Archive for the ‘Quote Software’ Category

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The (changing) CPQ Landscape

October 30, 2018

Theoretically every company that offers CPQ Applications is in competition with each-other right? Well not necessarily. It’s an emerging market and as such there are lots of niche players: channelcentral is one of them. Our niche is around being expert in Technology products, offering a fully managed service (including portfolio maintenance) and presenting our CPQ Applications and Data in eCommerce environments (less so ERP or CRM platforms) as multi-tenant (for Channel of Franchise deployments). Sales pitch over!

Other niche players may be doing specific vertical markets or graphical configuration experiences or be aligned to specific platforms. Some may be doing commission or reward schemes which have sufficient levels of complexity to warrant a CPQ experience. Still CPQ but very distant from what we currently do.

CPQ has been getting a lot of coverage recently with Forrester and Gartner particularly active. Another reason for the coverage has been the number of large (massive) dollar acquisitions. The larger players have either been acquired by, or have aligned with, large ERP/CRM companies:

  • Steelbrick, now part of Salesforce.
  • Callidus Cloud, now part of SAP.
  • Big Machines, now part of Oracle.
  • Chameleon, part of Pros but aligned with Microsoft (see note below).

Pros CPQ showcased in Microsoft Dynamics Vertical Market Website:
https://enterprise.microsoft.com/en-us/solution/industries/discrete-manufacturing/pros-smart-cpq-solution/

Each of those huge software organizations is striving to improve it’s CPQ capability to compete with the others and differentiate their own products/services. There was plenty of speculation with Apttus and Microsoft but that deal did not come to fruition. Adobe has just acquired Magento that doesn’t own a CPQ vendor, but instead relies on 3rd party extensions (as Salesforce (sort of) used to).

That’s not to say that if you are looking for a solution for, say, Salesforce, you’d only look at Steelbrick but I’m sure over time these applications will become increasingly embedded. Equally some of the CPQ Vendors who are part of large software ERP/CRM vendors may want to retain their platform independence.

Expect more change in this exciting space.

 

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CPQ: exploded

October 23, 2018

channelcentral offers CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) solutions, most of which integrate into eCommerce Sites (Web Stores). CPQ software can be viewed as a tool to Configure, Price and Quote complex products, helping companies rapidly and cheaply produce accurate quotes on configurable products and services. There are many definitions online of what CPQ means, here’s one:

http://salesconfiguration.org/key-functionality/what-is-cpq/

When CPQ is deployed into eCommerce environments it allows additional functionality and that extends the ‘acronym’. When engaging with people who are not familiar with CPQ they often query the acronym. We’ve had customers say: “your solution has Buy Now, why does the acronym stop short of that?”. It’s a good point as most CPQ systems assist search by filtering portfolios, shape demand, incentivize users, link to CRM systems, show stock and Buy Now (Add to Host Cart).

Our version of CPQ…

  • Single Sign On
  • Product Location
  • BOM Import/Paste
  • Demand Shaping
  • Configuration
  • Solution Journeys
  • Competitive (selling against)
  • Pricing
  • Bundles
  • Incentive (rewards)
  • Quotation
  • Send to CRM
  • Buy Now

Not exactly snappy but don’t discount CPQ because you think it’s just slots, bays and quotes.

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Avoiding ‘Tax on Use’ in CPQ Billing

October 9, 2018


Lots of channelcentral’s competitors use a Software Licensing billing methodology: cost per seat usually. Some bill based on utilization: the more you use the tool, the more you pay. It’s proportionate. It’s fair. It’s also madness; here’s why:

• Customers don’t like variable costs, at all.
• If you, or your customer, is trying to promote the use of CPQ tools versus manual ways to provide quotations to customers then why tax on use?
• Does adding a customer, or processing a quote, cost a CPQ Company anything?
• Win/Win billing systems (e.g. taking a commission from orders) quickly turn into Lose/Win or Win/Lose.

From the outset channelcentral set out to avoid ‘Tax on Use’. An annual subscription covers the cost of the service and includes the license, hosting, support and IT integration services. It includes unlimited utilization by Employees and Customers. Those subscribers know exactly what they were going to pay for the contracted term. Customers like predictable costs.

The more the customer uses the CPQ Application the lower the cost per quote or transaction. If channelcentral improves the functionality of the CPQ Application, resulting in better results or greater utilization – the subscriber is getting ‘More for the Same’.

On a similar thread some of our competitors have different costs for different feature sets. This is a stealth tax – demanding higher costs for features that already exist and don’t really cost more to add. Having a fully inclusive service for a customer adds to the subscription feel and generates greater goodwill and loyalty.

channelcentral’s experience is that its subscription model promotes higher utilization and delivers better results, with less complexity than models that tax on use.

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Auto-Add: Friend or Foe

October 4, 2018

A common technique in Configure Price Quote systems is to automatically add something to the Shopping Cart once a ‘parent system’ is loaded by the user. Unless the Manufacturer mandates the addition it can easily be removed or displaced. Question is: if the software, hardware or service is not mandatory why add it in the first place? Common answers:

1. It’s recommended by the Manufacturer or Channel Partner.
2. You’re probably going to add it anyway.
3. People are forgetful.

The real answer though is: it delivers significant improvement in ‘pitch rate’ and this ultimately leads to an improvement in ‘attach rate’. Pitch being what is quoted, Attach being what is sold. channelcentral has seen up to 100% increases in pitch rates with Auto Add. Yes it’s a blunt instrument but hey.

Friend or foe? It’s about making the recommendations relevant and appropriate. If you are trying to attach a $2,000 service to a $500 System Unit it will most likely end in ‘serial deselection’ by users and a few complaints to boot. If you are adding several items to the Shopping Cart the user will be confused and abandon.

Get it right and you’ll see numbers improve, get it wrong and utilization could suffer. Better still analyse deselections and what products are commonly used to displace the auto-add. Continuous improvement. Make it easy to remove but make it as easy to add an alternative product (use Top Recommended Options or Product Sub-Filters to help the user).

Auto-add: friend if done right, foe if not.

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SEVEN Dysfunctional User Experiences Buying Services Online

September 25, 2018

If you’re selling services as an attach to IT products, you need to make it as easy as possible. Users will have searched, researched and selected a product, but without a service the user may be reliant on basic warranty that rarely matches the need or product lifecycle.

So when you’re purchasing that product it’s absolutely essential that attaching a service, potentially from a large list of services, is obvious, easy, intuitive, appropriate. It’s a shame that’s rarely the case and here are the main eCommerce blunders that users often experience:

1. Duo: a site is so poorly structured or has terrible data management that you have to buy the product, then circle back to find a service (often from a different web site), buy it as a separate journey, often to the same basket. And if you get it wrong…

2. Mashup: when looking for a service you have to trawl through all of the hardware accessories and software add-ons to find services.

3. Bookworm: there are so many services offered that you are reading dozens of part descriptions trying to decode them and select the best one for your budget.

4. TLA: product descriptions that use so many proprietary acronyms that part of your buying experience is Googling acronyms.

5. Shapeless: random parts in random order with no element of what the Manufacturer or Retailer would recommend.

6. Tumbleweed: literally nothing compatible is shown at all.

7. Cat Food: sites that use “Big Data” often offer items as complementary that are totally irrelevant. Cat food with your Laptop?

CPQ Applications or CPQ Data Services can fix this. Compatibility, recommendations, plain English filters, acronym ‘expanders’, consistent descriptions even through to Device as a Service plans. No more Cat Food.

Attaching services to products is a huge market opportunity for Manufacturers and Channel Partners. Very simple actions can drive major advances in user experience and ultimately Sales.

Click here for channelcentral CPQ Services

Click here for channelcentral boost! Data Services

 

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HP Market Pro goes Worldwide

July 2, 2018

channelcentral.net is pleased to introduce HP Market Pro! HP Market Pro is the new Channel quotation tool for HP. Worldwide Distributors and Resellers of HP products are able to benefit from using HP Market Pro to create quotes and in turn work more efficiently, quote more accurately, increase deal sizes and operate a Device as a Service (DaaS) business model.

HP Market Pro has been developed from the ground-up to be closely aligned with the HP product set and give Channel users the ultimate opportunity to grow their HP business with ease.

Some of the key benefits are:

  • Intuitive, simple user interface for Channel Partners and End Users
  • Multi-Language user interface
  • Reduce quote turnaround time – get quotes instantly
  • View recent quote activity with price change alerts on the homepage
  • Automatic validation checks to ensure quote accuracy
  • Step-by-step guided user journey maximizes ease of use
  • Real-time price availability
  • Built for use with DaaS to assist with buying and selling technology.

This fantastic new tool has replaced the iQuote Configure, Price, Quote service for HP Inc. users. Current users of the iQuote tool moved over to HP Market Pro throughout June and feedback so far is really positive. Users are able to use the tool without any prior training and start maximizing their HP business opportunities.

HP Market Pro is available to all authorised resellers of HP products. If you want to benefit from this fantastic new tool, then contact channelcentral.net and we’ll talk you through the requirements and get you set-up and growing your HP Business in no time.

Watch the product video to see HP Market Pro in action and for more information visit www.channelcentral.net/hpmarketpro

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HPE Delegates given a boost in Vegas!

June 26, 2018

Representatives from the Global IT Channel gathered in Las Vegas last week for the HPE Discover and Global Partner Summit events. As always it was an incredibly busy week as the industry’s elite networked and strategized!

channelcentral, a regular sponsor of the event and developers of the iQuote Configure, Price, Quote Software used by Distribution Worldwide, had something new to show this year. As delegates made their way through the transformation zone they were presented with an absolute game-changing service for their industry. The service is called boost! and attendees of this year’s event were fortunate to be amongst the very first to have a preview.

boost! is a Data Service that drives attach sales and shapes customer demand to improve your customers’ eCommerce experience. Imagine a typical webstore where you’re offered an additional product that has nothing to do with what you’re ordering, or even if it does, how do you know it is compatible? Then imagine a webstore with boost! offered as a Web Service and a pre-selected set of compatible options that are known to work together with the pre-installed features of the base product, across multiple categories. Enabling faster, high-confidence decision-making for technical products.

It’s more exciting than it perhaps sounds. boost! is fixing a known weakness in eCommerce that organizations have been unable to resolve. Using artificial intelligence, boost! will transform the way your customers’ can buy technical products from you, freeing up your pre-sales team to hunt down those big deals!

The feedback from delegates at HPE Discover and Global Partner Summit was unbelievable. Every delegate that was fortunate enough to have a demonstration wanted it in their webstore. Rack Simply, are a Partner based in the US, and are the first in the World to have boost! live in their webstore. Here’s what they had to say:

“boost! drastically improved the customer experience for Rack Simply. Before boost!, users were lost in endless accessory options that converted poorly. boost! and the team at channelcentral only recommend the most popular and likely attach options that transitioned Rack Simply from a website, to a seamless configure-price-quote experience.” Dan Mitchell, President, Rack Simply

channelcentral has spotted a gap in the online buying process of technical products: “It is essential that online stores do everything possible to keep customers captive on their own site during the complete buying process. Sites that use boost! can eliminate a common problem associated with selling more complex IT products; the temptation to click away to check compatibility and capacity. Instead, customers can select from options with confidence and visualize slot and bay usage.”
Greg Starks, CSO, channelcentral.net

After feedback at the events last week, channelcentral is excited to get to work on transforming the eCommerce sites of everyone it spoke to. For those that missed out and are wanting to learn more about what boost! can do for your eCommerce sales, please get in touch.