Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

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Charity Work at channelcentral

February 21, 2019

Back in 2016 staff asked channelcentral to create a Charity Committee. Since then two charities have been supported: SNAP! and Special Effect.

These charities are local to channelcentral’s offices in the UK. The Committee felt that our support would make a greater difference to their operations, than a National Charity. Furthermore, the Charities resonate with channelcentral’s own skills and experience. The donations are based on staff fund raising which is matched by the Company. Charities:

  • SNAP! provides support for the parents of children with special needs.
  • Special Effect uses high tech solutions to allow people with severe disabilities to enjoy computer gaming.

channelcentral has also made one-off contributions to International Relief Organizations following the Houston and Guatemala natural disasters.

Recent charitable fundraising success
In the last financial year fundraising included a WII Sports Challenge, Spring Clean Sale, Summer BBQ and Pop Quizzes.

Time for Giving
In addition each staff member can take one working day a year, away from the workplace, to undertake charitable work or volunteering. Staff can also spend time selling off old Computer assets on eBay to raise money (including the work to securely wipe all data).

Flexibility
Since 2016 we’ve listened to staff and changed our policy accordingly. Every charity event is optional. Staff can apply for funding for other charities and we’ve extended that to sponsorship. We’ve also put in guaranteed values so that not everything is dependent on staff fundraising.

Tim Moyle, CEO, actively encourages the company’s charitable efforts:

‘Our aim as a company is to have a positive impact on our customers’ businesses and staff; our charity activities are an extension of this. To see the work that our charities undertake is so impressive, and so rewarding to see our staff connecting across the organization, in a way that might not happen otherwise.’

We believe that we are making a difference to people who are supported by our Charities.

More Info:
channelcentral page: Charity

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Back to basics – getting product descriptions right

January 31, 2019

In trying to fix the complicated problems, it’s sometimes easy to forget to fix the simpler ones. In 1934, Percy Shaw patented the reflective road stud, more commonly known as the ‘cat’s eye’, and made a small fortune by (allegedly) earning a royalty each time one was sold. Simple technology, but hugely effective in keeping the driver ‘on track’ in the dark, and still used today.

Is there anything simpler than the description that is applied to a product?
Simple, but accurate and informative product descriptions result in fewer returns and better customer satisfaction.

If you are called Radical Cycles and you release a model called the Gravel Buster, a man’s Trail bike, available in Black or Blue in various frame sizes – don’t you just concatenate the data?

Radical Gravel Buster (55cm) Blue Men’s Trail Bike

Why might this be difficult for eCommerce or CPQ applications?
Accepting that not all products and their descriptions are this simple, particularly in the IT sector, there are other challenges:

  • Legacy IT is not your friend. When storing long strings was problematic, Product Managers used to have to work within 16 character, or similar, limits. This often resulted in holding multiple descriptions often creating more issues than it solved.
  • When faced with a very low character limit, the use of acronyms, which are understood by Product Managers, but sadly not by anyone else.

Poor descriptions creating havoc
This is a product description from one of the World’s largest Software Vendors, dated January 2019: CCSN,ALL,MLP,ERR01,EUW,001,N/A,1 YR ESD

It’s hard to know where to start, but not having the Vendor’s name is a problem. Nor the product name. Another issue is that a comma is often used as a delimiter (separator) in databases, so even just importing this is an issue.

Eliminate guesswork
If you are operating a Web Store, just getting good, consistent descriptions is a problem. channelcentral recently helped a Retailer locate a better, free data source, than the one they were paying for. The issue was that with poor product descriptions, customers had started to guess the appropriate service for a product, resulting in costly returns. The availability of improved product descriptions has removed the need for guesswork.

Always focussed on turning complexity into simplicity in the IT Channel through its CPQ applications and data services, channelcentral continually innovates to improve the customer experience, keeping the user ‘on track’.

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How CPQ Fuels PC as a Service (PCaaS) Growth

January 15, 2019

The enormous growth of PCaaS that is predicted over the next five years offers both opportunities and complexities for vendors and their Channel. Configure Price Quote (CPQ) applications designed specifically for the IT Channel can provide a competitive advantage to multi-channel sales vendors to meet their customer requirements throughout this cycle of growth.

Market Predictions: the market for selling Personal Computers (PCs) as a Service was worth over a $10bn in 2017. This is widely forecast to be worth an amazing $140bn by 2023. It’s very likely that this will be dominated by large deals for large companies who crave operational expenditure (OPEX) over capital expenditure (CAPEX) but also see value in Manufacturer Services that can lower operational costs, especially on low level tactical IT activities. However, smaller organizations also desire these expenditure preferences, so it is widely expected that growth in smaller deals will form part of that $140bn. CPQ applications for multi-channel sales will be key in facilitating this growth.

Monthly Pricing: imagine going into a store where everything is priced monthly? You don’t need to imagine – just go to a mobile phone store! By contrast, when buying a PC, with a few exceptions, everything is currently priced as an outright purchase. Financing PCs isn’t new, but applying a monthly price to a product isn’t in itself PCaaS. The Service wrapper is a key component of the user experience. However, not everyone thinks the monthly payment is always a user requirement.

Understanding Quoting Complexities: we understand PCaaS and we recognize the market opportunity and the cascade from large organizations to small. The problem is that quoting PCaaS is more complex than a traditional CAPEX sale AND what’s worse is that the user may want two quotes – one for CAPEX, one for PCaaS:

  • CAPEX: cost of PC & Services plus margin = sales price. Some additional effort if “Deal” pricing or bundles are in play.
  • OPEX: cost of PC & Services plus Monitoring/Support Services plus margin plus Finance, plus margin.

There’s a further complication for Sellers: if a sale is on a CAPEX basis, the Buyer renews when the PC is retired, lost, stolen or broken. When a sale is made on the PCaaS basis, the PC is retired when the Finance and/or Service expires. These options offer opportunities but also complexity.

Simplifying with CPQ: can help reduce complexity. channelcentral services allow users to simply select the products, the suite of services required to support PCaaS and has always provided indicative finance costs on three to five year terms. Other CPQ companies specialize in asset management.

Without CPQ solutions, life could become much more complex – just as everyone is driving simplicity.

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Do Not Dilute – Innovating CPQ with Web Services

January 9, 2019

channelcentral sells subscriptions for Configure Price Quote (CPQ) applications that plug-in to Web Stores operating in the IT Channel. So, what happens when we talk to a prospect who doesn’t allow application plug-ins on their Web Store? We innovate.

When so many Web Stores use plug-ins, what’s the objection other Companies have with application plug-ins? From the feedback we’ve received over the last decade, mainly from Retailers/Resellers, there are three main reasons:

  1. Companies view their Web Stores the same way as companies would view a traditional High Street Store: with pride. They don’t want the user experience influenced by a third-party application that may look and behave differently.
  2. Many Retailers and Resellers pride themselves on a level of vendor independence. It’s a key differentiator, especially when a vendor sells direct. That impartiality also increases their portfolio (and in turn their addressable market) and credibility.
  3. Operating a Web Store is complex, so hosting numerous plug-ins increases that complexity. Making a change to, for example, a site’s security could cause plug-ins to fail.

In other words, these Companies don’t want to risk diluting their brand, their impartiality, or their eCommerce robustness.

So, how do you improve the user experience for Configure Price Quote in a Web Store that is incapable of delivering Configure Price Quote?

Use data instead.

channelcentral has invested in Web Services that deliver configuration data, so that any Company can deliver Configure Price Quote as a totally integrated experience. Here are some great examples:

HPE ProLiant Servers: https://racksimply.com/

Dell PowerEdge Servers: https://www.centralpoint.nl/

These Companies simply subscribe to a Web Service, and this service drives the user experience that they created.

Not everyone feels this way of course. Plug-ins are affordable, easy to deploy and very functional. channelcentral offers both.

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Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

December 13, 2018


We wish all our Customers across the globe a well-deserved break over the Christmas and New Year Holidays.

channelcentral has had a fantastic year working with all our customers – we truly appreciate your business. We’ve exciting plans for 2019 and will be working hard to advance our capabilities in order to accelerate yours.

Just a reminder that our offices in the UK, US and Colombia will be closed from 25th December 2018, re-opening 2nd January 2019. Our Support Help Desk is open throughout this period and any urgent requests will be managed as usual.

Enjoy the holidays, we look forward to working with you in 2019!

Tim Moyle, CEO

 

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Buying Servers Online UK eCommerce Survey – Reviews

November 21, 2018

In our third Blog featuring ‘Buying Servers Online UK eCommerce Survey’, we’re looking at the coverage and quality of sites that offer Reviews. In a B2C context Reviews offer enormous value to a buyer. Buyers are very interested in Reviews and will often base their ultimate buying decision on them. Buyers are also increasingly aware of Fake Reviews and this can lead to disappointment when products fail to live up to online claims.

When channelcentral reviewed Reseller/Retailer Sites many of them didn’t show Reviews at all, and overall the number of Reviews was quite low. This reflects the B2B nature of Servers, and it was evident that some sites had Reviews as part of the store experience because the breadth of products they offered crossed over into B2C products.

Reviews in Numbers

Only four of our 21 Resellers showed Reviews at all and three out of a possible 25 products were reviewed. With a relatively low number of Reviews on the Servers one thing was very clear: empty review pages gives the user no confidence that the site is ‘fed and watered’.

Which Review Providers?

Clearly when looking at Amazon, their Reviews were native to Amazon. Other Retailers also used a Review function that appeared native to their store. We also saw specialist Review Companies such as Reevoo and Testseek. The benefit of using an independent review service is that data hasn’t necessarily been provided by users of that site, but users of an aggregated service.

Other Observations
A couple of other interesting behaviours:

  • Unusually, one Reseller has used its own staff to review products, and while in a B2C context that would be contentious, in this context it felt reassuring that the Reseller was prepared to share product pros and cons etc.
  • One Reseller showed a popularity rank within Servers which was interesting, but may lead to confusion. A user may be buying the 50th ranked Server because it’s a better fit than the 1st.

Best Practice

If the user experience is not improved by the use of Reviews the advice has to be to suppress them, unless data is present. Reviewing products that you sell is possibly a little tenuous? Server popularity may be confusing, off-putting even (yay I’m buying the 43rd most popular Server!). If one of the data aggregation Review companies has great product coverage in the B2B space: that’s worth investing in. Otherwise leave Reviews to B2C.

There is certainly a gaping opportunity for online sellers in the industry to improve their Reviews features to enhance the purchasing and decision making process for buyers. How to get more buyers to provide useful reviews on products? One suggestion might be to offer incentives for fully completed reviews, perhaps free delivery on the next order.

A well informed buyer is far more likely to be a confident, assured and satisfied buyer. And a satisfied buyer is likely to re-purchase.

 

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Buying Servers Online: UK eCommerce Survey – Software

November 8, 2018

In a recent Blog we featured a survey carried out by channelcentral on Buying Servers Online and promised future Blogs to deliver high level information from the results of the survey.

Here’s a link to that Blog: https://channelcentral.blog/2018/11/05/buying-servers-online-uk-ecommerce-survey/

To set the context most Servers ship with either NO Operating System or possibly a version of Linux such as ClearOS (https://www.clearos.com/). In most cases the Buyer needs to procure an Operating System or Software from Microsoft, Red Hat, SUSE and possibly VMware or Citrix to boot the server up. This can come from the Software Vendor although increasingly Reseller Option Kits (ROKs) are available from the Manufacturer of the Server.

Having established the likelihood of requiring an Operating System how easy was it to add an Operating System to a Server System Unit? Not very easily is the answer.

System Units offering Operating Systems as an attach:

We surveyed 126 SKU instances (21 Resellers x 6 SKUs) of which 102 were found. Of the 102:

  • 8 had very strong coverage.
  • 44 had some coverage.
  • 50 had no software offered.

Where/when we saw Operating Systems offered, it was generally Microsoft and then most often ROK Licenses.

Techniques to Display Operating Systems:
There was no standard way to display Operating Systems here are some examples:

  • In the Accessories listing which is where you’d expect it to be.
  • Although Accessories often means cables and small options.
  • In Bundles where the Operating System is included in the System Unit part as a ‘special’.
  • This was incredibly confusing as you’d search a site for a SKU Part Number and get c.5 results all with different Operating Systems and Prices.
  • We also saw stock anomalies where the standard SKU was in stock, the Bundles not in stock.
  • A few Resellers using ‘syndicated content’ via a Microsoft widget that appeared on sites with a small banner advert. It had two tabs: OS and CALs.
  • In theory a good thing but it broke the navigation of the site and was inconsistent with the branding.
  • Resellers placed the link in different places, so it was easy to miss.

Recommendation/Demand Shaping:

This was non-existent. As certain Operating System versions target different parts of the Market and certain Servers do likewise it would seem obvious to hold some form of ‘order of preference’ against the Servers. Alas no. There was little evidence of recommendations or better still “solution” user journeys.

Other Software:

Apart from some of the Management Software ‘utilities”: nothing.

Summary:

To move to “Frictionless” eCommerce there’s some basics that need to be addressed by applications or data to increase Buyer confidence. On the evidence we saw nobody would buy a server via most of the Resellers we surveyed using their Web Store.