Cloud computing is not only changing the life of CIOs; it is also having a great impact on the IT retail structure. The shift from retail to e-tail is not only happening in the consumer space. Resellers are increasingly turning to online stores for their purchases as well – thus slowly turning the likes of Amazon into distributors. According to a recent IDG survey, 4 out of 5 resellers think that online and multi-channel distribution is becoming more significant (Link). Only a few of those resellers, though, actually act accordingly and beef up their online offerings. I believe that cloud services can help classic distributors defend their position and, at the same time, deliver better service to their customers.
The challenge that lies ahead for distributors is a big one or, as one customer put it this week, “We have to decide whether we want to stay in this business or whether we want to sell food instead.” Leading e-tailers like Amazon have the potential to outdistance classic distributors in many ways. They have great logistics in place and are already well prepared for the cloud business. All they have to do is combine their existing business models – hardware supply and cloud services.
Amazon has already entered the corporate market, building up logistics hubs all over the world. Their cloud services enable them to combine traditional product sales with a new kind of service sales. For example, with every notebook you buy you get free cloud space. This sounds simple and nothing like a killer feature at first sight. However, once the technology matures, it can give customers access to an ecosystem of applications and services with every thin client.
So, is the death of the classic distributor merely a question of time? I don’t think so. On the contrary, I am convinced that cloud services offer a great opportunity for the distribution channel in two ways. And “service” is the magic word for both of them.
Firstly, professional distribution is the key to successful delivery of cloud services. There is an increasing need on the part of resellers for technical and personal support in choosing the right product, the correct approach, the best combination – a field where distributors are well positioned. They are well positioned because they already have established customer relationships; they are trusted partners. (And I believe that trust is one of the most important factors in the cloud business (Link). This, however, requires that distributors not only offer products but also give their resellers access to services and business solutions. Distributors need to build up skills in advising customers which cloud service is the best and how to integrate it. This approach will be even more successful if vendors also offer their product services and business solutions via a store – like the Fujitsu Business Solutions Store. This kind of store will also be an important component of distributors’ e-tail solutions in the future.
Secondly, cloud services can also help distributors to deliver better services to their customers. From security to helpdesk, or the provisioning of applications, there are many scenarios where the cloud can speed up processes and improve service quality.
Distributors can thus profit from – and with – the cloud, by adding value to their services. My advice: rather than being scared of the landslide that is happening just now in the distribution landscape, a distributor who wants a bright business perspective ought to consider becoming a cloud aggregator and seize the opportunities the cloud has to offer.