decision makers on what solutions to buy and how to implement them.
In March, my company, Compass Intelligence, surveyed more than 1,600 business decision makers representing a cross-section of sizes and vertical industries regarding mobility, including the roles of channels:
Web Engines, like Google Inc. or Yahoo! Inc.
We asked respondents to indicate whether they currently buy through that channel and/or if that channel significantly influences their wireless purchasing decisions or strategy development both now and in 36 months. Heres what we found out:
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1. Channel partners are likely to influence wireless purchases.
Decision makers indicated channel partners significantly influence their purchase decisions now and will continue to do so in 36 months. Channel partners, particularly integrators and consultants, are trusted for their technical expertise, and customers, particularly the smallest companies, appear to be turning to these partners to help them figure out what to do with wireless.
2. The Influence of some partners is expected to grow.
The research also shows the influence of some channel partners is expected to increase over the next 36 months (see graph, Influence Grows). This group of partners plays a role in how businesses make telecom purchase decisions and, more importantly, how they develop their telecom strategies in the medium and long term. With the exception of associations, the channel partners with growing influence are those that build deep, consultative relationships with decision makers.
3. The influence for other channel partners is expected to drop.
The influence of partners that dont have much of a consultative relationship, e.g. traditional retailers, appears to be dropping (see graph, Influence Drops). In this case, these channels tend to play the role of money-saver, and function to help customers find the cheapest solutions. With the exception of telecom consultants, whose influence is expected to remain the same,Web engines, retailers and big customers, etc., are expected to impact the wireless purchases of fewer business decision makers in the next 36 months.
4. Buy-through is expected to drop across the board.
Interestingly, fewer respondents expect to actually purchase wireless solutions (devices, services, etc.) through every channel over the next three years. Therefore, it appears business decision makers expect to deal directly with the service provider when making wireless purchases, but will continue to listen to the advice of their trusted channel partners. To capitalize on this, channel partners, who are not already wireless dealers, should consider cultivating referral relationships with mobile operators wherein they are compensated for educating and referring clients to purchase a providers wireless solutions.
Partners that already sell wireless, then, must rise to the challenge of differentiating their service-delivery capabilities with mobile governance strategies, speedy and accurate fulfillment and activation, device and expense management services, managed security or applications development.
Kneko Burney is president of Compass Intelligence, a decisionanalytics research and consulting firm. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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