The next decade will bring changes and opportunities to the channel, a channel we believe is fully capable of making the transition.
As we kick off the next decade it is hard to anticipate exactly what it will be like, especially for those of us in the imaging industry. But the more we think about it, the more obvious change will be the hallmark of the 2020s.
R&D investments in AI and Augmented Reality changed the landscape in the last decade. The next ten years will see a focus on robotics. The challenge will be how can we employ this technology in the enterprise? The simple answer is, “The enterprise is not the best market to employ this technology.”
That’s because the days of large corporate offices are on the decline. We have read predictions that indicate a reduction by as much as 30%. We do not know how accurate that is, however, virtual offices have been a reality in the enterprise space for the last 10 years. Where technology will have the greatest impact is where the dealer channel excels—the SMB space.
We speak from personal experience as an SMB. We have people working for us in Long Island and Manhattan, Northern and Southern New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Chicago. We also have associates in the United Kingdom and Japan. It is a virtual environment.
How many MFPs can you sell into that segment of the market? Don’t despair! The devices dealers will increasingly sell will employ Augmented Reality, and Holograms will become a service that one can employ through an intelligent device that was once labeled an MFP. The most dominant form of communication will be voice whether through Skype or iPhone.
Will this happen tomorrow? We do not think so, but it will be here before 2030. Everything we have seen over the last 10 years tells us this is what the dealer will be asked to sell, support, and service.
The reason we believe it can work favorably for the independent dealer channel is simple. There is no other channel of distribution that understands the benefits of close customer contact while providing impeccable service and the profit accrued from operating a business model by entrepreneurs who understand the advantages of recurring revenue.
The SMB space will always be an attractive market segment for any technology employed in the office. Manufacturers of instruments that represent the latest technology are fundamentally incapable of building an efficient and profitable direct distribution that can serve small and medium-sized businesses.
Dealers who recognize the opportunity will move away from the toner-centric A3 products and to inkjet A4 models for many different reasons. Those same A4 models will incorporate software that can deliver all the tools offices will demand.
We started our business in 1979 and over the last 41 years have seen enormous change. We have written about it and encouraged the dealer channel to participate in it. Every advancement in copy and print technology was met with the same derision, dealers cannot sell it.
There are still those who advocate that, and it is incomprehensible for us to understand how seemingly intelligent people can be so incapable of understanding the truth.
The way to deal with change is by understanding that advancements in technology are not revolutionary but evolutionary. The entrepreneurs we have followed for close to a half a century are fully capable of dealing with whatever comes their way.
It will never be easy, and it will never be inexpensive but in the end, it will be the only way towards maintaining a truly sustainable channel of distribution.
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