Touch Screens Aren't Just For POS Anymore
New touch screen applications provide VARs with more sales opportunities — including the public safety sector.
Six years ago, Business Solutions wrote about the Touch Screen Market Explosion (see the September 2000 issue at www.BusinessSolutionsMag.com). The touch screen market may not be quite as explosive today, but it still provides VARs with plenty of good sales opportunities — particularly for VARs with the vision to see new applications for this technology. We recently asked two industry experts about some of those new applications and for advice on how VARs should sell touch screen technology now.
Bill Nulf is the director of channel sales for Elo TouchSystems, and Rob Baumgartner is the director of operations for Planar Systems. Elo TouchSystems manufactures touch screen and touch monitor products. Planar manufactures many different types of displays, including retail display solutions.
“Vertical industry-specific expertise is still one of the best ways for VARs to prosper selling touch screen technology,” says Baumgartner. “For instance, VARs with experience in the medical market can excel selling touch screen technology in that vertical, because they have the knowledge required to anticipate installation and implementation issues such as space constraints and portability.”
Nulf agrees, and adds, “VARs can prosper selling touch screen technologies, especially in vertical markets. However, it is important for VARs to find a niche in order to compete with the larger DMRs [direct market resellers]. The retail, healthcare, manufacturing, education, and government verticals are all prime markets to implement touch screen technology.”
Explore Customer Applications To Win Touch Screen Business
“It may sound simple, but in many cases, it’s just a matter of the VAR asking the customer the right questions,” says Baumgartner. For instance:
n Do you currently purchase touch screen monitors?
n Are you building any applications for touch screen monitors?
n Do you currently use a POS (point of sale) system? If so, have you considered using a touch screen monitor versus a desktop monitor?
Nulf says it’s often the first VAR to offer new technology that gets the touch screen sale. “The most common mistake a VAR can make is not realizing the benefits that touch can bring to the customer,” he explains. “In addition, VARs have to understand the differences between the technologies, such as SAW [surface acoustic wave], IR [infrared], and capacitive. VARs also need to be aware of emerging touch screen technology such as Elo’s APR [acoustic pulse recognition].”
Baumgartner adds that VARs must know the advantages and disadvantages of each touch screen technology as well. For instance, “Capacitive is a very durable touch screen technology, but it requires a human touch, so the operator can’t use a gloved finger.” He also advises that VARs remember to include a service component with each touch screen sale. “Postsales support from the touch screen vendor is important, to both VARs and their customers. VARs must be sure to understand the warranty offered by touch screen companies. A failure in understanding the manufacturer’s repair policy can lead to additional customer downtime. A customer is not going to be happy when the VAR has to ship the touch screen back to the manufacturer for repair.”
Nulf says that only a few VARs are qualified to offer repair services for Elo equipment. However, there is a VAR opportunity in providing product logistics for failed units. For example, a service contract could include an on-site replacement policy for mission-critical touch screen units. Baumgartner says that VARs should also sell extended warranty contracts and out-of-warranty repair services.
Public Safety Sector Offers New Touch Screen Opportunities
Touch screen technology is rooted in the POS market. However, more software vendors are developing applications that are compatible with touch screens in other markets. An example is the public safety market, which uses touch screens in police, fire, emergency, and medical vehicles. “The demand for touch screens in vehicles is due to the growing trend of trying to provide field personnel with as much information as possible on the spot,” says Baumgartner.
In-vehicle environments create unique challenges and opportunities for touch screen VARs. For instance, vehicles require ruggedized display solutions that can withstand the vibrations of a vehicle and the wide temperature ranges in an outdoor environment. Sunlight readability is also a challenge, creating the need for touch screens that can be easily viewed in varying lighting conditions.
VARs Beware: The Market Is About To Get More Competitive
As if the market for touch screen technology is not already competitive enough, now VARs must deal with increasing price competition as Asian manufacturers are entering the touch screen market. This is due to the fact that patents have expired on SAW and IR touch screen technologies. The likely result will be lower prices on both technologies. What effect will this have on VARs? “More competitive pricing will not necessarily be a bad thing for VARs, as they can still distinguish themselves by offering services such as hot-spare replacement and mounting systems for in-vehicle use,” says Nulf.
Baumgartner says VARs can sell larger touch screens (17-inch to 19-inch) and smaller ones (10 inches or smaller) for niche applications such as in-vehicle computers. “There is more margin in large-sized monitors and small format monitors,” he concludes.