- On January 21, 2020
It’s a turbulent time for channel leaders across the globe.
Indirect sales figures are falling, direct-to-market solutions are slowly taking their place and some vendors have scrapped their reseller models altogether.
What does this mean for your channel as we go further into 2020?
Jay McBain, Principal Analyst of channel partnerships at Forrester has utilised the collective data from 675,000 consumers and decision makers to decipher the top 2020 trends.
So join us as we analyse some of the most imperative, interesting, and important channel trends outlined, and what you can do right now to ensure you’re not left in the dust.
The Rise of Marketplaces
It may be the year of the rat according to Chinese zodiac, however in channel zodiac, 2020 is quickly shaping up to be the year of the Marketplace.
2019 saw a sharp increase in the use of both indirect marketplaces (Amazon, Alibaba, etc.) as well as direct marketplaces, usually run by large tech vendors such as Dell, IBM or Google.
It’s not uncommon to see smaller marketplaces merge to offer greater competition. A recent example of this is the newly-formed IMN – four medium-sized marketplaces around Europe, merging to provide greater market share and further benefits for its 30,000+ European merchants.
It’s no surprise, given how dominant companies like Amazon are in terms of market share right now.
Expect this to diversify somewhat, given the increasing number of partners becoming marketplace specialists (such as Mirakl). Combine this with the number of tech giants creating their own direct-to-consumer solutions and we’re likely to see marketplace share largely spread amongst those who manage to get it right the quickest.
Bad news for indirect sales, which has been steadily losing out to more convenient direct-to-consumer models (such as – you guessed it – marketplaces).
In order to future-proof sales, vendors and partners alike will have to train their teams on marketplace SEO, PPC, ecosystems, and strategies. Which leads us neatly onto the next point…
Turning Channel Professionals into Ecosystem Professionals
Having a solid partner ecosystem strategy is no longer ‘nice to have’.
Over the past few years, companies without one have been losing out by not tapping into the now-booming ecosystem market.
One of the greatest challenges the channel is likely to face in coming years is the diversification of partners and effectively managing them all in one program.
This will include influence, transactional and retention partner types, so knowledge on how to individually cater for each type whilst still providing a highly synergistic end experience will be a highly-valued skill going into the new decade.
As mentioned in the Forrester report, both ‘transactional and non-transactional partners will need to be found/recruited, onboarded, educated, trained, incentivized, loyal, motivated, and have the tools necessary to promote/support your product from both a sales and marketing perspective’.
Programs, such as our very own PartnerPulse, do exist to make this all possible from a single unifying platform.
Despite this, existing channel managers will still need the skillset going forward to effectively manage and enable a diverse partner ecosystem.
Turning Channel Account Managers into Community Managers
Each of these new partners brings a unique set of values to your pipeline, as well as new challenges.
They may also bring new culture, target markets, and community influence. This will have to be effectively managed as part of your overall strategy.
Communities offer a wide range of channel benefits, as they’re generally full of individuals already engaged in a certain type of product. Whether they’re in-market or just browsing, well-managed communities can have a huge impact on customer brand perception and ultimately, sales.
Cutting-edge vendors have already begun transferring personnel away from traditional account manager roles and towards a more encompassing community manager role.
They will be training them to ensure specialist partner communities are well-managed, and that they’re able to provide a wealth of product knowledge and information to a wide range of buyers.
Channel Recruitment: Superconnected
‘Superconnectors’ are now key for many growing businesses. They are generally considered the ‘channel to the channel’.
They are more than just social media experts who know everyone at every event across every market (although many are that too).
They form deep, strategic relationships with businesses from across the spectrum. They then use this knowledge to provide gateways from one business to another.
Say you sell ERP software. If Superconnectors know about your product, can personally vouch for it and are educated enough to talk about it, there’s a good chance they’ll be endorsing your software across their network.
The challenge lies in getting to that point. How do you meet Superconnectors? Where do these mysterious creatures come from?
The Forrester study goes on to mention that ‘the global channel community reads a total of 54 channel magazines, listens to 64 podcasts, belong to 24 associations, participates in communities and follows thought leaders to 150+ channel-related trade shows every year.’
By scoring the individuals involved on important factors such as reach and visibility, you’ll end up with a ranked list of the most influential people from your sector.
Make it a priority to meet with these people at events, trade shows, even online. It continually amazes us how much a vendor can grow their brand, simply by having the right connections.
To view the Forrester study mentioned throughout, click here.
If you’d like more help or information regarding your channel plans going into 2020, click here.