Vendors offering Display Technologies are nothing if not consistent. In the past three years (2004 through 2006), Samsung, NEC, ViewSonic and Sony--in that order--have ranked No. 1 through No. 4 in terms of partner satisfaction, according to the VARBusiness Annual Report Card (ARC) surveys.
Display technologies have advanced rapidly in the past few years, propelling LCDs, CRT monitors and plasma displays beyond commodity status. Vendors that got the highest marks in the ARC recognize that fact, structuring partner programs to help solution providers incorporate tailored products into vertical solutions.
Samsung came out on top--ranking first for the fourth consecutive year and leading in all areas of the category--Product Innovation, Support, Partnership and Loyalty--with an overall score of 78, while Sony's scores fell below the average in all areas, with a score of 61. In particular, Samsung tied with Cisco Systems for the highest score across all 19 product categories in the partner portal criterion, with a score of 75, and with SonicWall for ease of doing business, with a score of 80. That kind of devotion drove Samsung's partner satisfaction to the No. 1 spot.
"They're accessible," says Chip McTiernan, sales manager at Technology Partners in Phoenix. "Once in a while, we may need to offer special pricing on a Samsung offering...or request a [return material authorization] for damaged product, and they always respond quickly. When I can pick up the phone and get someone, that means something."
Samsung has also structured its pricing to allow customers to step up particular features--resolution, for example--without forcing an upgrade to a pricier model that's perhaps more feature-rich than required. The vendor's proprietary Magic Technologies include more than eight types of enhancements, including MagicBright, for brightness settings that fit a particular type of application used.
"The way they've developed the product lines allows resellers and customers to better recognize the added value at a reasonable cost," says Keith Groom, hardware marketing manager at Ontario-based Softchoice. "That's a great way to deal with the biggest challenge facing display vendors--differentiation." Counting Samsung among its emerging partners, Softchoice saw revenue from the vendor's monitor lines increase 135 percent in the past year, and it expects to continue to do business with Samsung.
Beyond pricing, display-technology vendors increasingly offer programs and services that help partners cater to particular segments.
"Today, system compatibility of a display is just a basic," says Jason Redmond, manager of communications at Samsung. "Customers are looking to improve productivity with fast response rates, high contrast ratios and wide-format displays. These needs differ between business segments."
For example, offerings for government may incorporate enhanced durability, touch-screen capabilities for health care and education, and for the consumer/retail market, a sleeker design. Programs that offer that kind of customization help partners earn additional margin through related services.
Of course, though, there's always room for improvement. For example, partners seek technical specifications that demonstrate power conservation, and disposal programs.
"The process is typically very ad hoc," Groom says. HP has been hugely successful with toner, including a return envelope with every product purchased. Why can't more vendors come up with a solution in the display business?"