From The Editor | October 15, 2013

First Thoughts From (And On The Way To) ScanSource's Partner Conference

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By Jim Roddy, president, Business Solutions magazine

Austin Skyline

The obvious benefits of channel conferences are the networking, education, and new product information. Another more subtle upside is you’re typically trapped on a plane for hours, affording the opportunity to read and reflect without the typical business interruptions.

I’ve already experienced all the benefits listed above at (and on my way to) the 2013 ScanSource Partner Conference – and we haven’t even sunk our teeth into the meat of the agenda.

The following are channel-related thoughts I gathered at Monday night’s Welcome Reception/Solutions Expo and during reading on my plane trip to Austin, TX:

  • AIDC executives I talked with said their businesses are doing well globally, even in the sluggish U.S., but the POS industry still suffers from lingering effects of the Great Recession. Banks now rarely lend money to small restaurants and retailers, throwing another obstacle in the sales process. Many solution providers feel they need to finance deals themselves while also leaning on their distributors.
  • ScanSource SignageEverywhere I go, mobility is the number one technology topic, and the ScanSource Conference echoed that. Tablets were everywhere – new tablets, updated tablets, smaller tablets, larger tablets, ruggedized tablets. Tablets were even tossed onto the floor to show they can be durable with an added enclosure. One vendor told me that his company hasn’t seen its all-in-one sales decline yet. Tablets have complemented those core units but will likely cut into all-in-one sales over the next few years.
  • The second most popular technology on the exhibit hall floor was video surveillance. The surveillance vendors I talked with said education is their number one vertical but they also see great opportunities in retail. Just as one vendor made that point to me, a reseller stepped into the booth for to pick up literature and ask questions. When I asked him which vertical he wanted to add video, his answer was, “Retail. The applications integrated with the POS are great.”
  • Healthcare was another popular vertical on the exhibit hall floor. I read in Monday’s USA Today during my travels that healthcare orgs are cutting jobs due to a reduction in insurance payments and inpatient visits. A healthcare vendor I talked with wasn’t shaken by that article. “Demand is still strong,” he said. “It used to be the technology was installed only to make the nurses happy. We’re seeing a shift that healthcare facilities want to also work more efficiently and streamline their operations.”
  • Among retail solution providers, “omnichannel” is the goal, even among smaller independent merchants. Retailers are looking for technology resellers who can help them provide a customer experience and streamlined operations similar to larger retailers.
  • The role of the value-added distributor is increasing in importance. VARs need to be total solution providers; distributors offer the wide range of technologies that can enable VARs to provide an end-to-end solution.
  • The role of the solution provider is changing – migrating away from helping customers with “turning the screwdriver” towards helping customers sort through the confusion created by so many technology alternatives. Many systems are easier to install, but end users need help making their selection and keeping integrated systems functioning at all times.

The 2013 ScanSource Partner Conference is being held Oct. 14-15 at the Hilton Austin in downtown Austin, TX

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