Epson looks to expand its presence in the BTA channel with the introduction of a new WorkForce Enterprise inkjet MFP, an enhanced partner program, and an expanding roster of third-party partners.
Nine months after introducing its 100-ppm WorkForce Enterprise A3 inkjet MFP to compete with traditional 75-ppm A3 MFPs, Epson is not wavering in its efforts to gain a foothold in the dealer channel. A recent conversation with Epson Director of Marketing Larry Trevarthen underscored that commitment—a commitment that extends beyond convincing dealers that inkjet has a place in the upper segments of the A3 MFP space. Specifically, Epson has a revamped partner program for the channel, an addition to its WorkForce Enterprise portfolio introduced this week, and is looking to strengthen the office workflow for users of its WorkForce Enterprise MFPs through relationships with a growing roster of third-party software providers.
During our conversation, Trevarthen emphasized that Epson does not sell direct. He also pointed out that the company is committed to protecting margins for its channel partners and offers margin enhancement for authorized partners and lead generation. Leads are always fulfilled by channel partners.
“A lot of this is reinforcement of our continued commitment to the channel,” stated Trevarthen.
The Epson Advantage Partner Program
The Epson Advantage Partner Program has six partner categories, each with silver, gold, and platinum levels. The category and level in which a partner participates depends on product focus, expertise, level of sales, and support offerings. Business First is the program for Epson’s enterprise printers, business printers, and ink supplies. The Silver level is for dealers who are interested in inkjet cartridge products as well as EcoTank ink and covers business and consumer class products.
“One of the key things we did was have authorization for EcoTank and expand our distribution of XL inks for the channel,” explained Trevarthen about Epson’s efforts to make the program more attractive to dealers.
The Gold level is for dealers with outbound sales and service. Dealers at that level have access to Epson’s replaceable ink pack system products as well as the T-Series products. The Platinum level—the level that should be of most interest to the dealer channel—offers all the Silver and Gold level benefits, but also includes the Workforce Enterprise MFPs.
Resellers must be authorized by Epson to participate in the Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels of the program. The various levels of the program are built around margin enhancement to protect their margin and make sure they adhere to what Trevarthen said are normal pricing and advertising restrictions and policies, and also allow Epson to know who they are so that the company can drive programs and leads to them.
“We will be driving more and more programs through these partners,” he added.
The reception to these programs from Epson’s resellers has been positive, according to Trevarthen, and is reportedly opening the door to new resellers.
“As we really start to drive it in 2018 it will reinforce our commitment to the channel especially as we add more programs.”
Expanding the Workforce Enterprise Portfolio
After spending the year doing roadshows, showcasing the new Workforce Enterprise and recruiting dealers while educating them about inkjet and reinforcing its commitment to the channel, on Dec. 6 Epson introduced the latest Workforce Enterprise A3 MFP, the WF-C17590.
The WF-C17590 is a 75-ppm version of Epson’s previously released 100-ppm WF-C20590. Scheduled to ship in January 2018 to authorized BTA resellers, it is being positioned against 55-ppm copiers whereas the 100-ppm model was positioned against 65-ppm copiers. It shares the same cartridges as the original model although the cartridges are keyed and can’t be used in both devices. The two models offer similar TCO and features as well as the same accessories and parts. The difference is found in the print speeds, the ink cartridges, and the pricing for the hardware and supplies.
Feedback from dealers during the product road shows earlier this year has pretty much been what Epson has expected with much of the comments and questions related to features, pricing, and positioning. One of the challenges Epson must contend with as they look to convince dealers to embrace inkjet, is helping dealers train sales reps who have spent most of their careers selling laser products so that they can make a compelling case for inkjet. That’s a challenge Epson is well aware of, and overcoming that challenge will be critical to the success of the WorkForce Enterprise MFPs in the channel.
Beyond convincing dealers that inkjet is a viable technology for upper segment MFPs, Epson must engage in third-party solutions relationships, something the company has been doing already as evidenced by its relationships with companies such as Drivve, PaperCut, Ringdale, ndd Print, Preo and Gespage. Its latest partnership, announced this past summer is with Nuance for its Equitrac and eCopy products. Since that announcement was made the company has been focusing on the integration of the products across two companies as well as training and channel development. The basis for these partnerships is Epson’s open platform SDK, and Trevarthen said that the company expects to expand its relationships with these and other third-party solutions providers of workflow solutions going forward.
On paper it looks like Epson is making all the right moves, and based on the reception within the analyst community for the initial WorkForce Enterprise MFP, the company has a compelling story to tell. The question remains, will enough dealers buy into Epson’s vision to make a difference?
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