In the cutthroat world of desktop display sales, an unusual market equilibrium is emerging. As demand for high performance, top-quality brands continue to grow, advances in technology make lower-priced monitors even more affordable. This results in a highly competitive arena where margins for vendors and resellers are squeezed as vendors battle to provide the best features at the most aggressive price points.
Todd Swank, director of marketing at Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder and solution provider Nor-Tech, favorsViewSonic Corp. and NEC Display.
Swank said ViewSonic and NEC work closely with partners and offer educational opportunities. "It gets people like us excited, because we can figure out ways to position our products differently," he says.
He said ViewSonic has been hosting Webinars for channel partners to educate them on opportunities for their new LED displays, a relatively new technology that sells for a higher price. NEC is actively informing partners on opportunities in education, like digital whiteboards used for in-classroom instruction.
"One thing about ViewSonic I like is they identify new markets where you can figure out how to change the game and swim somewhere where there's new opportunities."
"They tend to really look at the overall market and help the channel find new opportunities," Swank said. "That's important because we really have to separate ourselves because the bigger players have the volume to compete in price structure."
While he notes LG offers a high-quality product, its channel program is less active in the education department. "It's important—we need to be educated on the opportunities and we need them to help us gain that knowledge," he said.
Overall, Swank says with a market as price-competitive as this, consolidation at some point seems inevitable as margins continue to tumble. "They all seem to be geared up for the long-term battle, but you do wonder how some of these guys stay alive," he says.
Brian Lisse, owner and manager of Madison Computer Works, a Madison, Wis.-based solution provider, argues ViewSonic's prices aren't competitive enough, and don't offer good enough reseller margins. Lisse says Acer, whose share percentage dipped 1.8 percent in 2007, offers a better competitive advantage.
"You can't make anything on ViewSonic because you can get it from someone offering the lower price," he said. "We don't care what suggested list is, because we go based on the margin we're always trying to hit. We don't like to go below 20 percent because otherwise it's not worth the time."
Samsung was one of the few vendors to post a substantial gain in channel market share in 2007. The company's vice president of marketing and commercial sales for the IT division, Chris Franey, attributes Samsung's success to a strong product proposition and a strong channel proposition. "Let us help you sell larger displays that have a higher [average selling price], products that offer unique solutions, like high-resolution displays with unique features," he said.
A strong relationship with channel partners is key to Samsung's success, Franey said. In 2007 the company relaunched its Power Partner Program (P3), after spending the latter part of 2006 interviewing more than 200 solution providers and asking them what services and support they needed. The company continues to solicit that feedback, Franey said.
"One of the other investments we made was to increase the reseller field sales organization," he says. "We increased the number of people out in the field so we could get that voice of the customer back to Samsung so we could make more alterations in the program." Samsung also takes care to evangelize the brand in corporate America and then deposit those opportunities in the hands of its resellers. "When we have a relationship with the end-user account it's easy for a solution provider to come in and take that account," he said. "That kind of push-and-pull has really worked for us."