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Coronavirus: Print channel appeals for more vendor support

Research from Quocirca reveals that the print channel is having to cope with the pandemic and the challenges of moving to a “new normal”

The print channel has made it clear that it needs vendors to offer more financial support as the coronavirus lockdown drags on.

Quocirca has been analysing the state of the print channel and found that in the last two weeks, the number of channel businesses that would like financial support from vendors has jumped from 39% to 61%.

There is also an increasing desire for personalised guidance from vendors as resellers deal with an evolving situation where one size has no chance of fitting all.

“It is clear that, as time is passing, the scale of the pandemic’s effect on business is intensifying,” said Louella Fernandes, director at Quocirca. “We are seeing positive signs that channel partners are prepared to adapt their strategies and innovate to try to mitigate the effects of the situation, but also that they need help from vendors to do this.”

The coronavirus is forcing more of the channel to look at changing their operating models going forward, with some of the lockdown responses set to become permanent, increasing the need for more digital workflow solutions.

One respondent told Quocirca that the traditional sales approaches had come under severe pressure: “Print is no longer relevant to businesses. The crisis has accelerated the exit from hybrid document process to digital workflows.”

With Barclays CEO Jes Staley making the headlines by suggesting that the days when thousands of staff sat in offices in places like Canary Wharf might be over permanently, there is clearly a need to shift the traditional print fleet sales approach to encompass such significant changes.

“There will be a long-term adjustment in how we think about our location strategy ... the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” said Staley.

His comments, made during the bank’s first-quarter numbers announcement, will cause many other CEOs to pause and think about their future strategies.

The channel has evolved before and many have signalled that they are already introducing fresh products and services to meet changing customer demands. The current crisis has also thrown up the chance for many (77%) to drive innovation in their business, according to the research.

The number one service being rolled out and developed is support for remote/homeworking printing, followed by cloud printing services.

When Quocirca asked respondents how they felt about the future outlook, OEMs were the most positive, with half expecting to be back to normal in six months. ISVs and resellers were less upbeat, with 37% of the former expecting it to take more than a year to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“OEMs have known for a long time that change is coming, even if the catalyst has been unexpected,” said Fernandes. “They are perhaps therefore better positioned to transition to a new normal and certainly most have the immediate financial resources to be insulated to some degree.

“Channel partners and ISVs are more exposed, and this is why they are looking to suppliers for assistance. We have seen some vendors detailing support plans, but channel partners will be looking for more to lend their support before the worst is past.”

Most of the large hardware vendors have indicated that they will be increasingly flexible with partners and offer extended payment terms, easier access to MDF, and those with finance operations have pointed resellers and customers in the direction of the 0% finance offers and other programmes being run by those arms of the business.

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