Tag: SMB

Industry experts talk up R2B, R2D2

highA group of executives behind the Retail to Business (R2B) initiative is warning retailers that they could be in a world of trouble if they don’t start targeting businesses.

The R2B initiative was formed by Context and it’s backed by execs from Lenovo, AMD, Lexmark, Tech Data and other companies. The ultimate goal is to make retailers more competitive and capable of taking on B2B resellers.

“Let’s stop the decline – or stores will end up being showrooms,” Global MD for Retail at Context Adam Simon told PCR. “Don’t just focus on consumers and tablets – blur the consumer and SMB. Support the small business people and their entourage.”

The consumerisation of IT and trends like BYOD is already blurring the line between SMBs and average people. Context argues British retailers could learn a thing or two from telecoms who have dedicated in-store corners in their shops for business users. Germany is also setting an interesting example, as its retailers are already selling heaps of laptops to businesses.

Facebook marketing works after all

visa-epayIt appears that Facebook is finally starting to make sense for marketers. For years Facebook users complained about every single redesign and the inclusion of more ads, especially intrusive ones that appear in newsfeeds.

However, it appears that they are working. The Drum reports that 12 percent of Facebook users in Britain have already made a purchase after seeing a product in their newsfeed. So for all the talk of hating Facebook ads, the same people who are complaining seem to be falling for the ads.

What’s more, Faceboom EMEA veep Nicola Mendelsohn said mums spend three times as much time on Facebook during the holiday season and they account for the vast majority of Christmas gift purchases.

Facebook has recently announced the launch of a new SMB content hub that should help small businesses promote goods and services on the social network.

Old PCs are costing SMBs time and money

ancient-laptopSmall businesses are bleeding cash thanks to their reliance on antiquated PCs. According to Intel’s Small Business PC Refresh Study, the average small business worker loses one work week per year due to old PCs.

The Techaisle survey covered 736 businesses across six countries and found that more than 36 percent of them use PCs that are more than four years old. The old boxes require more maintenance, repairs and they exhibit security and performance issues, all of which have a negative impact on productivity.

Worse, the average repair costs for older PCs usually equal or exceed the cost of buying a brand new one. On average small businesses spend a staggering $427 to repair a PC that’s four years or older, which is 1.3 times the repair cost of PCs that are less than four years old. Almost a half of respondents did not even know that Redmond is planning to cut off support for XP next year.

Curiously, businesses in the US tend to use the oldest PCs on the planet – 8 percent of them are using PCs that are five years or older. In India, just one percent of small businesses use ancient PCs.

The results aren’t very surprising. A couple of months ago Intel released another survey which found that the average age of PCs is going up and it’s now at four years or more. The upgrade cycle is getting longer and there’s practically no incentive to upgrade for many users.

ASM launches SME Access Service for channel

poundsASM Technologies has announced a new service designed to help the channel gain lucrative public sector contracts my sticking to strict government guidelines, which require that 25 to 50 percent of all IT contracts flow through SMEs.

The new SME Access Service aims to allow big IT resellers to add hundreds of SMEs to their books, allowing them to navigate through the public sector. It provides system integrators and value added resellers with direct access to ASM’s agile distribution network of SMEs, which should allow them to meet government requirements.

The government currently mandates that public sector organisations must award at least a quarter of all contracts to SMEs by 2015. SMEs are defined as enterprises with a turnover of less than €50 million or fewer than 250 employees. As the euro sign indicates, this is the EU-wide definition.

The requirement means that the channel has to establish new supplier relationships and tap more SMEs in order to bid for government contracts. While it is a clever way of supporting SMEs, it also tends to drive costs up and reduce revenue, as multiple SMEs sometimes must be brought in to bid for a contract.

ASM’s goal is to cut costs and save time by establishing distribution agreements with multiple suppliers, which would make it possible for SIs and VARs to bid for government contracts they otherwise wouldn’t be eligible for. In addition, it allows them to get access to products and services are more competitive prices.

“A number of large resellers have considered adding SMEs to their supply chains in order to meet government requirements, however with contracts to draw up, terms agreed, credit lines to be established and distribution infrastructures to put in place, they are finding this to be a slow, painful and expensive process – especially when they’re trying to sign up a few hundred SMEs in one go,” said Iain Tomkinson, Sales Director at ASM Technologies. “By taking advantage of our existing supplier relationships and agile channel infrastructure, the SME Access Service provides greater efficiencies for the IT channel through immediate access to over 1200 SMEs through just one supplier relationship, so they can continue to bid successfully for government contracts.”

ASM argues that its new programme is a win-win for all involved, as it helps SMEs get more business and build relationships within the channel, while at the same allowing big SIs and VARs to bid for contracts that would be out of their reach without some SMEs on board.

Lenovo “at crossroads” in servers

lenovo_hqA report from Patrick Moorhead’s Moor Insights & Strategy has asserted that, although the server market is dominated by Dell, HP and IBM at present, Lenovo is well positioned to break out of the “other” category and start making a serious dent in market share.

Players like Cisco and Fujitsu, 4th and 5th in the server market respectively, could even be overtaken by Lenovo in the near future. But it has some hurdles to leap and if it is to do so, Lenovo will have to prioritise servers.

Looking at Lenovo’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT), it’s clear the company can compete on price and has a robust supply chain behind it. The company is leading in the growing China market, performing well with SMBs, and there remains a perceived tie with IBM when Big Blue sold off a chunk of its hardware.

However, Lenovo doesn’t offer cloud services or a complete product line outside of its home turf and is somewhat lacking on the ineternational enterprise stage. It has no small core direction, according to Moor Insights, a weak storage offering, and no apparent network switch or fabric offering.

Moor Insights & Strategy believes Lenovo will have the opportunity, although not without challenges, to pick up IBM’s x86 server business, which could address some of the above concerns. There is also a window for Lenovo to expand its SMB offerings within EMEA, particularly western Europe, where small to medium businesses are highly concentrated.

If Lenovo decided to buy IBM’s x86 business, Moor thinks it’s likely it’d go for the whole lot, while IBM could minimise damage to its own bottom line by maintaining blade IP, which it could then license to Lenovo. An acquisition would propel Lenovo to #3 in the server charts, way ahead of Fujitsu and Cisco, but the buy would have to be twinned with serious efforts to maintain previous IBM customers to prevent seduction over to rivals like HP or Dell.

Moor Insights suggests Lenovo focus on the cloud, where it is underrepresented, as well as building a portfolio it can extend to the large business market.  It must also underline its “message” – although it’s understood Lenovo performs well in client devices, the message is “not translating in the server market,” according to Moor. Lenovo needs to reinforce its position to potential enterprise customers.

Lenovo, the report says, is “at an interesting crossroads in the server market”. While there is ample opportunity for the company to really cement its position and overtake some of the competition, it will need to invest heavily.

“Lenovo has an opportunity to break out of its position and quickly move up in the market, as well it remains a company that could disrupt the market the way that Dell did years ago. But in order to do that, it needs to get into the market in a serious way,” the report concludes.

SMBs still love PCs

dell-aioSales of tablets are skyrocketing and many punters claim they are cannibalising PC sales, which is true to some extent. Tablets are excellent gadgets for media stuff, but in many settings they simply can’t replace the traditional PC.

According to research firm Techaisle, SMBs are still buying plenty of PCs and tablets can’t tap this market. So the firm believes rumours of PC’s death are greatly exaggerated.

“Those who predict that the PC is dead are not seeing the picture correctly,” Techaisle analyst Anurag Agrawal told Information Week. “They are probably getting carried away by the current wave of tablet adoption.”

Agrawal does not dispute the fact that some people are buying tablets instead of PCs, but this is not a one-for-one replacement. Small and medium size businesses simply can’t replace PCs with tablets.

Techaisle found that 68 percent of American SMBs bought tablets to fill new or complementary functions. Only 16 percent of them bought tablets to replace traditional laptops.

Most tablets in SMBs are used as complementary devices and 70 percent of British SMBs say tablets won’t replace their PCs.

Tablets can be a valuable asset for SMBs, especially in some industries, but PCs will continue to dominate the SMB IT landscape. Tablets are more likely to replace credit card readers and POS systems than PCs.

The real problem for PC vendors is that SMBs and just about everyone else don’t really have much of an incentive to upgrade. PCs last a lot longer than they used to just a few years ago, so many companies buy new PCs only when they have to, that is, when they die.

“There are no compelling reasons based on technology advancements alone for a business to buy a new PC or replace an older one,” Agrawal said. “However, businesses are still buying PCs as per their needs.”

Maturity appears to be killing the PC market, not tablets.

Smaller outfits miss out on m-commerce

SmartphonesA research report released by TransFirst and ControlScan has found that small merchants need to step up their game in m-commerce and optimise their websites for mobile. Otherwise they might be missing out on some serious dosh.

The survey, called Small Merchants and Mobile Payments: 2013 Survey on Technology Awareness and Adoption, found that a staggering 82 percent of e-commerce merchants don’t even know whether a purchase on their website came from a mobile device or a PC.

This is a rather alarming figure, since data from those that do distinguish between PC and mobile shoppers indicates that mobile visitors account for a significant portion of online sales, and mobile is growing fast. A survey conducted last year found that 10 percent of respondents used tablets and smartphones to accept credit card payments, but the figure has shot up to 17 percent in less than a year’s time.

Another key finding of the survey shows 49 percent of e-commerce merchants know their websites are not currently optimised for mobile devices and an additional 17 percent say they don’t know or are unsure about their site’s current status. This indicates that as many as two thirds of these merchants may be putting up roadblocks to the growing number of mobile consumers.

“The mobile consumer is knocking at the small merchant’s door,” said Craig Tieken, Director of Product at TransFirst. “Business owners who aren’t already up to speed with mobile payment acceptance need to have a viable plan of action to get there.”

Dave Abouchar, Senior Director of Product Management for ControlScan, said the survey shows that small merchants have a real business need to adopt mobile trends. He stressed that now is the time to embrace the new trends if they don’t want to miss out.

SMBs throw cash about

google-walletSmall and medium businesses are hiring dedicated e-commerce specialists in ever growing numbers.

According to a report from Freelancer.co.uk, SMBs are realizing that they need to offer safe and convenient online services, on par with the big boys. The number of businesses hiring e-commerce experts has gone up 19 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

Freelancer spokesman Matt Barrie stressed that the high street is already facing major problems due to the e-commerce boom. He warned that plenty of major retailers have already seen their businesses disintegrate because they lacked a good online presence. Smaller outfits seem to have learned their lesson, so they are investing in e-commerce in the hope of not becoming the next Jessops or HMV.

Barrie believes that even the biggest high street players could see their businesses go down the drain if they fail to embrace online shopping. It could be good news for smaller companies, as e-commerce could level the playing field and allow them to compete with bigger outfits, without much overhead. The web allows small companies to offer their goods and services to a much larger audience, so it could be used to their advantage. 

Another aspect of the e-commerce revolution involves niche markets. Although they are diluted across the country, geography simply isn’t a limiting factor in e-commerce, which means that even tiny companies can cater to the entire niche market.

“Retail outlets are proving incapable of adjusting to a consumer base no longer geographically captive. E-commerce is dominating the consumer retail landscape,” said Barrie. “It’s no surprise that big name retailers that haven’t kept up with the online shopping revolution are increasingly going bankrupt. These high street dinosaurs are unwilling to compete, and so will soon be consigned to retail history.”

Big retail chains have all but monopolized the high street in recent years, but it seems e-commerce has the potential to reverse the trend and put independent retailers back on the map.

SMBs don’t care about Windows 8

msSmall and medium sized businesses don’t tend to be tech trendsetters, but there is one trend they are not missing out on. They hate Windows 8.

A recent survey conducted by software vendor Sage North America has revealed that Windows 8 is getting a lukewarm reception from most SMBs. Just 20 percent are using Windows 8 machines at the moment, or plan to upgrade over the next six months.