Using Application Knowledge To Increase Your Sales
Three bar code scanner vendors say VARs need to understand different products and their capabilities to compete with box-moving distributors.
Business Solutions, February 1998
For example, the convenience store (c-store) market is starting to take a closer look at bar-code scanning because of the price decreases, Schmidt says. Previously, only the larger c-store chains could afford to scan item prices at the point of sale.
The same is true for the healthcare and medical device market. "The increased use of bar codes by hospitals and blood banks has pushed medical device manufacturers to integrate bar code scanning with their (existing) technology," Schmidt adds. "Size and cost reduction have played a significant role in facilitating this increased adoption."
Action Points For VARs
However, VARs and resellers of bar code scanners face greater competition for sales from the growing pool of "catalogue" and "box-moving" distributors. These distributors typically sell high volumes of product, like bar code scanners and readers, at low prices, but don't provide integration services or post-sale support. As a result, many VARs have a difficult time competing against these distributors because of the latter's ability to offer lower prices.
Therefore, Schmidt says VARs should focus on offering end users added value in the form of product knowledge. For example, he says VARs should be more skilled than distributors at finding the most appropriate products for applications with different needs. Consider an insurance application in which workers scan bar-coded documents. In that type of application, a long, rectangular-shaped bar code is often printed across the top of the document.
Some VARs might be tempted to sell that end user an omnidirectional scanner because it carries higher margins than a single-line scanner. However, that type of application is better served with a single-line scanner. "Most omnidirectional scanners don't scan long, truncated bar codes effectively," Schmidt says. "Having that type of product knowledge helps VARs provide the best scanner for the application. The number of manufacturers and the breadth of products that distributors work with often prohibit them from providing the same depth of product knowledge as VARs."
Finding Appropriate Applications For CCD/Laser Scanners
Alan Kahn, director of marketing for Fujitsu-ICL, says VARs also have to be careful to sell CCD (charged coupled device) scanners and laser scanners to the appropriate applications. Fujitsu-ICL (La Jolla, CA) manufactures CCD scanners as well as laser scanners.
CCD scanners use the same technology found in video cameras to capture the entire image of a bar code. Software is then used to translate the information encoded in the bar code. Conversely, laser scanners emit a laser beam to scan labels.
Generally, laser scanners offer better read ranges than CCD scanners. For example, some laser scanners can read bar codes 20 to 30 feet away.
However, workers who use CCD scanners typically have to be much closer to the label - within two inches to 18 inches - to scan it. While laser scanners are better for high-volume scanning applications - because of their read ranges - CCD scanners are generally better at reading 2-D bar codes that contain higher densities of information. "It's important for VARs and resellers to understand the advantages and disadvantages of CCD and laser scanning," Kahn says.
CCD scanners have become more popular as their prices have come down, according to Julia Chou, CEO of CFT Corporation, a manufacturer of CCD scanners. According to Chou, CCD scanners also are better suited to outdoor environments.
"In outdoor applications, bar codes are more susceptible to fading. CCD scanners are better at reading faded bar codes. The key is that CCD scanners capture the image of the bar code, while laser scanners reflect a laser beam off the spaces between the lines."
Helping Users Cost Justify Scanners
Kahn offers another way for VARs to compete with distributors: help users maximize their technology investment.
For example, Kahn says some retailers may use bar-code readers but not take full advantage of them. Specifically, he says some retailers only use bar-code readers to scan item prices at the point of sale (POS). However, retailers also can use the readers to scan inventory items in their stockroom.
"When end users can use a product in several different ways, it becomes easier for them to cost justify the product," Kahn explains. "As a result, VARs that can demonstrate a product's full range of benefits are going to make more sales."
"Conversely, many distributors aren't overly concerned about making sure that their customers use the technology they sell to the fullest. Typically, their main concern is sales."