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Standout Performers In Tough Times: Winners Of The 2020 B2B Channel Performance Awards

The third-annual awards presented by The NPD Group at XChange+ Virtual Experience celebrate 10 winners across seven categories including mobility, work from home and digital transformation.

If there has ever been a year when IT vendors earned awards for their performance in the channel, 2020 has been it. The COVID-19 pandemic, financial slowdown and sudden pivot to work-from-home for many employees has created unprecedented challenges for IT companies and the solution providers they work with.

“I’ve been part of the tech industry for over 20 years and I don’t believe any of us have ever been through what we’re experiencing with the pandemic. As expected, the way the channel has come together to support each other and pivot to new ways to approach business is impressive,” said Kate Roe-Semyon, president of B2B Technology at market research and business solutions firm NPD Group.

Roe-Semyon and The NPD Group appeared at the 2020 XChange+ Virtual Experience, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company, to announce the third annual B2B Channel Performance Awards, which recognize vendors that achieved the top revenue or secured the highest market share point change in the U.S.

[RELATED STORY: 2020 Annual Report Card Winners: Solution Providers Give Top Grades To Key Vendors]

“I believe these awards are important to showcase the hard work of channel brands,” Roe-Semyon said.

Just how big of an impact the pandemic has had on the IT industry and the channel was made clear in data Roe-Semyon presented at the 2020 XChange+ Virtual Experience event. Consumer technology sales, for example, have increased 13 percent, she said.

“During this period of uncertainty, the story for many consumer technology categories has been one of growth. Consumers have purchased tech products as part of the shift to widespread working, learning and being entertained from home,” she said.

“On the other hand, there was a drastic shift in the opposite direction for B2B technology. Empty office buildings, schools, universities and other places where B2B technology usually thrives. COVID-19 has certainly created a period of enormous challenge for many in the channel,” Roe-Semyon said.

There was a wave of demand for notebooks, tablet computers and related accessories and products in the first half of 2020 to support work from home: Tablet computer sales surged 24 percent surge while sales of notebook computers increased 15 percent, according to NPD’s research.

But after that initial rush, “businesses put a pause on spend as they tried to figure out the best way forward during this pandemic,” Roe-Semyon said.

In the first half of 2020, compared to first half of 2019, NPD’s research shows there was a 5 percent decline in B2B technology channel sales. That included a 7 percent decline in hardware and related product sales such as desktop computers, large format commercial displays and laser printer toner.

NPD also detected a 1 percent decline in software sales overall. But Roe-Semyon said there were “significant bright spots” in software sales including a 15 percent increase in monitoring and management tools, a 17 percent gain in gateway and firewall software, and a 21 percent increase in cloud infrastructure and Platform-as-a-Service products.

“So even with the slight slowdown, [software] is still a very key strategic area for the channel,” Roe-Semyon said.

Roe-Semyon’s presentation also offered some insights into market trends. NPD Group, for example, concluded that IT sales in the first half of 2020 were down 19 percent in the finance and insurance sector, 25 percent in the entertainment vertical and 29 percent in the oil and gas industry. On the flip side, IT sales were up 19 percent in the public sector and 13 percent in utilities. Demand for client devices for K-12 education has surged because of the shift to remote learning.

For the rest of the year opportunities for the channel include cloud software to support work-from-home, including security software. “Security software is critical during these times and will likely see continued growth in gateway and firewall, along with monitoring and management tools,” according to Roe-Semyon.

While traditional office hardware products such as desktop computers and printers “will continue to struggle,” demand for other hardware peripherals for work-from-home will continue to grow, she said.

The B2B Channel Performance Awards celebrate 14 winners across seven technology categories in the U.S. in B2B technology hardware and software markets. Awards are given in each category to the company with the top revenue (based on annual dollar sales in the U.S.) and the company with the biggest gain in market share (based on year-over-year dollar market share point change in the U.S.). The results are based on information, from the 12-month period of June 2019 to May 2020, from NPD’s B2B Distributor and Reseller Tracking service, which follows monthly sales-out information from the largest IT distributors and resellers.

The awards “gives us an opportunity to celebrate the channel and recognize the brands that are partnering with distributors, resellers and solution providers for success over the last year,” Roe-Semyon said.

Mobility: HP Inc. was the winner for top U.S. revenue while Microsoft was the winner for top U.S. market share point change.

Pro A/V: Samsung was the winner for top U.S. revenue while LG Business Solutions was the winner for top U.S. market share point change.

Work from Home: HP Inc. was the winner for top U.S. revenue while Jabra was the winner for top U.S. market share point change.

Data Center Ecosystem: Cisco Systems was the winner for top U.S. revenue while Palo Alto Networks was the winner for top U.S. market share point change.

Digital Transformation: Cisco Systems was the winner for top U.S. revenue while AMD was the winner for top U.S. market share point change.

Best of the Channel- Software: Microsoft was the winner for top U.S. revenue while Autodesk was the winner for top U.S. market share point change.

Best of the Channel- Hardware: HP Inc. was the winner for top U.S. revenue while Lenovo was the winner for top U.S. market share point change.

“We’re really excited about earning this award…It’s all about sales performance,” said Chris Mertens, vice president of U.S. sales for displays at Samsung Electronics of America, in a XChange+ Virtual Experience interview with Semyon and Robert DeMarzo, senior vice president of event content and strategy, at The Channel Company. Mertens made sure to “thank all of our partners who helped us grow the business and win this prestigious award.”

In the interview Mertens described how in March, as the pandemic took hold and the economy faltered, Samsung undertook a number of meetings with partners and distributors to exchange information about what was going on in the industry, to exchange information about “what they’re hearing, what they’re seeing, what we were seeing, what we could do together. And what their needs were.” Those meetings led Samsung to make adjustments in partner programs such as cutting sales thresholds for payouts, Mertens said.

“The Channel Company values our continuing collaboration with The NPD Group on the B2B Channel Performance Awards. We are impressed with the leadership and innovation these award winners brought to the IT channel during this unprecedented period of change ushered in by COVID-19. They embody the companies that are the hallmark of our XChange conferences—nimble technology suppliers who are able to quickly adapt to market conditions and provide products and services that meet transformative times,” said Blaine Raddon, CEO, The Channel Company. “Congratulations to the award winners and thank you to NPD for your dedication to helping solution providers and technology companies thrive in this new world.”

[Editor’s Note: To attend the virtual event or view sessions on-demand, visit the XChange+ registration page.]

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