Q&A: Increase Touch Screen Sales In A Down Economy
Despite a weak economy, experts advise VARs on where current touch screen sales opportunities exist.
Business Solutions, July 2009
Chris Tsourides, business unit manager, 3M Touch Systems: 3M sees the transition from the industry-standard 4:3 aspect ratio to wide-screen displays as the next big touch screen change. This major shift is being facilitated by the increased availability of low-cost 15-, 17-, and 19-inch widescreen displays as manufacturers transition their production lines to make these new configurations. This transition will inevitably increase the cost for current 4:3 aspect displays as the manufacturers’ volumes and production efficiencies decrease. In response, application developers will start reworking their programs to match these new screen resolutions. This, in turn, should speed up this aspect ratio shift. In the end, your customers should benefit from having enhanced, updated applications on larger, less-expensive displays in basically the same footprint they use today.
John Dittig, national sales manager for North America, Elo TouchSystems: One significant trend will be the introduction of lower cost, lower power touch technology solutions. In addition, user will have richer experiences via intuitive touch gestures which until now had been possible only with higher-end, costlier technologies. This will allow device and application manufacturers to cost-effectively develop next-generation applications.
Which market should VARs be focusing on to increase touch screen sales?
Tsourides: As the investment costs for large-screen LCD displays continues to decline, retailers will increasingly see the benefit of implementing digital signage programs as extensions to their in-store marketing programs. Large interactive displays are both inviting and engaging and can lure reluctant shoppers further into the store’s selling environment by familiarizing shoppers with available products and services.
Dittig: The medical touch business will be one of the fastest growing segments over the next several years. Studies have indicated that while touch in stationary devices (i.e. desktops, kiosks) is estimated to grow by 15% in market value, touch in the medical/healthcare segment is expected to grow by 20%. Even in the current economic situation, the medical/healthcare segment still shows growth opportunities. Reasons for this growth can be attributed to several factors, including the growth of the population, coupled with the retirement of the baby boom generation. Medical companies are also looking at ways to increase efficiencies and economies of scale and reduce training time and increase ease-of-use for healthcare professionals. Therefore, touch and the human interfaces will become more prevalent in healthcare and there will be an increase in applications that require touch devices in the medical environment.
What advice do you have for VARs that want to sell touch screen solutions?
Dittig: The global economic situation of late has put a severe financial burden on businesses, especially the small business sector serviced by VARs. With limited credit and loans available to expand their operations, it becomes even more critical to focus on efficiency. Therefore, it is important for VARs/ISVs to work with experienced and solid suppliers that have a proven track record for delivering quality product and performance over time. It will become increasingly important to ask these questions of their partner/suppliers: Will they be able to provide long-term support? Do they have the resources to deliver on a long-term basis? What is the quality of their products over the long-term? Do they have a long installed life, minimizing downtime and replacement costs?
With an estimated 73,000 retail stores expected to close their doors in 2009, the same can be expected of many suppliers to this industry. It is important to work with experienced suppliers that have the resources to weather the economic downturn.
What are some ways a VAR can distinguish its touch screen solutions from its competitors?
Tsourides: VARs can distinguish their touch screen solutions from their competitors by matching the unique capabilities of the touch technology with the customer’s application. For instance, if surface durability or high-light transmission is valued by the customer, then offer an all-glass solution instead of a polyester-based solution.
Are there any “green” aspects to today’s touch screens that VARs should know about to help land sales?
Tsourides: If a touch product is not labeled “RoHS compliant” then VAR’s will have difficulty selling these products to informed buyers and risk having to replace products with less-informed customers who needed this certification in the first place. VAR’s should work with customers to help replace and dispose of existing CRT touch systems, which require special recycling procedures in most states.